The Effect of Our Home Environment on Habit Change

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Our home environment has a huge impact on our health. Whether we are trying to implement habits that support our health, or eliminate habits that detract from our health, making small changes to your environment can make a big difference.

Take some time to think about any habits you want to add to your day or week. Starting out, I want you to have an easy win. You can tackle more stubborn habits after achieving some success with implementing a few easier ones. Choose one habit that is fairly emotionally neutral and easy to recognize when you have completed it for the day. Some examples include:  add ground flax to my breakfast, daily body rub, floss my teeth at night, make my bed first thing in the morning, turn off all the lights when I leave the house, or place my keys in the bowl as soon as I come home.

Write down your new habit in a way that makes it very easy to identify when the habit has been completed. Specify when the bed gets made, when the teeth get flossed, how you are going to know if the lights are off before you leave the house, etc.

Then, think about how to change your environment to maximize the possibility of the new behavior occuring. It helps to identify factors that have been getting in the way or reducing your chances of following through. Anything you can do to make it easy and effortless will improve your success.

Examples for how this might play out:

Add ground flax to my breakfast: Pre-grind the flax, enough for a few days, in a designated coffee grinder. Place it in a small clear glass jar, or a container with FLAX written on it. Sometimes it really helps to make things this visible! Keep this container on the kitchen counter so you can easily see it and use it in the morning. Keep a small, designated flax spoon inside the jar. Store any extra flax in the fridge to help keep it fresh, but always keep a few days worth ont he counter.

Blanched Vegetables with Breakfast: The night before, pre-cut your vegetables and place a pot of water on the stove. Set up everything you will need, including a plate and a small slotted spoon for removing the vegetables. Set out some apple cider vinegar or brown rice vinegar for sprinkling on the vegetables. Include anything that will make it easier and more enticing to follow through with your new habit.

Body Rub: Have a designated body rub bowl that lives in the bathroom, preferably on the counter. If you can’t keep it on the counter, I pull mine out and put a washcloth in it before I go to bed, or before taking my shower, so I set my intention, it’s easily visible, and I am less likely to back out of it. Have nice, organic washcloths that are enjoyable to use. Have plenty of those nice washcloths, so you always have a clean one available. Keep your water tank at a nice heat, so it’s easy to get hot water for the body rub. Alternatively, keep an electric kettle in the bathroom and start heating the water while you shower! This can be really helpful. If your bathroom is cold, turn on the heater to make doing the body rub more enjoyable.

Floss teeth at night: Keep the floss in a bowl on the bathroom counter instead of in a drawer. Make sure you buy floss that is enjoyable. Buy several packets so you are less likely to run out. Write a note saying “FLOSS!” on the mirror.

Make my bed as soon as I wake up in the morning: Sleep with just a comforter so it’s very easy to make the bed, or strategize something else along these lines. While still tucked in bed, straighten out the bedding, basically making your bed before you slip out the side. (My mom taught me this as a child.) Buy bedding that is enjoyable to look at, so making your bed is pleasurable, and you enjoy the way your bedroom looks. Put something on the floor right when you get out of bed that feels uncomfortable on your feet to trigger you out of unconscious motion and into awareness, making it more likely you will remember to make the bed.

Make sure all the lights are off when leaving the house: Build in a few extra minutes before leaving so you have time to check the house. Turn off lights when you leave each room, so you only need to turn off a few lights when leaving the house. Put a reminder note on the front door or a bell on the door knob that jingles when you open it and reminds you to check for anything you may have forgotten.

Place the keys in a bowl or hook when I first come home: Designate a spot just inside the door you usually come through when arriving home. Place a bowl on a little table or screw some tiny hooks on the wall. The same bell used above when leaving the house can alert you again about putting the keys in their spot as soon as you walk in. Add a pretty ribbon to your key chain so it’s easy to see and easy to hang on the wall.

If you don’t want to leave a bell on your front door or “FLOSS!” on your mirror indefinitely, keep in mind that it only needs to be there long enough for the habit to be ingrained, then you can remove it.

Some habits will shift immediately, others may take a little more time to identify exactly what is getting in the way. Stick with it. Try out different changes to your environment to see what works. Please let me know about your successes in the comments. Feel free to ask questions, too.