By TERESA REYNOLDS, MSA, RN
Chief Nursing Officer,
Los Alamos Medical Center
Healthy lifestyle habits are your best defense against heart disease, but changing habits isn’t easy.
Whether you’re trying to eat a heart-healthy diet, get more exercise to strengthen your heart, lose a few pounds or make another healthy change in your life, it can be tough to stay motivated as the weeks go by. That’s where rewards can keep you inspired and motivated to reach your long-term goal.
Set a specific short-term goal that you have to reach to get a reward. For example, your goal is to lose 10 pounds in the next six weeks. You might plan to do this by taking a half-hour walk five times a week. To push yourself and stay on track, you could plan to reward yourself when you complete all five walks for two weeks in a row.
Make a Plan
Choose a reward that you really want. It’s best to avoid using food, since splurging on a high-calorie restaurant meal or sweet treat can sabotage your healthy efforts.
Here are some ideas:
- Get a new book or CD.
- Have a night at the movies.
- Buy theater or concert tickets.
- Enjoy a manicure, facial or massage.
- Take a quiet hour or afternoon all to yourself, away from the family.
- Buy that tool or kitchen gadget you’ve been wanting.
- Treat yourself to new workout gear.
Giving yourself small rewards for behaviors that are highly achievable—like taking a walk on most days of the week or eating smaller portions at dinner—is more effective than waiting until you’ve achieved your larger goal to reward yourself.
Start small, recognize your successes each step of the way and enjoy your well-earned rewards.