Making our way into the new year, many of us are creating resolutions full of actions: the things we want do or not do to have a better year than the one before. These very “me” centered resolutions put a lot of pressure on us to automate, plan, and perfect our daily routines.
But healthy living is not just about you. A critical aspect of living a healthier life is cultivating conditions around you to make it easier to living healthy.
There is a saying that humans are a product of our environment. So why don’t we bring some focus to cultivating an environment that sets us up for success in our health goals?
It’s easy to underestimate the power of our surroundings, but passive cues from our environment have a big influence on our daily decisions. Recognizing the ways our environment shapes us takes pressure off us to behave perfectly 100% of the time. Instead, we work within the confines of the situation and do our best to make sure our surroundings facilitate positive behaviors.
Here are some great ways to create an environment in 2015 that supports less stress, better sleep, and a healthier life:
Reduce screen time before bed, and sleep in complete darkness.
Melatonin, a hormone in our bodies that governs our circadian rhythms, naturally increases when the lights are turned down low, helping us get to sleep. Lying in your bed late into the night in front of your computer, TV, or phone reduces the production of melatonin and makes it harder to get a good nights rest. Help your body get awesome sleep by shutting off the screens before you climb into bed, and make sure that your phone or other devices don’t light up through the night.
Notice your posture and take a power stance
Did you guys see Amy Cuddy’s amazing TED Talk about how your posture effects your words, actions, and attitudes? Amy suggests taking a powerful posture to help you stay strong through tough discussions and work projects and to build your self-esteem and confidence. Similarly, notice your posture and sit up straight particularly at work to keep you alert and ready for action.
Take a deep breath
Have you heard of the term screen apnea? Neither had I until recently, when I read about Linda Stone’s work in 99U’s awesome book “Manage your day-to-day”. It turns out that when we stare at our computers or phones, our breathing becomes more shallow, bringing less oxygen to our muscles and brain and body (which, I’m assuming you all know, is quite important for survival). The interesting thing is that our shallow breathing actually mimics the physiological effects of the “fight or flight” response, causing a cascade of negative effects, one of which is just feeling more stressed. So, In between emails and meetings, take a deep breath in, and slowly exhale, and do your work from a place of calm.
Reduce clutter in your surroundings
It’s true, a clear space helps you have a clear mind. Where do you collect clutter in your daily life? Around your house, in your car, at the office? Take some time to put things away, do some organizing, and keep your space clean, so that you have the mental and physical space to go about your life.
Keep healthy foods within sight.
Many resolution to “eat healthier” don’t address the fact that we have to have the healthier foods to eat in the first place. I’ve talked before about setting incremental goals – marking and doing the first step you need to do to get to health. So rather than focusing about when you’re going to eat healthy or what you want to do, take the time to set up your kitchen for success — buy the healthy groceries and put them in plain sight. Take the boxes of cookies and sweets, and either clean them out of your pantry or put them up on a high shelf. Out of sight, out of mind.
Clean out your news feed. What are you giving attention to?
We all have them – the trolls on our news feeds or in our lives that don’t bring positivity or value. Notice what it is in your life that brings joy and love, and bring more attention to that. The information or places in your life that don’t bring that joy and value? Consider unfriending, unfollowing, and letting go of the media consumption that is not serving you.
When it comes to having a healthier, happier life, the role of willpower is only part of the puzzle. Creating an environment that supports your health is a critical but often overlooked step to making your goals a reality.
Please share your other ideas for creating an environment that supports your health goals in the comments below! Thanks for reading, and Wishing you and yours a very happy and healthy New Year!