Reward yourself for scheduling and following through
As we begin to build in the positive behaviors and activities we aspire to into our lives, it’s important that we reinforce these behaviors when we successfully follow through with them. If we feel like we’re just checking off boxes and going through the motions, if there’s no benefit to performing the actions we’ve set out for ourselves, then it becomes difficult to maintain motivation and a desire to continue doing the things we know are good for our life or alcohol-free living.
Positive reinforcement vs. Punishment
Have you ever taken a moment to consider the difference between positive reinforcement and punishment? Positive reinforcement uses positive rewards, outcomes, praise, etc, to reinforce a desired action. Punishment, on the other hand, uses a negative consequence like something being taken away, loss of privileges, or even physical harm. Now think back to a time when you received positive reinforcement and a time when you received punishment; which scenario did a better job of reinforcing what you were supposed to be learning?
In fact, psychologists have determined that positive reinforcement is a much stronger motivator than punishment. Positive reinforcement works with our brain chemistry—giving us a little boost of serotonin and dopamine—which has a much longer lasting imprint than punishment. Punishment yields a physical stress response, shame, guilt, and avoidance. While this might sound effective, it’s not rooted in the kind of positive psychology we’re looking for here.
So when we’re working on reincorporating new positive habits and behaviors into our lives, we stand a much better chance of making them routine if we use positive rewards when we check off the right boxes, than if we beat ourselves up for missing something.