To Reward or Not to Reward

Spoiler alert: Don’t Reward.

Here’s the deal. You’ve been working on a habit. Let’s say cutting out soda. You’ve been doing so well for 2 whole weeks that you decide you need a reward for your good efforts. So you go buy a soda. Man, I earned this. But then the next day, at the same time, your craving for another soda is so strong and you’re just so tired and stressed…you decide it’s OK to get another soda. Long story short, you’re back in full swing with your soda habit. What went wrong? You undermined your efforts by rewarding yourself with the thing you were trying to avoid. DOH!

“The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.” -Emerson

Rewards, while they seem like a perfectly good thing, are not helping you build your habits. According to Reuben, here’s why:

1- Rewards teach you that aren’t doing a particular activity for it’s own sake, but rather to get that shiny prize at the end of the tunnel. And often times, when the reward is over, the behavior is too. This happens a lot with brides getting skinny for their weddings. Once the wedding is over, the weight come back. They weren’t building good eating habits for the sake of life long health and wellbeing, but rather just to look good for their pictures. The day is over, so is their effort.

Another example is telling your child they can watch TV for an hour only after they’ve read for an hour. This turns TV into the reward and reading into the thing you just have to do to get the reward. They’ll build up a distaste for reading this way. The behavior of habitual reading, in and of itself, is rewarding.

2- Rewards require making a decision. “I’ve earned this soda today.” But as we’ve learned already, habits shouldn’t require decision. They should be automatic. Like brushing your teeth. You don’t reward yourself every time you do that. So if you’re truly wanting to build the habit of not being a soda drinker, it needs to become a part of you in the same way. Remember to build your identity of being someone who doesn’t drink soda.

There are some exceptions, of course. Potty training a child often works best with rewards. My aunt potty trained her daughter by allowing her to go pick a small toy from a special box every time she used the potty. It certainly motivated her to use the potty.  Once my aunt took the reward away, my niece still used the potty because the reward of the habit itself (not walking around in a wet diaper) was enough to keep her doing it.

At the beginning of habit formation you may need rewards to keep building that behavior. If that’s the case, fine, but don’t reward yourself by having the thing you’re trying to avoid.

Example…morning yoga. This is a habit I actually have. I just got up one day and decided 5-10 minutes of yoga each morning would be a good thing. That was almost 2 years ago and it’s so automatic I can’t not do it now. But let’s say at the beginning of forming the habit, I told myself, “ya know, I’ve been doing yoga for 16 days in a row. I deserve a day off.” Well, that would have been a bad call. Because it would have taught me that I can take days off…that I can decide whether or not to do yoga every morning. Instead, if I felt the need for a reward, I could have bought myself some yoga pants. That compliments my new habit, instead of contradicting it. I didn’t need a reward though, because doing yoga makes me feel good, and that’s rewarding.

So instead of drinking a soda as your reward, do something completely different. Go buy a new water bottle that you’ll enjoy drinking (water) out of. Go to Goodwill and buy some new pants because maybe you’ve lost a few pounds. Whatever you do, don’t undermine your efforts towards developing that new behavior! 

Let the reward of a good habit be the habit itself. 

Monitor Essentials

In Better Than Before, Gretchin Rubin talks about the importance of monitoring the important behavior that you are trying to make a habit. She says “self-measurement brings self-awareness. And self-awareness strengthens self-control.” It’s so true.

Food journaling is always an interesting experiment. It’s not something I do routinely. But I’ve tried it intermittently in the past and I always learn a lot…mostly I learn how much I’m eating. That kind of sudden self-awareness does bring with it a sudden surge of self-control.

The Seinfield productivity calendar idea is a smart way to monitor. You write an X over the day on your cal when you do your habit. The idea is to write an X every day so that you don’t “break the chain”. This method isn’t particularly motivating to me. The thing is, you’re not suppose to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. And I’d do just that…if I missed a day, it would easily catapult me into feelings of failure and I’d just stop tracking all together.

But I recently figured out a way to make monitoring work to my advantage. Like I said in my last post, I’ve been doing a really tough kettlebell program.  It’s one of those “simple but not easy” programs.The only lifts are presses, squats, cleans and swings (all with doubles) done over and over again. It’s repetitive and gets boring. I thought for sure I’d be sick of it a few days in. But that wasn’t the case.

I just finished the month long program today and really, really enjoyed it. Ya know why? Because there was this nifty little chart included to track your progress. Every week, I’d compare my numbers to the week before to see how much better I got. And every week, I got better. Even if I didn’t feel like pushing hard on a particular day, I would tell myself I had to at least match, preferably beat, my number from the previous week. So I pushed. I progressed. I felt incredibly satisfied.

I learned that monitoring my progress is key for me. It’s not enough to just mark that I worked out; I have to mark what I did and how well I did it. It’s kind of crazy that I’m just now figuring this out (I’m no newbie to working out).  But I’m so happy for this discovery because now I know how to keep my momentum going, whereas in the past, I would just go through the motions and do the bare minimum.

So how can you monitor your behaviors in a way to help them become habits? Some people find accountability from a partner helpful. There are lots of apps to track behaviors too. Coach.me is a one I’ve tinkered with and it’s pretty cool. Fitbit, Jawbone Up or any kind of step counter certainly makes people more active. Do whatever you need. But know you’ll be more successful if you monitor what is essential to you.

For any fitness nerds that care about the specifics, here’s the workout…it calls for using your 5 rep max for presses. I used a pair of 26 lbs. bells.

Day 1- Dbl. Press, Dbl. Squat – 1-2-3 ladders for 25 mins., rest as needed

Week 1- 42 reps of each

Week 2- 48 reps of each

Week 3- 60 reps of each

Day 2- Dbl. Swing, Dbl. Clean – 2-4-6 ladders for 20 mins., rest as needed

Week 1- 60 reps of each

Week 2- 72 reps of each

Week 3- 72 reps of each

Day 3- Dbl. Press, Dbl. Squat – sets of 3 for 25 mins., rest as needed

Week 1- 33 reps of each

Week 2- 39 reps of each

Week 3- 45 reps of each

Day 4- Dbl. Swing, Dbl. Clean – sets of 6-7 for 20 mins., rest as needed

Week 1- 54 reps of each

Week 2- 67 reps of each

Week 3- 75 reps of each

Day 5- Dbl. Press, Dbl. Squat – sets of 2 for 25 mins., rest as needed

Week 1- 28 reps of each

Week 2- 40 presses, 30 squats (weird leg pain)

Week 3- 50 reps of each

Day 6- Dbl. Swing, Dbl. Clean – sets of 8 for 20 mins., rest as needed

Week 1- 64 reps of each

Week 2- 72 reps of each

Week 3- 80 reps of each

And then Week 4 was a different format and only had 4 work days:

Day 1- Dbl. Press, Dbl. Squat – sets of 3 for 25 mins. – 51 reps of each

Day 2- Dbl. Swing, Dbl. Clean – sets of 10 for 20 mins. – 80 swings, 90 cleans

Day 3- Dbl. Swing, Dbl. Clean – sets of 6 for 20 mins. – 72 reps of each

Day 4- Dbl. Press, Dbl. Squat – sets of 4 for 25 mins. – 56 reps of each

That’s a lot of reps total in a month with decently heavy weights. I kind of amazed myself because I haven’t worked out hard consistently in a couple years. And not heavy either. But I feel like my body remembered that it use to be very strong and it tapped into that. It feels good to progress backwards, in a sense, towards a place you used to be. A place that feels like home.

Pairing – Making Cold Showers Tolerable since 2015

If I bummed you out slightly with my last blog, I hope this one will cheer you up. The subject matter is much lighter- the strategy of pairing. It’s the act of coupling two activities. You already do it a lot:

Brush your teeth, wash your face. Get to work, check your email. Finish dinner, do the dishes. When I was a teenager doing my least favorite chore – sweeping and mopping – I would blast Celine Dion and sing along.

When used strategically, pairing can help you build your good habits. I’ll jump right into a real life example.

Cold showers. I got interested in the idea a couple years back at a conference. There are just a slew of undeniable benefits that come along with taking cold showers. Look it up. As much as I tried to make them a habit, though, I just couldn’t. I mean, it’s not fun. It’s pretty torturous to turn the knob to cold on yourself.

But about 3 weeks ago I started a really intense kettlebell training program. The program has cold showers written into it. Everyday. For real. So I committed. After every workout, 6 days a week, I stand under that cold, cold stream for at least 5 minutes. It actually does amazing things for recovery…I’ve hardly been sore, and I’ve been doing stuff that would normally leave me limping.

Here’s where pairing comes in…I love podcasts. I usually listen to informative ones to learn things about health, wellness, self improvement, etc. But I really love storytelling. That type of podcasts feels more luxurious, as if I’m treating myself by listening. So before I get in the shower, I cue up a good storytelling one (lately from Death, Sex & Money) and blast the volume. Listening distracts me from thoughts of freezing. It helps a lot.

Workout. Cold shower + podcast.  They go hand in hand in hand.  It certainly feels like a habit. I can’t imagine not taking a cold shower after working out now.

Bonus: one of the joys of the cold shower is that it’ll be the hardest thing you do all day. So I have a big win every morning.  I know you think this is crazy, but you should try it. At least end your shower on cold for as long as you can stand…even if it’s 15 seconds. You build up a tolerance and increase the time if do you it consistently.

Discomfort will make you stronger, more resilient. We don’t have to be comfortable 24 hours a day. That’s a whole other subject though…so for now….even if you refuse to torture yourself in such a way, you can still use pairing to build your good habits!

Stop Fooling Yourself, Everything Counts

I just reread the chapter in Better Than Before about Loophole spotting. Loopholes are basically just excuses we make to avoid doing our good habits. Even if we like our habits, sometimes we don’t want to do them. So we search for a good reason to avoid them for a day or so. There are some really great ones…we humans are strikingly good at convincing ourselves an idea is rational when really, it’s not.

Gretchen Rubin lists 10 loopholes…a few examples for you:

The “tomorrow” loophole: it doesn’t matter what I do today because I’ll do better tomorrow. This is an incredibly popular one for dieters.

The “moral licensing” loophole: this is when you tell yourself you deserve something “bad” because you’ve been so “good” lately. For example, I’ve been so consistent with my mediation, I deserver a day off of meditating. Or, I just ran 4 miles, I earned these 4 beers.

My favorite one is the “this doesn’t count” loophole. I’m sure everyone can identify with it. You tell yourself something doesn’t count because of some (seemingly) ultra compelling reason… “it’s Christmas, this plate of cookies doesn’t count” or “I’m on vacation” or “I’m sick” or “I’m too stressed this week to try” or “I’m about to burn this off with exercise” or “I am really drunk” sooooooo “THIS DOESN’T COUNT.”

But here’s the deal: EVERYTHING COUNTS. There are no get out of jail free cards in real life. Now, you can mindfully decide to make an exception to your habit or rule. But to do so on a whim and tell yourself “this doesn’t count” is doing yourself a disservice. You are simply fooling yourself.

The great thing about loopholes is that they are easy to spot once you know about them. When you find yourself making an excuse to avoid your good behaviors, that’s the time to shut it down. Realize what you’re doing, laugh at yourself, and then go about with your good behavior. Easier said than done, obviously, but give it a try!

And to end on a positive note, keep in mind that, since everything counts, your good decisions count too. That time you worked out even though you weren’t in the mood? That counts. That time you only ate half a cookie when you wanted the whole box? That counts too. That time you avoided making a big purchase you didn’t really need even though you really wanted it?  THAT COUNTED!

It all counts. No freebies.

A Goodbye to Donuts

In the book Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin puts people into categories a lot. Which is awesome and smart…because people are different. Some people are abstainers, some moderators. Allow me to explain.

A moderator is a person who can have a little and stop. Ice cream- they may not even finish their bowl and feel satisfied and like they got a treat. The first few bites are the best, and then the law of diminishing returns (I DID learn something in high school economics!) kicks in.

Abstainers eat one bite of ice cream and will absolutely finish their bowl, and likely go back for more. And more. And maybe more. And keep thinking about more. Each bite is equally desirable. They wind up eating too much and don’t feel like they treated themselves, but rather punished themselves. They realize they would have been better off not even having that first bite.

Well, I’m here to tell you that I am an abstainer when it comes to donuts. I can moderate some things (I can easily have one glass of wine), but absolutely not donuts.

A co-worker brought in Voodoo Donuts on Tuesday. They are the best. Really just ridiculous on a scale of 1 to ridiculous. I thought to myself when I heard about the donuts, “oh I am not gonna eat any donuts. But maybe I could have part of one. Maybe I should just go see what they look like…” So I walked up to the box. I peaked in. I saw all the colors and shapes and smelled the heavenly fried bread and sugar aroma. I cut off a little piece of one. Ate it. Cut off a little piece of another. Ate it. You can guess what I did next….

The fun thing about a box of variety donuts is that it’s socially acceptable to cut off small pieces so everyone can try different ones. The terrible thing about that is that you have NO idea how many donuts you actually ate by the end of the day.  Piece by piece…they go down so easily.

Alright, so it was a disaster. So much so, that I never want to eat a donut again. If I simply abstain all together, I can do this. Knowing I can’t moderate, that’s the plan.

Moderators are very judgmental towards abstainers. They love saying, “Oh, you can have a treat, just have a little. Don’t deprive yourself totally!” But if someone is truly an abstainer, they find freedom in abstaining. By depriving yourself totally, you conserve energy and willpower because there is no decision to be made…it’s just “No thanks, I don’t eat donuts.” End of story. Rather than, “I think I can just have a little” and “that was good, I want more” and “I can workout harder if I eat another one” and “why can’t I stop eating these now?”. That internal struggle just stops existing with deprivation.

So back to me- no donuts. Ever. I will never put another one in my mouth and my life will be better for it.

But declaring something doesn’t mean it’ll automatically happen…

Which is where the strategy of Safeguards comes in. A safeguard is basically a plan to keep your habits safe. Because it’s impossible to think I’ll never be around another donut again, I have to anticipate the the temptation so I can minimize it. So next time I’m around a box of Voodoo Donuts, or any brand, I will not even look at them. I will stay as far from the box as humanly possible. I will tell someone else that “I don’t eat donuts” so that they can keep me accountable. I will eat healthier food so that I’m not hungry.

I like this quote by Montaigne about squashing temptations early, “The infancies of all things is feeble and weak. We must keep our eyes open at the beginnings, you cannot find the danger then because it is so small: once it has grown, you cannot find the cure.” It’s so true. If you get past the temptation at the beginning of feeling it, you’ll be better off than letting it fester all day and then trying to say no. If I dance around the donut box (and therefor possibility), looking and longing and considering, I’m likely to wear then and just eat a damn donut.

So whatever it is that you might need to abstain from, consider doing so. Remember, there is freedom in deprivation. As weird as it sounds, it’s true.

But the point of this whole, long blog is that I DON’T EAT DONUTS. It was fun (kind of) while it lasted, but I’m happy to say goodbye.

Own It

“Consistency, repetition, no decision- This is the way to develop the ease of a true habit.” -Gretchen Rubin

Ease. Habits should be easy. They should be automatic and shouldn’t require thought or decision. Like brushing your teeth. You don’t think about it; you just do it. When you get in the car you put on your seatbelt…again, no thought. Automatic. Habits are just part of you.

But developing a habit isn’t always easy. Usually, it’s not. It takes motivation to begin and momentum to stick. The beginning of habit formation is crucial. There is conflicting research on how long it takes to turn a behavior into a true habit. 21 days. 30. 66-67. A lifetime. I believe it’s completely circumstantial. Here’s the biggest tip I have.

I got it from The Healthy Habit Revolution.

Ownership. Whatever habit you’re wanting to develop, you have to OWN that behavior. Ya know how some people say “I just have to have my morning coffee” or “I’ll see you later after my workout.” And other people would say “I had coffee this morning” or “yeah, I should get a workout in”. The first person owns their behaviors. Drinking morning coffee and working out are part of who they are…simply an extension of their identity…another limb.

My arm. My leg. My coffee. My workout.

Whereas the second person does the same behaviors, but it’s not part of their identity…which is fine; but if they are wanting to develop these things as habits, they are less likely to stick.

So when you’re developing, you need to consider owning that behavior. Change your language around it. Welcome it into your life with open arms. “I just love eating vegetables at every meal” instead of “I have to get 5 serving of greens a day, according to my diet plan.” Another way to create ownership is to say things like “I am a biker” or whatever it is. I AM this, I AM that. I DO this, I DO that. Make the habit literally part of what you DO and who you ARE.

Even if it’s a lie at first, just say it. You’re not really lying because with consistency and repetition, in about 21 (or 30 or 66 or 67) days, it will become part of you anyway.

OWN IT, girl.

I am Back

Hello- I’ve decided to start blogging again. WEEKLY. I really enjoy writing my thoughts for any(random)one to see on the internet. My latest obsession is studying habits. It’s so fascinating. People develop habits in different ways…it’s certainly not a one size fits all kind of thing. I’m currently into Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. So a lot of what I write will come from what I’m learning in that book. Let’s start with the 4 tendencies she defines people being:

Upholders- Respond readily to both outer and inner expectations…loves getting gold stars.

Questioners- Questions expectations, and will meet the expectation if they believe it is justified. They are motivated by solid reason, but not stupid rules like “don’t jaywalk” and “don’t running red lights if no one is around”.  SPOILER ALERT: I am a questioner, with upholder tendencies.

Rebels- Just completely going to the beat of their own drum. There is not necessarily a rhyme or reason for what they will and won’t do. Absolutely hate expectations and routine.

Obligers- As the name implies, these folks do everything for other people.  They meet outer expectations, but struggle with inner.

So knowing what you are will certainly change the way you develop habits. You can take a little quiz to see your tendency here.

That’s it for today. But I’ll be working on my new habit of blogging weekly, so please uphold me to that expectation!

Homemade Makeup!

Here’s the deal. In our modern world, our poor bodies are inundated with toxins. It’s just unavoidable. I bike to work a lot which, I think you’ll agree, is a healthy behavior. Half of the ride is on the street next to cars, though, and the whole time I’m inhaling exhaust. I suppose I could wear a face mask, but until then…like I said…toxins are unavoidable. But, if you can manage to escape some of them, that’s good. Which is why I’ve gotten really into DIY (read: hippie) home care products.

Recently, my compact of powder got dropped (damn you, clumsy hands) and shattered to pieces, so it was time to shop for a new one. I usually get Physician’s Formula, which is a somewhat safer brand (according to EWG’s Skin Deep website) made with “mostly” organic products. As I read the ingredient list though, I just wasn’t pleased. There were words that sounded chemical-ly. And that one compact is like $12! Then it dawned on me, “put those clumsy hands to work and make your own, you damn hippie.”

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And so I did. And it smells wonderful, it stays on well, it’s about the right shade and I feel good knowing exactly what is in it. I got this recipe from a $2.99 Kindle book called All Natural Living. I added more cornstarch because I’m a delicate shade of porcelain (read: super pale), and I didn’t use any essential oils because I prefer loose powder.

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It was really the easiest thing ever. I even had all the ingredients at home. Another great resource for DIY recipes is website is DIY Natural. Cleaners, body care, makeups, etc. Make something and let me know how it turns out.

Peace, love, bare feet and B.O. to you all,  Heather Moon Harvest Hubbard

Gluten Free Girl Scouts, Airport Workouts and Crockpots

Girl Scout cookies have now gone gluten free! I have been hoping this would happen. Now, if only every kids program and organization that does food selling fundraisers would follow suit, I’d be even happier.

I love working out at the airport! I figure if you’re about to sit for hours on end, you might as well move as much as you can before. This article tells you all the best airports for fitness and health. I’d love to check out some of these! But for now, I’ll just lunge through DIA as I wait on flights.

I’m getting pretty into my crockpot lately. I’d like to try all these recipes.  Particularly this one for Buffalo Chicken & Eggplant Lasagna Bomb.

Speaking of gluten free, I think companies are going a little overboard on labeling “gluten free”. Check out this bag of epsom salt I bought last night. Seriously? People don’t know it’s gluten free?!

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Since I know it has no gluten, I’m definitely gonna eat it.

 

Studio

Hello readers. I am alive and well, yes thank you. As you know from my homepage, I opened a studio about 4 months ago. It keeps me quite busy and it’s been going really well. It is so much fun; I feel bad charging people because it doesn’t feel like work for me (but I’m still gonna charge). It’s just so great to have a bunch of people hanging out and working out at their own pace while enjoying it.Studio Photo

Check out my instragram stream to see more pics! And if you want to come check it out, first session is free.  See my homepage for more info.

Happy Monday!