3 Tools from a Behavioral Analyst To Make Positive Changes in Your Life

 

 

Ever found that you really want to change something in your life, but you just can’t seem to make it happen? Or when you do get around to making a change it just seems so hard that you give up?

 

In a previous post  I asked a Behavioral Analyst, Courtney, how to overcome resistance to change and she walked us through 5 questions to ask yourself if you are really ready to change. Once you have confirmed you are ready, try out these 3 easy tools to set yourself up for success when trying to implement new habits.

Enriching your Environment

 

Enriching your environment is a process of setting your environment up to support you. What is your goal? Pick an aspect of that goal and start to mold your environment around it.

For Example: Goal – Stop eating processed sugar

Step 1) Take the ice cream out of the freezer and stop buying more

In behavioral terms, this is called increasing the response effort.   By removing the ice cream from the house it takes much more effort to get a hit of sugar. Now instead of fighting with yourself the measly 7 steps to get to your freezer, there is much more involved. Is the ice cream worth getting dressed, getting in the car, driving to the ice cream stand, standing in line and ordering an ice cream?

Step 2) Find a healthy alternative to keep on hand

Getting used to each change you implement can take anywhere from a week to 3 months. I craved everything that I removed, or changed. So instead of creating an environment of deprivation, keep a healthier version of your favorite treat in the cupboard.

Step 3) Surround yourself with people who like activities other than pie-eating contests

Step 4) Read articles and watch documentaries about the effects of sugar to really remind yourself of why you wanted to stop eating it

Step 5) Find an activity that gives you the same rush of dopamine to replace sugar consumption

After practicing this for years, I have barely any foods in my house that have added sugar, I have healthy alternatives and I have greens in my fridge. But keep this in mind,

 

Behavioral Momentum

Big words, easy concept. You probably already do this many times a day without realizing it.

What it boils down to: easy-easy-hard

Start each task, by doing the easy item first and build up your momentum to complete the harder tasks. How often have you put off cleaning the basement because it’s huge and so unpleasant? These daunting tasks can be broken down into small steps in order to get our mind and body in motion without as much resistance.

For example:

I am going to clean the house

First I eat (gotta get my fuel)

Then I do the dishes (look at me doing chores already – woo!)

Then I pick up a few things (because hey I’m up, and it will make it easier to vacuum and its easier than deep cleaning)

Then I get out the mop and clean (go me!)

Structure your time so that you don’t put the hard things first, that makes your hurdles higher, and it is not the most efficient way to get things done.

 

Premack Principle

Stupid name I know! This is also known as “grandma’s rule”.

Get used to hearing the words “firstà then”

Make a list of things that you like. This will help you roll through your days, and to make these life changes more tolerable.

The things that you use don’t have to be “reinforcing” necessarily. When I was in grad school and I hadn’t been able to clean my house in 2 weeks I’d tell myself, “first finish your homework, then do the dishes” (no I’m not insane I hate dishes, but it was a better break from homework, and I was still getting all the things done that I needed to get done).

You’re entire day can consist of this. My day looks something like this

First get ready for work – then eat

First get your stuff together – then get coffee

First start with annoying emails- then do the behaviors assessment

First finish your ISP paperwork- then eat lunch

.. and I talk myself through this all day long.

 

Now that we have discussed the three tools and you are ready to put them into action, I think this is a good time to talk about positive self-talk. I am in the therapy business, so I am pretty good at talking and I am a behavior analyst, so I know the importance of reinforcement (something that makes a behavior more likely to happen in the future) .

 

I encourage you to embrace your inner dialogue. To notice the steps that you take, to praise yourself for these steps (Look court look at you! I’m so awesome, that recipe was awful- but I cooked – go me!)

 

It helps you to create a positive spin on life, makes your good days better, and your bad days – hey I have bad days but I notice when I’m being negative, I allow myself to do so, and I try again tomorrow. Noticing helps a lot.

 

Guest post by Courtney Buckley

 

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