One of the challenges of building Habits of Health is the constant tug of war happening inside our own minds. Logically, we know that we shouldn’t eat that extra helping of dessert or that we should get up early in the morning to go for a jog, but our own brains resist us. The pull of the temptation to eat that food or to skip that workout wrestles with what you know is the healthy choice, and many times, the healthy choice loses.
How can we overcome a natural tendency to discount the value of long-term health in order to help you avoid the daily temptations that are ever-present in our crazy lives? Simple. We have to narrow the gap between our future and present self.
Future Benefit and the Present Moment
Page 126 in Dr. A’s Habits of Health explores this topic in great detail, but here’s a good place to start:
If we tie future benefit into our present moment, we can use our habit loop to help create new behaviors. We can even make the immediate rewards less attractive by adding a negative aspect that will help us be less likely to repeat bad habits. We are moving future rewards and punishments for specific behaviors into the present moment
That philosophy sounds great, but what does that look like in practice?
We know, for example, that eating a cheeseburger and fries is a Habit of Disease and will, therefore, create disease in the future. We know also that after consuming fast food we develop a high-fat hangover that ruins how we feel and perform the rest of the day. That short-term or present effect–feeling hungover–can help us to discontinue a negative behavior. In other words, we put the immediate gratification of eating the cheeseburger up against what we know will be immediate pain.
We can take this a step further by incorporating a positive reward also.
It’s called temptation bundling: You connect things you love to do with things you have a tendency not to do that are important for your health and wellbeing. You can watch your favorite TV show but only while you are on an exercise machine. Or if you eat healthy all week, you can reward yourself with that new piece of equipment you’ve been eyeing for your favorite hobby.
What we aim to do here is to inject urgency into our healthy choices. The far-off consequences of cheeseburgers lull us into ignoring the importance of our present choices. We can reverse this by incorporating immediate rewards for making the healthy choice so that we have a present and long-term reason for building Habits of Health.
What Works for You?
Your approach to temptation bundling will be unique to you. Where one person might reward themselves with outdoor gear for hiking and camping, another person might reward themselves with a new batch of yarn for their crochet hobby. Whatever you do, make it fun. Make it enticing. And then share your ideas in the comments below so others can learn from you!