Module 2.

Making Habits Satisfying

 

In the module we have spoken about cues, desire and how to make habits attractive. Now we move on to an essential component in habit and behaviour change. Namely, making our habits satisfying. The three elements that we have spoken about, cue, desire and attractiveness, are needed to make sure that we carry out the behaviour or action. This last piece of the cycle, namely making our new behaviour satisfying, is essential for making us want to repeat the new behaviour or habit.

The cardinal rule of behaviour change is “what is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.”

We humans are hard-wired to prefer short-term rewards over long-term rewards. This is why millions of people smoke, despite knowing that their habit is costly and damaging their health. Most smokers know that it makes sense to stop, but the pleasure of sparking up in the moment outweighs the health benefits in years to come.

There was as famous experiment carried out on children in the 1970, known as the Stanford “Marshmallow Test”. Stanford researchers presented pre-schoolers with a sugary or salty snack. Sometimes the kids were placed in front of a marshmallow; other times it was a different food, like a pretzel or cookie. Then, the children were told they’d get an additional reward if they could wait 15 or 20 minutes before eating their snack. If they held off, they would get two yummy treats instead of one.

Researchers then traced some of the young study participants through high school and into adulthood. They discovered that a kid’s ability to resist the immediate gratification of a marshmallow tended to correlate with beneficial outcomes later, including higher SAT scores, better emotional coping skills, less cocaine use, and healthier weights.

In general we humans are terrible at resisting temptation.

Adding Immediate Pleasure to New Habits

When forming a new habit or behaviour, we can vastly increase our chances of success when we find ways to reward ourselves immediately after carrying out a perhaps unattractive task.

I have tried numerous times to start going to the gym. I’m now in my fifties and I know that I’m losing muscle mass with each year that passes. I run for 15 minutes and do yoga every day, but I don’t do any resistance training at the moment and I want to start. In the past I’ve always failed. When the autumn comes around, I’m going to attempt to form the habit of going to the gym or doing some sort of resistance training three times a week.

This time I’m going to make sure that I reward myself immediately after the workout with something special. I’m not sure what this will be yet, but many studies have shown that it can be a powerful tool. According to researchers, the reward does not have to be huge, but it should be pleasurable and something that I want to repeat. It’s also important that it doesn’t conflict with the kind of person that I want to become. If I go to the gym, it will be because I want to stay fit, strong and healthy. It would be counterproductive to treat myself to ice cream, for instance, even it was plant-based.

It’s also worth pointing out that eventually, intrinsic rewards (better mood, more energy, etc.) kick in and you’ll be less concerned with chasing the secondary reward. You do it because it’s who you are. Identity sustains a habit.

How We Can Use Rewards When Changing Eating Habits

Of course, we are not trying to create a new habit, but rather change our eating behaviour around existing habits. Clearly by far the most obvious action we can take is to do everything we can to make sure that we enjoy our new diets and the food that we are eating.

This is not something that I want to recommend, but perhaps at the beginning of your transition to a plant-based diet, it might make sense to buy some plant-based junk food. The supermarkets in the UK for example have a large selection of sweet and spicy treats such as chocolate bars, nuts and my own nemesis dry-roasted peanuts. If you can go without these, all the better, but if you think that these kinds of treats will make it more likely for you to stick with your new diet, then go ahead and buy some.

Today is Saturday. I live in Tenerife and this morning I drove to the farmer’s market where they sell organic fruits and vegetables. After a few years of my diet, I now look forward to walking around the market and looking at all the delicious looking, locally grown produce and thinking of dishes and salads that I could make with it. It’s funny, but doing the shopping and even cooking and preparing food has now turned into a kind of reward in itself. Of course, this is something that has developed, I certainly didn’t look forward to shopping and cooking before I made the change. I’m only mentioning it because these habits have now become a reward in themselves.

So I think it’s critical that we spend some time finding really tasty plant-based options for our diets. If we love our food and start to feel the benefits, this will serve as the most powerful reward possible and encourage us to stick with our new wonderful lifestyles forever.

1. Introduction  |  2. Identity Change  |  3. Make it Rewarding  |  4. How to Build Habits  6. The Best Way to Start  |  7. Environment  |  8. More on Environment  |  9. Make it Attractive10. Make it Unattractive  |  11. Role of Friends and Family  |  12. Momentum | 13. Make it Easy  |  14. Procrastination  |  15. Commitment Devices

About Module 2:

Before we find out more about switching to a healthy diet, it will help us a lot to learn about how habits are formed and, perhaps most importantly, kept.

I’m really excited about this module because it provides us with a tool for making changes in all areas of our life, not just diet and health. I promise that you’ll discover a lot of new ways of implementing changes in your life. This module will also help you to kick bad habits and create new ones.

Module 2.

Making Habits Satisfying

 

In the module we have spoken about cues, desire and how to make habits attractive. Now we move on to an essential component in habit and behaviour change. Namely, making our habits satisfying. The three elements that we have spoken about, cue, desire and attractiveness, are needed to make sure that we carry out the behaviour or action. This last piece of the cycle, namely making our new behaviour satisfying, is essential for making us want to repeat the new behaviour or habit.

The cardinal rule of behaviour change is “what is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.”

We humans are hard-wired to prefer short-term rewards over long-term rewards. This is why millions of people smoke, despite knowing that their habit is costly and damaging their health. Most smokers know that it makes sense to stop, but the pleasure of sparking up in the moment outweighs the health benefits in years to come.

There was as famous experiment carried out on children in the 1970, known as the Stanford “Marshmallow Test”. Stanford researchers presented pre-schoolers with a sugary or salty snack. Sometimes the kids were placed in front of a marshmallow; other times it was a different food, like a pretzel or cookie. Then, the children were told they’d get an additional reward if they could wait 15 or 20 minutes before eating their snack. If they held off, they would get two yummy treats instead of one.

Researchers then traced some of the young study participants through high school and into adulthood. They discovered that a kid’s ability to resist the immediate gratification of a marshmallow tended to correlate with beneficial outcomes later, including higher SAT scores, better emotional coping skills, less cocaine use, and healthier weights.

In general we humans are terrible at resisting temptation.

Adding Immediate Pleasure to New Habits

When forming a new habit or behaviour, we can vastly increase our chances of success when we find ways to reward ourselves immediately after carrying out a perhaps unattractive task.

I have tried numerous times to start going to the gym. I’m now in my fifties and I know that I’m losing muscle mass with each year that passes. I run for 15 minutes and do yoga every day, but I don’t do any resistance training at the moment and I want to start. In the past I’ve always failed. When the autumn comes around, I’m going to attempt to form the habit of going to the gym or doing some sort of resistance training three times a week.

This time I’m going to make sure that I reward myself immediately after the workout with something special. I’m not sure what this will be yet, but many studies have shown that it can be a powerful tool. According to researchers, the reward does not have to be huge, but it should be pleasurable and something that I want to repeat. It’s also important that it doesn’t conflict with the kind of person that I want to become. If I go to the gym, it will be because I want to stay fit, strong and healthy. It would be counterproductive to treat myself to ice cream, for instance, even it was plant-based.

It’s also worth pointing out that eventually, intrinsic rewards (better mood, more energy, etc.) kick in and you’ll be less concerned with chasing the secondary reward. You do it because it’s who you are. Identity sustains a habit.

How We Can Use Rewards When Changing Eating Habits

Of course, we are not trying to create a new habit, but rather change our eating behaviour around existing habits. Clearly by far the most obvious action we can take is to do everything we can to make sure that we enjoy our new diets and the food that we are eating.

This is not something that I want to recommend, but perhaps at the beginning of your transition to a plant-based diet, it might make sense to buy some plant-based junk food. The supermarkets in the UK for example have a large selection of sweet and spicy treats such as chocolate bars, nuts and my own nemesis dry-roasted peanuts. If you can go without these, all the better, but if you think that these kinds of treats will make it more likely for you to stick with your new diet, then go ahead and buy some.

Today is Saturday. I live in Tenerife and this morning I drove to the farmer’s market where they sell organic fruits and vegetables. After a few years of my diet, I now look forward to walking around the market and looking at all the delicious looking, locally grown produce and thinking of dishes and salads that I could make with it. It’s funny, but doing the shopping and even cooking and preparing food has now turned into a kind of reward in itself. Of course, this is something that has developed, I certainly didn’t look forward to shopping and cooking before I made the change. I’m only mentioning it because these habits have now become a reward in themselves.

So I think it’s critical that we spend some time finding really tasty plant-based options for our diets. If we love our food and start to feel the benefits, this will serve as the most powerful reward possible and encourage us to stick with our new wonderful lifestyles forever.

1. Introduction  |  2. Identity Change  |  3. Make it Rewarding  |  4. How to Build Habits  6. The Best Way to Start  |  7. Environment  |  8. More on Environment  |  9. Make it Attractive10. Make it Unattractive  |  11. Role of Friends and Family  |  12. Momentum | 13. Make it Easy  |  14. Procrastination  |  15. Commitment Devices

About Module 2:

Before we find out more about switching to a healthy diet, it will help us a lot to learn about how habits are formed and, perhaps most importantly, kept.

I’m really excited about this module because it provides us with a tool for making changes in all areas of our life, not just diet and health. I promise that you’ll discover a lot of new ways of implementing changes in your life. This module will also help you to kick bad habits and create new ones.