Just in the past few days, I’ve been started a daily healthy habit. It got me thinking about a friend of mine. Whenever I’m pursuing a goal or making a change, she asks me, “How are you going to reward yourself?”

I never have a good answer for her. Usually, I think attaining the goal or making the change will be a reward unto itself — and that’s true!

But I know she’s got neuroscience on her side. The Power of Habit, which is one of the best self-help books I’ve ever read, explains in detail why rewards are so important to behavior modification. The reward releases dopamine in your brain and associates the new behavior with pleasure, so you’ll want to do it again and again.

 

How to Start a Good Habit or Break a Bad Habit

 

This reward system can be detrimental, such as when your brain is reminding you how delicious dessert is when you’re trying to cut out sugar. But if you give yourself little rewards for something you want to do — whether it’s a daily writing habit, an exercise habit, or quitting social media or gaming after an hour has passed — you can use your brain’s reward system to your advantage.

I’m not in the habit of rewarding myself. I don’t think many of us are. But I bet even small rewards can be really powerful because of that. And I deserve it…and you definitely deserve it!

Rewards don’t have to be big and expensive: “If I do yoga every morning this week, I’ll treat myself to diamond earrings!” No. Rewards can be cheap, or even free: a bubble bath, for instance, or a fifteen-minute session of watching kittens on Youtube.

You’ve probably heard that it takes three weeks to make or break a habit. I don’t know if that’s true, but I know from experience that making or breaking a habit is harder at first. Then it gets easier, and eventually it’s effortless.

For that reason, as I’m establishing a daily habit, I’m setting up rewards that are more frequent at the beginning. It’s going to go like this:

3rd day – small reward

1 week – small reward

2 weeks – small reward

3 weeks – small reward

1 month – medium-sized reward

2nd month – 5th month – small monthly rewards

6 months – medium-sized reward

7th month – 11 month – small monthly rewards

1 year – big reward!

 

How to Start a Good Habit or Break a Bad Habit

 

Do you have experience with rewarding yourself for making or breaking a habit? What rewards have worked for you? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for reading, and have a great week!