Starting in January, a group gathered for the start of the six-week series—Lifestyle Changes: Finding the Healthy You. The class and ongoing conversations on the group Facebook page have been filled with great information. I’ve especially enjoyed hearing the weekly speakers expand on their area of expertise with the connections to health and wellness. For me, it has been helpful and refreshing to hear their examples of people improving their well being by changing habits and their environment.
Let me pass on a few nuggets from our first class and presenter as an introduction for this month’s topic. Jenni Holman of Leora Organization and Redesign presented How changing our environments can improve our health. Jenni explained that you need to remove those objects from your environment that are cues for those counterproductive habits. She explained that if you don’t remove those items (“cues”) from your sight, you’ll continue to do the things that you don’t want to do.
The topic was just one more example of how a person can’t “willpower” their way to better habits. Willpower, habits, and an intentional environment make for success. The takeaway for you and me is that we can start removing those unhelpful items (cues). Replace them and rearrange your environment to drive healthy habits. As an example, let’s apply this concept to just one topic (e.g., sleep and stress) and gather some tips.
Consider this from the Sleep Foundation, which states (links provided):
“While there’s no shortage of experimental data confirming the connection between stress and sleep, recent developments in sleep science have offered a more robust understanding of the “why” behind this connection. Stress induces a range of bodily reactions in the brain and nervous system, endocrine (hormone) system, and immune system. Experts have increasingly come to identify the specific elements of the stress response that contribute to what is known as a state of hyperarousal in which the brain and body operate as if ‘on alert.’”
Reduce Your “On-Alert” Status with Small Habit Changes
You can’t fix everything in your environment or rework all your patterns overnight. But you can do one small thing to change your routine to decrease your stress and increase your sleep. Try one of these ideas to get you started.
- Set a timer/alarm to cue a new habit. Grab the kitchen timer or set your phone’s alarm to remind you to do a new habit, like walking after lunch/dinner, meditating for five minutes twice a day, grabbing that glass of water, or stretching for 15 minutes before bed.
- Use an app to guide a new habit. There are numerous apps that can support your fitness, meditation, diet, etc. Pick one you like and try it out. I like the Calm app (www.calm.com), helping me meditate and breathe deeply or just listen to some relaxing nature sounds. (There are many benefits for even short meditation breaks. It’s a habit that can help reduce your stress).
- Pick a resource from HeartMath Institute. Specifically, I’ve used their app to refocus my mindset and “body set.” I’m more able to transition to the day’s next meeting, client, event with a clear and prepared mind.
- Build a new habit on a current habit (“habit stacking”). For example, if you want to remember to floss your teeth, you can place the floss next to the toothbrush. You’ll see it and use it. James Clear, one of my favorite authors on the power of habits, says that, “ … the reason habit stacking works so well is that your current habits are already built into your brain. You have patterns and behaviors that have been strengthened over years. By linking your new habits to a cycle that is already built into your brain, you make it more likely that you’ll stick to the new behavior.” Apply this technique to something you do getting ready for bed. If you need to relax and de-stress before bed for a better nights sleep, perhaps include taking an Epsom salt bath with your nightly bedtime routine.
The topic of habits and environment is truly expansive. If you’re looking for input on where to start, I’m available. Give me a call.