When it comes to making healthy choices, we present our clients with the analogy of the Pain-Pleasure Teeter-Totter
The Pain-Pleasure Teeter-Totter isn’t a concept that’s new or unique to us. It’s the idea that everything we do or don’t is on an ever moving lever. On the one side is pain and on the other side is pleasure.
These are the unwritten rules of decision making, in essence. Making healthy choices are no exception.
The teeter-totter essentially teaches us that in order to have action you have to have some noticeable change first. Either, your pain becomes greater than your pleasure or your pleasure is heavier than your pain. Now, they can both be present, but one has weigh more than the other before you have some sort of decision to make.
Take blinking your eyes. Normally this is a semi-autonomic function of the body, which means most of the time we don’t even think about doing it…we just do. So, maybe there are people out there who take pleasure in blinking their eyes, odds are though that the decision to blink is made as a response to pain. Either they are dry, sore or there’s something in them, but there’s discomfort. So the decision we make is to blink, hoping it will reduce our pain. Pain became the heavier weight on our teeter-totter so we make the decision to blink in order to rebalance the scales.
Everything we do (or again, don’t do) sits on this teeter-totter, from going to the bathroom to drinking coffee.
Now, why is this important you ask?
Well, it’s important because if you understand the ecosystem of how choices are made then you can have a better understanding of how you can architect your life in order to have this teeter-totter teeter or totter in a way that is advantageous for your life. And you can do this for all aspects of your life too, not just the health related instances, but also with relationships, finances, you name it.
But in a dietary context, let’s say you’re making a decision between eating a salad or a cheeseburger. You can know that the salad is better for you. You can know that the burger is worse for you. That alone doesn’t mean you’re going to choose one over the other (usually).
So when we look at the teeter-totter, it’s less about how we define them (for some people that alone is enough to move the teeter-totter in one direction or another) and more about how do we make the salad the more pleasurable choice and the burger more painful? If you can do that, then you can slant the teeter-totter towards the decision that, in this case, maybe has a better alignment with the standards you’re trying to have in your life. ‘
The teeter-totter is about getting creative about the obstacles that stand in our way of making healthy choices so that we increase our odds of success.
You want to increase your step count but you can’t motivate yourself to get up and do it? Ask a friend if you can walk their dog. Only listen to your favourite artist when you’re pounding the pavement. Or make sitting at home more painful. Don’t let yourself watch your favourite show until you’ve hit your step count.
The secret of the teeter-totter is it makes motivation unnecessary. You begin to want to do those things that are healthy for you and you begin to dislike the things that aren’t. It’s a simple, but clever, way of changing your mindset. Sneaky you.
Stay tuned for more of our Home Health Hacks! Can’t wait? Reach out to find out how we can give you help with your fitness journey one-on-one, either as part of our virtual community or in-person.
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