Want to Build Healthy Habits That Stick? Use the Power of Rewards.

Seven ways to celebrate little victories.

Vgajic/ Getty Images
Vgajic/ Getty Images

When we commit to a new habit, our journey to the end goal isn’t always linear. There may be days when we’re heads-down focused on getting there, but there will also likely be days where our motivation dwindles. Along the way, giving ourselves small rewards for sticking with our goals can motivate us to keep going.

We asked our Thrive community to share the small ways they reward themselves when making progress toward their goals. Use their ideas for inspiration to boost your own motivation as you commit to new habits.

An evening of “me time”

“I used to treat myself to a shopping trip after a big win. I’d update my wardrobe to feel and look more successful. But after a while, I realized that the clothes didn’t cheer me up. What did was the attention that I gave myself, so instead, I started to reward myself with more ‘me time’ — moments where I’d shut off my phone and focus on little things that bring me joy, like reading a fashion magazine cover to cover, or eating expensive, out-of-season raspberries.”

—Christine Hourd, success coach, Calgary, AB, Canada

A celebratory call to a loved one

“I reward myself with a call to someone I love. I like to process my progress out loud and I’m fortunate to have good friends and family who genuinely enjoy celebrating my wins with me. These conversations always spur me to reach greater heights and foster even more positive momentum.”

—Heather Aardema, functional medicine certified health coach, Wheat Ridge, CO

An “inner cheerleader” pep talk

“I reward myself by changing my self-talk. Instead of being critical or judgmental, I’ll enlist the self-talk of a cheerleader. I tell myself, ‘Keep going; you’re doing great. Don’t worry about not doing everything on your list, you showed up and completed one task — for today that’s enough. Do the best you can, with what you have, where you are.’ My favorite mantra to chant is, ‘Keep going, keep going, keep going.’”

—Donna Melanson, yoga teacher, Boca Raton, FL

An extra hour of zzz’s

“At the start of the week, I set two weekly goals related to habits such as exercise or healthy eating, and I like to reward myself with sleep. If I hit the first goal, I give myself an extra 30 minutes of sleep, with my husband covering parenting duties to let me sleep in on the weekends. If I hit my second, a ‘stretch’ goal, I get a full hour!”

—Suzy Goodwin, podcast host and mom, Fayetteville, NC

A happy dance  plus presents 

“My personal rewarding system started when I was trying to write my second book, as the first had taken me seven long years. Now, I do a writing sprint for 15 minutes, and then do a happy dance to stretch. And to reward myself, I wrap up gifts for myself, which get progressively more exciting with bigger milestones — a glass of wine, cinema vouchers, or a spa day. I recommend this to all my author clients now!”

—Kirsten Rees, book editor and author coach, Glasgow, U.K.

A yoga date

“I find that booking a yoga class or going on a walk with a friend is a healthy way to reward myself. I spend so much of my time sitting in traffic, meetings, or at my desk. Keeping active, and having a healthy outlet, offers multiple benefits. Not only is taking this time for myself a ‘reward,’ it’s a great way to keep myself motivated and energized.”

—Kaleen Skersies, real estate development, Seattle, WA

A moment for gratitude

“I find that celebrating my small wins is key to staying motivated. I typically like to get outside to move my body and breathe in the fresh air, take a photo of something significant about the moment to memorialize it, and toast the win with a glass of champagne. In any of these instances, I always count my blessings. It exponentially boosts the joy of savoring the win, which keeps me confident, purposeful, and happy to stay on my path.”

—Maria Baltazzi, Ph.D., television producer and happiness teacher, Los Angeles, CA

Do you have a go-to reward that helps you progress toward your goals? Share it with us in the comments!

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