How To Make Your Habits Attractive

How To Make Your Habits Attractive (Holly’s Habits February 2023)

This post is from our Holly’s Habits section of The Holistic RN & Co’s Download Email.

It is now the end of February and February proved to be a crazy busy and overwhelming month for me. Some of my “New Year’s” Habits have hung on and are going strong and some of them definitely fell off my radar due to more pressing concerns.

One thing I always have to keep in mind is that when I am adding habits to my routine to improve my health, reduce my stress or help my overall life balance, is that these habits should not add stress because of the pressure I feel to complete them consistently.

I have learned that I often take on more than I should in all aspects of my life. The Atomic Habits book by James Clear really taught me about making habits positive and manageable but sometimes my overachieving tendencies still surface and I realize I cannot “do all the things.”

February was another reminder of this and I have learned several times, it is ok to “let a habit go,” “take a break from a habit” or “lean into another habit even more.” In February I definitely leaned into my morning routine habits and my short yoga practices habit and I had to let go of going for walks everyday, my gym and strength training habits were inconsistent.

And throughout the month I continued to remind myself that this is ok and even needed sometimes. March will be another busy month and I plan to bring back some habits but also keep the awareness that I have gained and let go or take a break from some habits if I need to.

Last month we talked about breaking bad habits and that actually concluded our focus on the first law of behavior change and creating habits which was “Make it Obvious.” Now we are going to begin learning about the second law of behavior change “Make it Attractive.”

Now that we have made our habits obvious by increasing our awareness of our habits, using habit stacking and setting up our environment to make our habits obvious- we are ready to really make our habits attractive so they are things we really want to do.

However just making our habits attractive isn’t always the answer to helping us want to do the habit, not every habit that is good for us is going to be attractive or elicit that instant gratification feeling we often look for. Before we get into the first part of making our habits attractive we need to understand a little bit more about our experience of pleasure.

Dopamine is one of the hormones that increases when we experience pleasure, but dopamine isn’t just released when we experience pleasure it is also released in anticipation of pleasure, in fact this spike in dopamine is sometimes stronger than the spike when we are actually experiencing the pleasure.

This creates desire for certain behaviors that we experience as pleasurable. For example, eating chips is very pleasurable for me, if I walk down the grocery store aisle past the chips I already feel the anticipation and desire for chips – this is also why willpower is not a reliable way to change our eating habits or behaviors.

So how can we use this dopamine spike to introduce good habits? We make our habits attractive so we experience the dopamine spike due to the anticipation which causes us to desire the good habit.

One way we can do this is with temptation bundling.

Temptation bundling is where we pair an action we want to do with an action we need to do. An example of this mentioned in the book is an engineering student who wrote a computer program that caused his Netflix to only work if he was pedaling on his exercise bike.

Now this type of programming is far outside my realm of expertise but pairing something we want to do (watch Netflix) with something we have to do (pedal on the bike) is something we can apply without an engineering degree. The idea is that the more probable behavior will reinforce the less probable behavior. Eventually you will look forward to the new habit that you need to do because you will anticipate the habit you want to do.

So, over the next month, think about some habits that you know are important for your health and wellness but sometimes lack the instant gratification or are something you don’t really want to do and find something you can pair with this action to make it more desirable.

Try a couple different things and see what works for you. Below are some ideas that I have incorporated or plan to incorporate in the future:

  1. For my other job I need to commute 40-45 minutes, during COVID I did not have this commute, returning to work commuting was seriously challenging for me. However I love to read and love anything that gives me knowledge about self development. I started listening to podcasts and/or audiobooks and now the commutes are something I look forward to most days.
  2. I have been trying to introduce more walking into my day and some days when it is too cold or the weather is not good I walk on the treadmill – it is boring and this makes me procrastinate or avoid this habit. I have started using my IPAD or phone to watch Netflix while walking on the treadmill. I like watching Netflix and don’t often take time to do it so now I still look forward to my walks even on days when I can’t get outside.
  3. At my other job I work with students and this involves completing evaluations and marking, this is not a task or habit I like. I have learned to make marking days into days where I have healthy snacks (usually popcorn and dark chocolate), wear my pjs all day if I am marking at home and get as comfy as possible with my laptop. Having things I enjoy makes this marking less burdensome.
  4. I sometimes struggle with meditation even though I know if I meditate in the morning I will be more focused and calm throughout the day. I have started petting my dogs, which makes me very happy immediately before or after I meditate.
  5. When I fold laundry, which should be a regular habit, I always pick something I can listen to or watch, that I really enjoy to have on while I fold and put away the clothes that I often neglect. Sometimes it’s the Netflix show I have been wanting to get back to, sometimes it’s fun, upbeat music, sometimes it’s an informative podcast.

 

I hope everyone has a fabulous March. Start thinking about how you can use temptation bundling to work in good habits that are not easy. I will leave you with this inspiring quote from Doug Henning:

The hard must become the habit. The habit must become easy. The easy must become the beautiful.

 

Love,

Holly Killeen xx

RN & Student Coach

Registered Nurse

I am a registered nurse, educator of nursing students and student health coach with The Holistic RN & Co.

I have worked in the healthcare and post secondary education system for over 15 years and have come to realize that there was something missing in these areas for me… a true focus on health and wellness of the individual.

As I learn more about holistic health and focus on my own health and wellness, I aim to share this knowledge and empower others to start or continue their own health and wellness journeys.

I am also a lover of dogs, nature, exercise and food and believe all these things can have a positive impact on our health.

CONNECT WITH ME HERE:   INSTAGRAM

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Hi, I’m Brianne

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