Fall is here, and we are going back to wearing more clothes, pumpkin spice everything, and darker & cooler mornings. And when those things come about, we tend to taper off from our health goals. It can feel harder to get out of bed in the morning, to get into the colder garage, to workout. The pumpkin treats are calling your name. And the oversized clothes don’t highlight our body composition as much – out of sight, out of mind. Right?
So what are some tools we can utilize to keep that motivation high, so we can not only come back next spring beach body ready, but also feel GREAT throughout the holiday season? So we can feel confident, and be ready to show off what you’ve been working on. Oh, and without all the shame and regret… I know I’ve been there!
We are going to highlight 2 specific tools for this, the first being an intermittent reward system. We know from studies that when we reward ourselves for completing a task 33% of the time, our dopamine levels are optimized. If you didn’t know, dopamine is the “feel good”, “drive”, and “motivating” neurotransmitter that can spike or not be spiked throughout the day. And in order to get the most out of that spike and keep us doing the healthy habits we want to be doing, we need to reward our efforts randomly, and about ⅓ of the time.
So for example, you complete your week’s goal of workouts, so then you reward yourself with booking a massage or buying yourself the nice workout leggings, or baking your favorite paleo cookies. Or perhaps you simply take some time out of your day to do something for YOU that feels good. And we do this randomly. Not planned out. Get spontaneous.
If this is hard for you, have an accountability partner, and switch off months of planning rewards – know that one week throughout the month you plan a reward, and the next month they do it, at a random time. Or, pull marbles (like we implement in our corporate wellness programs). Each habit you complete (daily or weekly), you pull from a container of marble. A third of them are orange, and ⅔’s are clear. When you pull an orange marble, treat yourself!
Now a note on how you reward yourself. We want to be careful about how we treat ourself and if it’s in alignment for who we want to be and our habits. For example, if you were to go and treat yourself by watching Netflix for a full day, or getting crumble cookies, every time you treat yourself, then that would start to counteract your goals of being more healthy. There’s a difference in doing those things once every few months, compared to 1-3x/week. What helps us here is to be clear on what our long term goals are, and what are some healthier ways to treat ourselves that align with our goals. So make sure you have both of those written out.
The second thing we are talking about today, that will help with the ⅔’s time of completing a habit is to simply start enjoying the day-to-day of whichever your new habit is (OR have a plain to switch it up from time to time – even using the ⅓ rule from above to mix things up. Using the same example of movement. If your goal is to move 15 minutes/day, then say 2x/week, you do something different or out of the box for your daily movement).
Why do we do this? What makes a habit stick long are 2 main things: 1. Can you be consistent with it? Which means – Can you show up even when you don’t want to? And 2. Can it be just a tiny bit above your current ability (4% to be precise)? If it’s too easy, we will likely get too bored, or not get that dopamine hit afterwards. And on the flip side, if it’s too hard, we are more likely to skip the workout or feel defeated each time we try it. And who wants to keep doing a habit if we don’t feel good after it? So let’s find a way to truly enjoy the process by not making it too hard or too easy, and also recognize that some days won’t be “fun”, yet doing it anyways will help the momentum, and keep the streak going. If you’re going to miss once, make sure you get back to it so you don’t miss twice!
So as a recap, instead of rewarding yourself with a caramel macchiato every day you workout, reward yourself with something every third time or so, and with something that is still in alignment with the person you want to be. And then when things feel hard, remind yourself that those who succeed with their goals (aka YOU), are those that show up anyways. Push through the discomfort of getting out of bed on time, or saying “no” to the alcohol, and remind yourself of WHY you’re doing what you’re doing.