Home » 21 Day Mini-Course: Establish a Gratitude Practice » Day 7: Make Your Habit Even MORE Rewarding

Day 7: Make Your Habit Even MORE Rewarding

Fresh new carrots

We human beings may say that we are pursuing happiness, but really what we tend to pursue is reward. Anything that we might desire counts: a cashmere sweater, a pretty little cupcake, attention from a mentor, a sense of accomplishment, a positive feeling. When our brains identify a potential reward, they release dopamine, a feel-good chemical messenger. That dopamine rush motivates us toward the reward, creating a real sense of craving, wanting, or desire for the carrot that is being dangled in front of us.

Fortunately, we can make dopamine work for us as we build our habits. To get into a good habit, you’ll need a really rewarding reward. Rewards need to be immediate or, even better, built into the routine when possible.

We can do this by making the activities themselves more rewarding—more fun. This is what I did when I went from trying to keep a hand-written gratitude journal to using an app; the app is fun while the journal was something I sort of dreaded. Remember that at this stage of your habit building, any gratitude practice is better than none. It might not be the road to total bliss, but it’s a hair closer than staying at the office responding to email.

Here are a couple of ideas for reinforcing your new habit:

Use B.J. Fogg’s “Yay me!” reward. I’m a HUGE fan of this one because it’s easy and it works. Even something as small as a short mental victory dance can trigger a little hit of dopamine, enough to tell your brain to repeat whatever you just did. So when I just after I practice gratitude, I congratulate myself. Sounds a little crazy, but it works!

Really relish the positive emotions that your new habit elicits. Be intentional about them, or “take in the good” of them, as Rick Hanson would say. Fostering gratitude often also evokes lots of other positive emotions, like happiness, awe, generosity and inspiration. Don’t miss these built in rewards!

HomeworkWhat To Do Today

Task #1: Build juicy rewards into your new habit using the “Make Your Habit Even MORE Rewarding” worksheet in the workbook.

Task #2: Take your “Better Than Nothing” gratitude practice out for another spin. Does it feel good? If not, remember that you will eventually come to avoid what feels bad, and pursue what feels good. Keep your habit feeling good.

Extra Credit: Check out B.J. Fogg’s slideshare “How to Celebrate Tiny Successes.” It’s a quick read, and it’s super helpful.