Changing habits isn’t simply a matter of having more willpower or motivation. Our physical space – the places we live, work, and play – can help or hinder us as we attempt to live healthier lives.
And we often overlook their importance.
Some environmental problems – pollution and global warming, for example – can impact our health negatively. And they require not only individual but also community and/or worldwide efforts to elicit sustainable change.
But as we look to create new, sustainable habits and behaviors, we have more control. We can focus on not only our motivation and mindset. We also can affect the places where we spend the most time. Those spaces, our homes and workplaces in particular, impact how we feel and act on a daily basis. They influence our habits and routines.
We start by taking a closer look at those physical spaces.
So how do yours impact your habits around the 4 pillars of health – sleep, stress, nutrition, and physical activity?
Is your physical space good for sleeping?
Every day, we must sleep. But some nights are better than others. What role does your sleep environment have on the quality of your sleep?
Noise and light from inside and outside, including blue light from devices and interruptions from others, can make sleep more challenging. Sleep experts suggest sleeping in total darkness and quiet. And they say cooler rooms are more conducive to sleep, so set your thermostat between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
But it’s one thing to know what to do, and another to do it. To achieve better sleep habits, you may need to set some boundaries with others and yourself to minimize distractions and create a calming bedtime routine.
Sleep and stress – they’re connected
Also, if your home is cluttered, it may affect both your stress levels and your sleep. A 2010 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that individuals who identify themselves as having a cluttered home demonstrated increased levels of cortisol. Cortisol plays a critical role in regulating the sleep cycle, and when cortisol is too frequently elevated it can cause sleep problems.
So what’s it like in your bedroom? What changes might you need to make in your home to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep? Small changes can add up over time.
Moving beyond your bedroom, in what other ways does your home nurture you or add to your stress? How about your workplace, or any other physical space you regularly inhabit? Clutter can be emotionally and mentally draining, but different people have different tolerance levels for disorganization. Are your primary spaces cluttered, dimly lit, poorly ventilated, noisy?
By tuning into our spaces and how they affect us, we can start to make some changes.
Does your physical space affect your nutrition and physical activity?
Your physical environment also can influence your nutrition habits and routines. Americans in low-income communities often lack access to supermarkets, where they can find healthy and affordable food, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Others may find obstacles in their own pantry. Do you stock enough staples that you can put together a healthy meal or snack when you’re hungry? Can you create a meal plan and prepare food on less stressful days, to help you get through busier days? What healthy, prepared meals or grocery delivery services may be available in your area?
Co-workers also may present challenges. What treats regularly show up in the breakroom, and do they help or hinder your goals? What healthy lunch options do you have available?
Overall, how does your physical space affect your nutrition habits? How about your activity goals?
When it comes to exercise, people who live in big cities might be affected by noise, lower air quality, and a lack of space. Other areas might lack sidewalks and parks. How does your environment affect your ability to be active? If you’re able to spend time outside, in nature, it can benefit both your activity levels and your stress resilience. Search for a nearby forest, trail or park here.
Once you’ve decided how you want to be active, what do you need to get it done? If you live in a larger city, with traffic and crowds, you may need to exercise when fewer people and less traffic are around. You may need a designated area or bag to keep your exercise clothes and shoes easily accessible.
What’s working for you in your physical spaces, and what’s not?
No matter how many problems you discover in your environment, small changes can add up over time and influence other areas of your health and well-being. What’s one or two you can start with today?
Amy Hoogervorst is a national board-certified health and wellness coach, offering grace and space for a healthier you. She helps you fit healthier habits into your life, for more energy, focus, and fun. If you need some support as you make changes to your physical space and work to create healthier habits, you can schedule a free discovery call with Amy here to see if coaching might be right for you.