Researchers have found that environment is an important factor when implementing healthy habits. And changing your environment will make it much easier to stick with your health goals so you can have more time for other things. Here’s how this works…
In one study, Dr. Anne Thorndike, MD influenced the eating habits of cafeteria visitors simply by changing the location of certain foods. Coined with the term “Choice Architecture,” she made healthy food and drink choices more prominent and easier to access than unhealthy foods. (3) This led to a reduction in soda sales, an increase in water sales and decrease in junk food sales.
Stanford psychologist B.J. Fogg said that one should focus not on “doing Behavior X,” but should make Behavior X easier to do, while making bad habits more difficult to implement. His example was to put snacks on a shelf in the garage where a ladder is required for access. As it turns out, most people will forgo the snacks when too much effort to obtain them is involved. Use this laziness principle to your advantage to help cut or remove undesirable habits.
Change your environment with some slight alterations in your home. Clear junk food from your pantry and refrigerator and replace them with healthy food options. Make fresh, whole fruits easy to grab along with cut vegetables ready to dip and eat. When you are fatigued, these will be right there waiting for you instead of a bag of potato chips. Having meals at home will also save you time. While hitting a restaurant drive-through seems like a time saver, it is just as easy to have meals ready at home; and you will have more control over your diet.
Use this technique in other areas of your life, as well. Exercise will not interfere with your life if you schedule only short time slots at the beginning or end of your day. Other ways to keep exercise simple is to have your gym clothes ready to put on, take them to work so it is easy to go straight to the gym or keep a pair of gym shoes at work for your lunch break.
Making desired routines easy to follow can help you create positive habits in all areas of your life. For example, if you want to learn a new instrument, leave it out where you can see it and practice 15 minutes each day after work. Have your computer set up and ready to do research for a new business venture, or schedule just 10 minutes to organize your closet after work. Keep your goals visible and schedule time for them in manageable time slots, so they are easier to stick with.
As you find ways to make goal easier to implement, you are more likely to stay on a path to reach them. Scheduling is key so you can prioritize tasks and remember to do them. And with a little planning, you will learn to bring balance into all areas of your life.
Above all things, be flexible with yourself, as it might take time to get used to your new schedule. The above suggestions may feel like a lot of planning but when life is more organized, we can get more goals accomplished and feel less stressed doing them. Actively taking part in the planning of your life will help you direct your life and experience the outcome you desire. You may find that balance will help you live more productively and happier.
1 Kurth F, MacKenzie-Graham A, Toga AW, Luders E. Shifting brain asymmetry: the link between meditation and structural lateralization. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2015;10(1):55–61. doi:10.1093/scan/nsu029
2 Davidson, K., Schwartz, A. R., Sheffield, D., McCord, R. S., Lepore, S. J., & Gerin, W. (2002). Expressive writing and blood pressure. In S. J. Lepore & J. M. Smyth (Eds.), The writing cure: How expressive writing promotes health and emotional well-being (p. 17–30). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/10451-001
3 Thorndike AN, Sonnenberg L, Riis J, Barraclough S, Levy DE. A 2-phase labeling and choice architecture intervention to improve healthy food and beverage choices [published correction appears in Am J Public Health. 2012 Apr;102(4):584]. Am J Public Health. 2012;102(3):527–533. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2011.300391