Positive Reinforcement is Not a Burger After the Gym: Part 2

After my last post, I received a few requests asking for help deciding what to use instead of food.  In Positive Reinforcement isn’t a Burger Part 1, I talk about choosing rewards and incentives not focused around food. I understand this isn’t the easiest idea to wrap your mind around. So, here is a helpful exercise to practice in discovering your incentives, rewards, and reinforcements.

The purpose of this activity is to show how we can incorporate aspects in our life we take for granted and use them in building healthy habits. It makes your habit more enjoyable and makes the reinforcement worth more to you, because you EARNED it. Many of these ideas are things you can do any day, anytime, whenever you want. But implementing them into our fitness and using them as rewards and incentives changes how we think about what we do with all our time.

Spend time thinking about each question and ask how these ideas can work in creating a better version of yourself, and help you achieve success-

  • What music do you like?
    • Download a song you enjoyed from your workout. Add it to your workout playlist to keep up the momentum.
    • Download a new song as a reward for completing a habit.
    • Listen to your favorite album or radio station. Yes, I know you can do that anytime, but associating the activity with your healthy habit makes the behavior more enjoyable.
    • For a big reward, get tickets to a concert of an artist or musician you really like.

  • What books do you like to read?
    • Download a book from Audible or other subscription (I personally enjoy Scribd)
    • When you complete your goal, cozy up somewhere quiet and read for pure enjoyment.
    • Allow yourself to go on a book shopping spree- either at a favorite bookstore, a thrift store, or online.
    • Go to the library or bookstore and spend an hour (or more) just browsing.
Conceptual Books
  • What is your favorite color?
    • Paint your room in your favorite color
    • Paint your nails/dye your hair
    • Get a new workout outfit, shirt, or shoes, in your favorite color

  • What is your favorite animal?
    • Arrange an encounter at your local zoo with your favorite animal.
      • I did this at the last conference I attended. I signed up to do the sloth meet and greet and it was amazing. And it motivated me to get back to doing Sloth Army.

  • Visit the zoo and hang out with your favorite animal
  • Buy a trinket with your favorite animal
  • Donate money to a conservation fund benefitting your favorite animal
    • This can be doubly beneficial. Say you want to cut down on your Starbucks habit. Take the money you would spend on Starbucks, and half goes to something super awesome, just for you, and the other half goes toward a conservation fund for your favorite animal.
  • Watch ridiculous videos about your favorite animal. Like, seriously, just veg out and watch countless videos of pandas, or cats, or naked mole rats. No judging, you EARNED this reward!

  • What leisure activities do you enjoy? What do you love to do on your day off, or on vacation, or when you want to relax?
    • Take a bubble bath
    • Drink some tea
    • Visit a winery
    • Go to a paint your own pottery studio
    • Attend a sporting event for your favorite team
    • Go for a hike
    • Go on a picnic
    • Take a nap
    • Binge watch a television show
    • Pretend you are a tourist in your hometown and explore

Why don’t I just TELL you what to do? Because everyone finds different things enjoyable. Maybe you hate wine. Why would you visit a winery as an incentive if you hate wine? Maybe you don’t like to read. Why would you listen to a book or read for reinforcement?

The biggest response I get from this activity is people saying “I never looked at these activities as rewards, I just do them when I want.” But you use FOOD as reinforcement and don’t eat when you are hungry?

Using the principles of animal training is a mental shift. These ideas are not basic necessities for life, but they make life enjoyable. Pair them with your life goals and make fitness and health a fun, positive experience.


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