When we were children, we were rewarded often for anything from using the toilet, to sharing with others. Our parents knew how important it was to positively reinforce our good behavior in order to increase it, and even more of them knew how to deter negative behavior by ignoring it or punishing it. It’s all part of learning and now that we’re responsible adults, we are more likely to see the success or fault in their approaches and go on to use the same techniques or improve them so they work for our children. Unfortunately, after childhood we are seldom rewarded. Maybe the occasional promotion, a good job here and there by co-workers, spouses, or children, but rarely any sort of organized reward for doing something right. As a teacher, my students don’t go out of their way to tell me what a great lesson I had or comment on how long that must have taken me to prepare. We do so many things for others throughout the day that go unnoticed, that it can be difficult to find the motivation to continue doing them.
The same goes for eating well and exercise. In the long run, the benefits of eating well and exercising are huge, but what about right here and right now? I want something in return for that hard work and I don’t want to wait 6 months to see it! Face it, your kids aren’t going to say “Mommy, you’re doing sit-ups, wooo hooo! Good job Mommy!,” your boss probably won’t say, “Dave, I can tell you’ve been putting in your time at the gym, I can see how much more energy you have at the office, keep it up!” You’ve got to take it upon yourself to reward yourself for hard work sometimes.
All too often, we reward ourselves for eating healthy or exercising by indulging in something that is not good for us. Now, this certainly works as reinforcement, I’ve done it! I’ve told myself “Lauren, get 10 good workouts in and then you can have ice-cream!” And I’m not saying it is a bad thing occasionally, I am only saying there are multiple ways to reward yourself that don’t include food, and it is important to use those as tools as well. Although food is a simple and inexpensive reward, there are various other ways to reward yourself for your effort.
When I started working out at RARE, for the first time I was working out around a bunch of people instead of in my own basement and I realized my old sweats just weren’t cutting it. Instead of going out and buying myself new work out clothes just because, I used it as a reward. I told myself that if I went to the gym for two weeks, 5 days a week, I would reward myself by getting some new apparel. Workout apparel can be expensive, so spread it out, go get yourself a new tank top after 2 weeks, or a pair of fancy socks after 1 week. Maybe you load a new song to your iPod after two trips to the gym or buy yourself a new water bottle. Maybe you’re interested in doing some sort of group class but can’t afford to go regularly, reward yourself for your at-home workouts by going to yoga or spin class twice a month. They don’t have to be expensive rewards, just little things to keep you motivated, especially in the first months when you’re waiting to see physical results.
When eating healthy, you may find you’re cooking more than you expected and you’re getting a little burnt out. Work something out with your spouse or kids and let them take over Friday night dinner if you’ve made 4 healthy meals for the family, or ask them to do dish duty for every healthy meal you prepare. Make it a competition– put up a tally on the refrigerator and each time you eat a healthy meal, give yourself a point, the family member with the most amount of points for the week gets an evening off from any kind of kitchen duty. Create a “golden spoon” or some kind of trophy and reward it to the person in the family who makes the tastiest, healthiest meal of the week. Let your kids join in on the fun!
Reward yourself with time, wake up a little earlier for your workout and have time to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee before you leave for work in the morning. I am currently rewarding myself for waking up early by curling up on my sofa with a blanket and tea before the day gets too hectic. Get a box of your favorite tea and reserve it just for your own reward at the end or beginning of the day. Reward yourself with an hour on Saturday morning at the coffee shop, reading a book, sipping on coffee, and enjoying a few moments to yourself. When you come home from the gym, give yourself a little time to relax with a hot shower and a good stretch before you start tending to everyone else again. Let everyone in the family know that’s your time, they will be grateful because you have more energy for them after you’ve relaxed. Reward yourself for anything, find what works for you!
Brainstorm a little, if you come up with some good ideas, put them in the comments! We’d love to hear them. Maybe I can help reward you by writing about the success you’ve been having with your nutrition and fitness, we can let everyone know how hard you’ve been working! Happy Tuesday!