You may not feel like going to exercise class, but once you do, the reinforcing effects will make you wonder how could you not feel like it?! Image courtesy of photostock at freedigitalphotos.net
This morning, I had Zumba class ( a relatively high intensity workout) which, when I do attend I enjoy immensely. I find attending this class to be pleasurable because of the endorphins released, creating feelings of well-being and relaxation. This should seem to be enough of a reason for Zumba to be re-inforcing, thus motivating me to attend these fun exercise sessions.
Strangely enough, I often forget how fantastic I feel after doing Zumba, and lately, I have been skipping class because “I have not felt like it”. However, one thing is consistently true I have found: **that if I wait until I feel like it (with ‘it’ being exercise, housework, study) I will not do it.
This morning, I was cycling between ‘yes I will go and I know I will feel better’ and “I really don’t feel like it”. The latter attitude reflects the fact I seemingly forget how good I consistently feel after exercise.
It is so important to get in touch with how you felt - once you initiate a behaviour that at first you may not feel like doing. This can be hard to do rationally, that is cognitively using your brain. It’s almost like you have to get in touch with your soul, and remember abstract benefits like better self-esteem, being proud of yourself, and so on.
To encourage the initiation of ‘feeling like it’, even if you start with baby steps. For example, suppose your house is absolutely chaotic and messy. I created a ‘rule of ten’. It goes like this: I do ten things (albeit tiny, such as putting my sandshoes away). Then I give myself a five minute break, in which I feel remotely better because the place looks better, albeit only slightly.
This is enough however, to encourage me to continue. However, the fact that I break up a task into small steps rather than facing what seems like a huge feat, provides small reinforcements that spur on continued effort in the area.
It also helps when ‘you don’t feel like it’ to be very self-aware of the cognitions that were present when you did actually do what initially you didn’t feel like.
For me, the attainment of self-discipline gives me a sense of control: that I do have the willpower to set out what needs to be done. I am aware that when the radio station I listen to plays my favourite music. I recall I enjoy the music such that the work doesn’t seem so much like a chore, but has at least some element of pleasure.
Or, I can promise myself some sort of reward afterwards. The reinforcing effects of a sense of achievement, self-efficacy and the pleasures of any task well done, in addition to say a reward like eating a yummy donut, or watching your favourite television show will strengthen the link between knowing you should do something and associating it with a pleasurable outcome.
One of the concepts we learned in psychology regarding reinforcement is intuitive: the more an action is linked with a pleasurable or rewarding outcome, the more likely it is that you will associate the two.
Thus willpower may be needed in the initial stages and a concerted effort to recall that in the past when you didn’t feel like doing something but you did it anyway, led to an unexpected rewarding experience.
Don’t wait until you feel inspired. Begin, and inspiration won’t be far behind!