When you start out a new habit like eating healthier â€¦ it seems really easy in the beginning. Youâ€™re optimistic, you have energy, itâ€™s all going to work out great!
Unfortunately, itâ€™s not always that easy â€” life gets in the way. More specifically, your environment gets in the way, conspiring against you to make it harder and harder to stick to the habit. This is especially true with eating habits. Letâ€™s look at a few examples.
- You give in to temptations because thereâ€™s all kinds of your favorite snacks around your house, or at the office.
- Youâ€™re busy all day and donâ€™t have time for shopping and cooking, and now youâ€™re tired and just order fast food.
- Everyone around you is eating unhealthy things, so eventually you just join them, because the temptation is too great.
These are just a few examples of how our environment can be set up to make it very likely that weâ€™ll fail. We can still overcome these things, but it takes a huge amount of focus and energy, and the truth is that most people wonâ€™t overcome them.
However, in this course, weâ€™re going to be a bit smarter about things! Weâ€™re going to start setting up our environment to make us much more likely to succeed, and to do it joyfully.
Notice, though, that I said weâ€™re going to start setting up our environment â€¦ you donâ€™t have to do everything at once. You can get started by making a small change or two, see how things go, make a couple more changes, addressing the obstacles you see coming up in your environment, adjust as you go â€¦ this is the iterative process of developing a habit. You donâ€™t develop the perfect environment (if that even exists) in one or two days â€¦ you learn as you go, getting better and better at it, addressing one sticking point at a time.
Important Changes to Your Environment
So â€¦ letâ€™s talk about some things in your environment you can set up for a joyful, successful habit change â€¦
The first thing is your physical environment:
- Do you have junk food snacks like chips, cookies, candy, soda or other sweet drinks, in your cupboards or fridge? If you have control over this, get rid of all of that!
- Instead, stock your house with healthy snacks like carrots, apples, grapes.
- Have easy meals that youâ€™ve prepared and can have ready to eat in a few minutes â€” cook chili or a stir-fry ahead of time, for example, or have healthy salad or sandwich stuff ready to throw together when youâ€™re tired and hungry.
- Pack your lunches ahead of time, when you have some spare time, instead of in the morning when youâ€™re in a rush.
Changes like this make a huge difference.
Look at your office environment too:
- Are there junk food snacks all around? Is it possible to change all of this?
- One way to do that is to talk to management, or talk to your co-workers, and suggest a health challenge for the office.
- Suggest that you guys get rid of the junk and have healthy food instead.
- If that doesnâ€™t work, at least have healthy stuff at your desk, and see if you can avoid the junk by walking in a more roundabout route.
Not having the temptations in front of you is the best environment.
Next, is social support â€” this is a big part of a successful environment, and the right social environment can make healthy changes joyful:
- Start with the people closest to you â€” spouse, family, friends, co-workers â€” ask them if theyâ€™ll be on your support team.
- Ask them to keep you accountable, be there when youâ€™re struggling, maybe even join you for a few healthy meals.
- Itâ€™s also a good idea to be active on the Sea Change forums or join a team on the forums. This kind of social support means a lot in keeping you on track.
- Even just a good friend who you can talk to and email once a week with updates is a great idea.
Another important part of your environment is you â€¦ more specifically, your mind:
- Are you ready to start thinking of yourself differently, as we talked about in Lesson 1?
- Can you see this as a joyful exploration, rather than sacrifices? See the joy in every step, smile at the discomfort. This kind of mindset matters.
And super important is thinking about your motivation:
- Why are you doing this? Is it just because it would be nice, or you want to look better? Iâ€™ve found those arenâ€™t strong enough reasons, and when things get tough, you scrap them and go with your urges.
- Instead, have a deeper reason â€” do it for someone else. Will your change help inspire your spouse, or give your children or parents a model for living a healthy life? That can change lives. Will you learn how to change so you can help others change?
- Will you be happier and stronger, so you can better fulfill your life mission, or better serve other people in your job? These are the deeper reasons that will keep you going.
Another approach thatâ€™s important is to make small changes. When you find yourself busy, big changes get pushed back â€¦ but if you have a super small change, you can always say Yes to it. Keep your changes small â€” even if youâ€™re doing a big challenge, like going vegan, have at least a small version of that challenge that you can do even if youâ€™re busy.
Finally, another environment factor is having reminders. Put notes or other visual reminders around you so you donâ€™t forget to do your new habit. Set calendar or phone reminders.
For the rest of this week, start to make changes to your environment. Each day, pick something above and implement it.