When you’re trying to make a lifestyle change for weight-loss or even for overall health, it’s difficult to keep going even when you have a powerful why or reason. But, on a day to day basis when you’re in the thick of it all, rewarding yourself in simple ways for small accomplishments can go a long way.
Why? It’s all about dopamine. Dopamine spikes in your brain when something important is about to happen and gives you a surge of pleasure as you accomplish the task. This in turn increases motivation and productivity. Use this piece of science to your advantage by giving yourself small rewards along the way to a bigger goal. Your brain latches on to the physical evidence that your workout or healthy eating habits are worth it, and increases your chances at making the routine a habit.
Here’s an example of creating positively associated habits in your mind:
- Have a cue to trigger the behavior. This can be as simple as putting your clothes in your gym bag, or setting an alarm. If you have a smart home device, have music play at a set time to remind you to work out.
- Go through the routine. Go running for an hour. Do squats. Attend that yoga class you’ve been meaning to go to.
- Reward yourself. Watch an episode of your favorite show after or even during your workout. Take yourself out to breakfast. Lie in a hammock.
If you’re worried about becoming dependent on the rewards, don’t be. Over time, your motivation will become intrinsic, and your brain will associate your hard work with a surge of dopamine. From there, just working out or eating healthy will be its own reward.
Need some more examples of small rewards? We’ve compiled a list below:
- Take yourself out to breakfast
- Read a book you enjoy for 15–30 minutes
- Make a gourmet dessert
- Buy yourself a new workout song
- Watch one or two episodes of a show guilt-free
- Enjoy an at-home spa day
- Turn of any and all screens for an hour and enjoy the peace
- Host a game night with friends
- Get crafty by painting, knitting, sewing—whatever appeals to you most
- Enjoy a bubble bath or long shower
- Get a manicure or pedicure
- Diffuse your absolute favorite essential oil
- Take your car to get detailed
- Write in your journal
- Buy a new water bottle
- Watch the sunrise or sunset
Not all of these will appeal to you, and that’s where you get to be creative. Reward yourself with the things that motivate and appeal to you. This will ensure that even the small rewards are enough to get you off the couch and moving.