Bite Sized Habits Newsflash - Part 1 Creating Rewarding Habits

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf”

Jon Kabat Zinn


Something to do

I love courses but often they are quite the investment from a time/money point of view and that can put people off experimenting with a new way of thinking. Want to dip your toe in the water? Here are two quick workshops for under £20 by one of my favourite researchers:

Option 1 - Click here

Option 2 - Click here


Something to read

This is a great article by the habit writer James clear which covers a vital topic in habit change: What to do when you feel like giving up (4 min read)


Bite Sized Habit of the week

Part 1 - Creating rewarding habits​

Want to stick with your habits? Try framing your goals positively.

A recent study showed that framing your goals positively could be a way to increase your likelihood of success. The researchers noticed that those with "approach" goals were 12% more likely to succeed than those with goals centred around avoiding something. I feel one reason that contributes to this may be due to the dopamine reward system in our brain which is so crucial to habit change. It generally works as follows; When you feel like a behaviour was rewarding you tap into the reward circuitry of your brain. By feeling good at the right moment, you cause your brain to recognise and encode the same behaviours you just performed.

E.g. celebrating a baby learning to walk at the right moment helps them learn quicker.

Good feelings spur the production of neurotransmitter chemical messengers called dopamine, which controls the brain's reward system and help us to remember what behaviour led to us feeling good, so we do it again. This normally happens quite quickly after we perform a behaviour (so needs to be within 30 seconds). This can be a useful skill to harness to help create a positive feedback loop in your brain that the behaviour is rewarding (more about how you could do this next week).

However, when it comes to goal setting, we can harness this too. Giving up ice cream or sugar or social media is not an “approach” goals and therefore it could be hypothesised they do not give you a dopamine boost as there is no behaviour attached to them i.e., not doing something isn’t a specific behaviour. However, having one green tea or fizzy water instead of a sugary drink, or going for a walk immediately after dinner (when your digestion hasn’t yet caught up with your appetite) instead of reaching for the ice cream are action-based behaviours/approach goals and can help you feel that positive dopamine response. So instead of quitting something why not try taking something else up instead, it’s likely to help you stick with your goals longer.

If you are interested in kick starting your healthy habits and start making lasting changes to your health in just 5 days why not join my free 5-day Bite Sized Habits challenge

Published on 18th Nov 2021 at 12:00 by Heather McKee

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Dr. Heather McKee is registered in Ireland Reg. No. 687397 with the registered address at 314 Mother Teresa House, Loreto Abby, Rathfarnham, D14 NR20, Co. Dublin, Ireland

This work is in no way meant to replace any medical advice. Dr. McKee is Non-HCPC-registered. Photography by Dylan Madden.

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