How were you rewarded when you were a child? How did your family celebrate? We have been totally socially conditioned to reward ourselves and to celebrate with unhealthy things – which used to be fine, because celebrations and rewards were few and far between: rarely affordable or earned.
Nowadays, it’s “wine o’clock” every day, it’s choc-o-clock to reward yourself for doing the shopping, it’s cake in the staff room “because it’s Friday & we got through the week”. Not only that, but portions have gone “supersized” and alcohol content has risen (I’m sure there only used to be 6 units in a bottle; now there’s 9, or more).
And who is to resist? Who wants to be the party pooper or the “goody two shoes”? You want to be the one who wears purple and tears through life ending up at the finish line having had a wild ride.
Risk and Consequences
Maybe the risk is worth the consequence. A lot of evidence gives you cold hard statistics and sometimes it can backfire – 50% of smokers die of smoking related diseases. If you are a glass half empty smoker you will stop smoking right now, if you’re a glass half full smoker you might think – well that’s the flip of a coin, I’ve got a 50% chance of NOT dying of a smoking related disease.
But it’s not all about death, it’s about quality of life – only you can decide what gives you that.
Back to rewards
Humans do need rewards, we don’t have to be stoical joyless automatons. Some UK scientists have just won an award for their research about reward (neat huh!) and how it is an evolutionary necessity. So how do we get away from “rewards” that actually just punish our poor blighted bodies further (caterpillar cake anyone!?!)
Reframe your treats
Your family background story might be self soothing with chocolate, celebrating with champagne, being socially acceptable by sharing a packet of fags but it’s unlikely to be “I know children, you’ve done really well in your school report let’s all do a nice bit of ironing…….”
But, you probably do reward yourself with some healthy things, you just have to consciously start to label them as such. If you have done the pesky ironing, you might treat yourself to a nice relaxing swim (double whammy if exercise IS your reward!), if you’ve finished that project finally you might buy yourself some flowers or music or a spa day. You know what makes you smile, maybe it’s fifteen minutes sitting in the sunshine in the garden getting your vitamin D – call it a treat and you don’t need wine (although G&T in the garden comes well recommended by a local physician acquaintance…)
Falling off the wagon
And you probably need to reframe “falling off the wagon”, too. Because that suggests you’re on some sort of high pedestal and a come down is inevitable. If you’ve managed to find some positive new treats and 80% of the time you’re mindful of your “hexagon of health”, then 20% “champagne lifestyle” is the pinch of snuff you’re allowed.