When you want to change a habit, you probably take on a deliberate approach. You buy new gym clothes and set your alarm an hour alarm to get to the gym. You make a grocery list and buy only fresh, whole foods. Good for you!
But did you know that who you surround yourself with is as important as what you do? One habit change theory states that some health behaviors are not deliberate, but instead nonconscious and reflexive. This means we absorb and react to the behaviors of others around us.
It’s similar to the idea of peer pressure. If the people around you pressure you to smoke cigarettes or binge-drink alcohol, even a person with the most willpower is at risk for falling victim to peer pressure. Likewise, if the people around you have healthy habits, you are more likely to pick up healthy habits yourself.
When your best friend is an avid runner, you’re more likely to be active yourself. If your close friend is a vegan chef, you’re more likely to include large amounts of vegetables in your meals.
Yet, you don’t have to surround yourself with runners and healthy chefs to get the trickle-down health effect. If your friends simply make an effort to live a healthier lifestyle, chances are that it will rub off on you.
Are you worried that your friends don’t have habits you especially want to replicate? Don’t worry, you don’t have to stop being friends. You can, however, make an effort to make new friends in environments that are conducive to healthy habits. Making friends as an older adult can be daunting, but it just requires striking up a conversation.
Make an effort to talk to people at the gym. When you meet someone you like, make a workout or walking date. Join a book club at the library. Arrive a little earlier so you’ll have time to chat to other readers. If you frequent your local smoothie shop, get to know the people you see there. If you don’t get out of the house very often, find a support group of like-minded people online.
And don’t give up on your old friends! When you make new friends with healthy habits, you can invite your old friends along. It’s possible your desire to build new, healthy habits will rub off on them, too.