― Mahatma Gandhi
To boost follow-through on our good intentions, we need to feel safe and secure. When we are stressed, our brain tries to rescue us by activating our dopamine systems. A dopamine rush makes temptations more tempting. Think of this as your brain pushing you toward a comfort item . . . like the snooze button instead of the morning jog, a relaxed lunch instead of midday walk, coffee with a friend instead of the gym, or that easy taxi to work rather than the urban bike ride in the rain.
As Kelly McGonigal, author of The Willpower Instinct, writes, “Stress points us in the wrong direction, away from clear-headed wisdom toward our least-helpful instincts.” When we’re relaxed, we’ll choose the locally grown organic apple, the earlier bedtime, the stairs instead of the elevator. And when we’re stressed? Personally, I have a weakness for tortilla chips and spicy queso.
The takeaway: Sometimes the best thing that we can do in pursuit of our new habit is to preemptively comfort ourselves in healthy ways when we started to get stressed or tired. What makes you feel safe and secure—and doesn’t sabotage your goals? Perhaps you need to seek out a hug or watch a funny YouTube video. Positive emotions act as powerful brakes on our stress response.
What To Do Today
Task #1: Using the page called “Comfort Yourself” in your workbook, determine some healthy ways to comfort yourself.
Task #2: Comfort yourself!
Task #3: Do your exercise habit, of course. This is a good day to expand your exercise a teeny-tiny bit, but only if it continues to feel very easy and fun. (For example, if ultimately you’d like to be taking a 30 minute walk, and you started with a 5 minute walk, expand by another 2 or 3 minutes today.)