Change Your Environment, Change Your Habit

Habit Science


Have you ever heard of the phrase mindless eating? Simply put, mindless eating happens when you eat without really meaning to. How can someone eat without meaning to? It’s a lot easier than you think.

If there’s candy in the candy dish at work, you’re much more likely to consume candy throughout your day. Someone who doesn’t even like candy might have a few pieces just because it’s there. If you’re eating out and the restaurant offers a bowl of chips or bread on the table, you’re likely to dig in, even if you’re not in the mood for carbs.

Mindless eating is a profound example of how the environment around you can impact your habits, and therefore impact your health. Most people aren’t able to change their environments completely. But, making simple changes to your environment can help.

You can ask coworkers to put away the candy bowl. If that’s not an option, plan your day so that you avoid being near it. If you’re trying to watch less TV and move your body more, place your sneakers next to the remote. By changing up your environment a tiny bit, you’re giving yourself the option to put on your shoes and go for a walk instead of turning on the TV. Trying to avoid stress in the evening hours? Put your phone, computer and other electronic devices in a different room after 7 pm so you can’t check your email. Trying to avoid coffee in the afternoon? Opt for an afternoon walk around the block instead of an afternoon walk to the coffee shop.

What habit are you working on right now? Identify three simple changes you can make to your environment to encourage you to pursue it.

References

  • Wansink, B., & Sobal, J. (2007). Mindless Eating. Environment and Behavior, 39(1), 106–123. doi: 10.1177/0013916506295573