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A habit loop is described as a neurological loop that consists of three components; the trigger, the behavior and the reward. In this case, the reward refers to whether the brain decides the behavior is worth remembering and repeating. The reward is positive reinforcement for the behavior, so that the behavior is more likely to be done again in the future. But, the rewards the brain receives may not be something tangible, like the hormone dopamine. More tangible rewards that you can control are useful when you are trying to stick to the positive habits you’re trying to form.

Positive reinforcement happens when a reward is given after a desired behavior. This helps the brain associate the desired behavior with something good – the reward. This positive association makes it more probable that the behavior will happen again. Positive reinforcement is an effective tool that you can use on yourself to help you solidify the good habits that you wish to repeat.

Developing small, yet meaningful rewards for yourself when you complete your desired task will create a positive association. The positive associations that you form will help you stick to your good habits. Let’s use the example of exercise as the good habit you’ve formed and you want to keep up. Say your goal is to walk for 45 min every morning before work. Start rewarding yourself for your good behavior to help you stick to it.

A reward doesn’t have to cost money or necessarily be a “treat.” Something as simple as keeping score of your progress would reinforce the behavior. Every time you follow through and walk for 45 min in the morning, you write it down in your scorebook.

Take it a little further and set a certain goal for achievement of a certain amount of days in a row. Log it every day and once you reach your mini-goal of say, 30 days, you give a slightly bigger reward, such as the new book you’ve wanted to read or new walking shoes. Some more small rewards that are commonly used as positive reinforcement for good habits are; watching an hour of your favorite TV show, an at-home beauty treatment, going to the movies or a museum, a nap and so on. Rewards are subjective. So, you should pick ones that are meaningful to you, motivate you and make you happy.

 

Burnout recovery specialist, intuitive, and physician Dr. Veronica Anderson teaches high-performing professional women how to make successful career, health, and life transformations by overcoming challenges and developing resilience. She is the author of three bestselling books and splits her time between Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and Harlem, New York City, with her husband and two dogs, Artemis and Apollo.

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