Change Your Environment to Change Your Life

What is one of the most effective ways to change your own behavior and habits? Doing things backwards.

What I mean by backward is that if you for instance start moving slower you soon start feeling calmer.

If you start to smile – even if your force it – you soon feel happy and like you actually want to smile. It’s kinda strange but it sure does work.

This is not just limited to your body. Instead of changing yourself and through that changing your surroundings you can turn it around. Change your surroundings to change yourself.

How I Changed My Information Diet

During the last year I have changed my information intake habits quite a bit. First, about a year and a half ago, I realized that there wasn’t much I watched on the TV that I really wanted to watch. It was mostly a habit I used to fill out time. So I put the TV in my closet and it’s been there pretty much even since. Nowadays, when I’m at home, I watch just what I want to watch on my computer. I don’t miss the TV, but one thing I’ve noticed is that I have seldom seen popular TV-commercials that people keep bringing up in conversations.

After I started blogging I read a lot of blogs and my bookmark folder became hard to manage and get an overview of. I read online for hours each day. Finally, I got tired of this and it was time to eliminate. So cut I ruthlessly among my RSS-feeds and reduced about 15-20 of them to 7. Then I deleted about 95% of my bookmarks. One important thing I did was deleting bookmarks for sites I was addicted to such as email, RSS-feeds and blogstatistics. Now, when I want to access these sites I have to type in the address manually (or Google it). This has reduced the checking of those sites from about 8 times a day to once or twice.

I’ve used the same method for limiting my use of social bookmarking sites like Reddit and Digg. And to go from checking three of the biggest Swedish newspapers online 3-4 times a day to checking one paper once each day. I did all the switches pretty fast. When the short-cuts were gone the habits and temptations ceased pretty quickly. The new habits were established in about two weeks.

Other Areas of Your Life Where You Can Apply the Same Method

Here are three important areas people often want to change and a few environmental suggestions for each of those areas.

Your Health

  • You can replace a bad health habit with a better one by for instance throwing out your cookies and candy. Then fill your fridge and cabinets with healthier snacks such as carrots, fruits and nuts. It might not sound like fun. But you’ll get used to it and appreciate the new replacements sooner than you might think.
  • Buy healthier cookbooks – or look for healthy recipes online – and throw out your take-out menus.
  • Subscribe to RSS-feeds from the best health blogs and create a bookmark-folder for the best health websites you can find. Make these daily reading to reinforce your new and healthier outlook.
  • Leave your running-shoes or soccer out in an easy-to-see place in your apartment/house instead of tucking them into your closet. It’s easy to just get caught up in everyday life and forget exercising (or remember it when you are lying in bed waiting to go to sleep). This is a simple reminder to help you avoid such situations.
  • Join a local group and for example start practising yoga or playing basketball. You’ll not only get more exercise but you might also find some new friends that can act a positive health influence on you. I wouldn’t go so far as to ditch the friends you go out drinking beer and sit around watching TV with. But you can expand your circle of friends to reflect and reinforce your new way of living.

Your Income and Financial Situation

  • Cut your credit-cards to get out of one growing debt-trap.
  • Get a clear picture of your finances and eliminate the things you don’t need. Take them out of your life and soon you may think: Why did I ever start doing those things in the first place?.
  • If you have debts or financial problems, don’t use your time by focusing on how bad your situation is. Focus on finding ways to solve the problem. Whatever the challenge is focus your mind on finding solutions.
  • Read free and high-quality blogs about finance like Get Rich Slowly and I Will Teach You to Be Rich. Delete the bookmarks to sites where you have spent too much money. Or even better, erase your account at those websites.
  • Write down your financial goal(s) on pieces of paper. It might be something like increase your monthly income by 30%. Or reducing your spending each month by 20%. Then tape those pieces of paper on your fridge, bathroom mirror, workspace and computer to see your goal(s) many times a day. This will help you keep your focus on what’s important and what you want.
  • Join an online forum for money and finances to get support, new ideas and good conversations going. This can be especially valuable if no-one in your immediate surrounding is interested in managing or discussing money.

Your Social Life

  • Join local groups of like-minded people to find new and potentially great friends.
  • Try to find friends that can be a positive support. Spend more time with them. Limit you time with negative friends/co-workers. Who you spend time with will decide much of how you’ll feel and what you’ll experience. Hanging with the right crowd for you can do wonders.
  • Instead of being hesitant and saying no, say yes for a month whenever someone invites you for something. It’s good to try new environments, and you never who you’ll meet.
  • Try replacing the newspaper in the morning with a good sit-com episode or listening/reading a self improvement book. Starting your day on a positive note can lift your spirits and when you are positive rather instead of negative socialising becomes a whole lot easier.
  • Try online dating, blind dates or speed dating to get away from the bar/club-scene for a while.
  • If your special-interests are too obscure – or your town is too small – go online to find people to discuss with. Or consider joining a group in a larger, nearby city and taking the car, bus or train there.
  • If you want to be a more social person, put yourself in more social situations, take more chances, and take more action. People will seldom come to you. If you want to wait for that, prepare for a long wait. Instead, be proactive and take the first step. It can be scary but there are practical ways to overcome that fear. Have a look at Do You Make These 10 Mistakes in a Conversation? and How to Make a Great First Impression for tips and pointers on improving your people skills. Read 5 Life-Changing Keys to Overcoming Your Fear for practical advice on how to overcome social fears and anxieties.

Try brainstorming environmental factors for the change you want to achieve in your life. Have a look at How to Spark Your Creativity and come up with ways to change your environment so it more suits and is a natural part of the life of the person you want to become.

One thing about changing your life is that you can promise yourself to do anything in the future. And that sounds good and feels even better. But later on we can always come up with reasons to rationalize doing what we decided to never do again just a week ago. And those reasons don’t even have to be that great or logical. When we feel like doing whatever it is we want to do – smoke a cigarette, buy a new expensive coat or shy away from facing a fear – then out mind will find ways to rationalize it. And we’ll do it, feeling we have a good reason to. And then the next day we promise ourselves and others to not do it again. And so on.

By removing these things from your environment as best your can and replacing them with more suitable things you take away many of the opportunities to both do and to rationalize doing something. By replacing them with the things, people etc. that the person you want to become would have a around himself or herself it kinda forces you to live up to and adapt to your new surroundings. And so it becomes easier to change and reach your goals.

Your environment is an important part of you and your identity. Every day it reinforces who you are. Tear your environment down and rebuild it to help create and reinforce a new part of yourself and the person you want to become.

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • a confused person

    It’s a wonderful blog.I need to do exactly these things and one of the most import pointers is socializing, I just don’t know how to make friends in this new country and new world, where I have landed. I feel life is monotonous and I just sit and cry oven it without taking steps to actually change it. Your blog has definitely given me pointers on how to start it. Thanks a lot.

  • Wow, really nice article!

    In the end it can all be reduced to a single simple sentence: we are our environment.

  • Thank you both for you kind comments. I´m glad you found the article helpful.

  • This is exactly what I expected to find out after reading the title e Your Environment to Change Your Life at Personal Development with The Positivity Blog. Thanks for informative article

  • I came across your blog while I did a search on Google for by dating guide step step and your article on Your Environment to Change Your Life was informative.

  • Charlote

    Thank you Henrik for a very interesting blog!
    And you are Swedish too, like me, I just can´t believe it..
    I am sitting in the middle of nowhere, in a tiny village on a greek small Island and enjoying youg blog.
    Keep up the good work! I just got inspired to go and change my environment.


  • somasheker.seelam

    its helpfull to stop worry and live happily

  • I can tell you that smiling is the first step to being happy. You are so right in saying that even if you force a smile and don’t feel like it; it works!!!! I say DO IT, what do you have to loose. You write some very good points and I too am in the inspiration profession; stay inspired and keep writing! My blog is