Just do it!
“Hidden Brain” is a weekly podcast on NPR/kpbs, that “explores questions that lie at the very heart of a complex and changing society,” is hosted by Shankar Vedantam, a social science correspondent. The episode on December 30, 2019 featured Wendy Wood, a professor of psychology and business at the University of Southern California and the author of Good Habits, Bad Habits: The Science Of Making Positive Changes That Stick. The title of this interview was “Creatures Of Habit: How Habits Shape Who We Are — And Who We Become” urged me to think about my self-care rituals that are helpful or better yet, how I can integrate more helpful habits into my daily life. These were my take home thoughts regarding self-care rituals.
We hear and see the Nike ads “Just do it” but I find it too vague as if my self-care rituals are completed in a vacuum or without the consideration of my care receiver, or worse, without any plan in place.
Wendy Wood talked about the way chefs are trained to prepare the ingredients for a recipe or a meal in an orderly and systematic way. This is called mise en place – everything in its place which means how the environment is established for success. When I studied for my master’s degree, specializing in early childhood education with an emphasis in the Montessori philosophy, we studied the “prepared environment,” which means that everything was prepared so every child succeeds. Taking this out of the preschool environment, care partners can prepare their environment for success as well. Clearing the clutter is the first step, making the environment inviting and safe. Then, establish a space for your self-care ritual. We know this but to achieve the successful outcome we desire; we must put in thought and strategies toward our success, and then, Just do it!
Cues are powerful in creating new habits while preserving old ones. Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) was a Russian psychologist known for his “classical conditioning” studies that he happened upon quite by accident based on a stimulus-response connection that is integrated into behavior; his work was with dogs, Pavlov’s Dogs, my self-care ritual is with my walk. I walk almost every day and that is when I listen to my favorite podcasts - that is the stimulus. The response is: Just do it!
Wendy Wood talked about friction but her definition falls outside the scientific one we are most familiar with; friction is resistance. When applied to self-care rituals, if they cause too much friction, we may opt out. Some days my walk includes thriller hill (no friction), sometimes it is killer hill (loads of friction), and sometimes, no friction at all (hill avoided). If a self-care ritual is easy, we are inclined to participate and incorporate the behavior into our routine. Work with your body; if you have more air in you balloon in the morning, then there is less friction to pursue your goals – making it easy will make it successful, whatever self-care ritual you employ. Just do it!
Lastly, a reward system presents more motivation. Walking is the only time I listen to my favorite podcasts, that is one reward and the other one is this: for every ten minutes I walk, I give myself an hour to knit. Every Sunday I walk with a friend and we take the time to share so it becomes our mini-support group and we both benefit greatly. Treating yourself to quality time with a friend is a wonderful reward. Just do it!