The other day I was looking at the word of the day from Word Genius. The word was ailurophile, which means “cat lover,” if you’re curious. These new and unusual words have landed in my inbox every day for years. And every day I vow to try to incorporate the word into my vernacular. But I’ve never been able to do that.
I realized that you can’t fit a new word into old conversations. I have the same conversations every day. I go to the same places and spend time with the same people.
It’s no wonder change is so hard. We are creatures of our environment. Our environment impacts us, shapes us. If you want to make a change in your life, you must assess your environment to see if it is conducive to the change you seek to make.
I’d like to tell you about an interaction I had with a patient that made me realize just how influential my surroundings were. It happened eight years ago when a young man, I’ll call him Paul, dropped off a prescription for Suboxone, which used to help people get off of opioids—either the prescription kind or the illegal kind.
I like to get to know all of my patients that take Suboxone so that they know that I take their sobriety seriously.
Paul was in his mid-thirties and had tried to get clean several times over the course of many years. I asked him what the hardest part of staying clean and sober was. Like so many struggling with substance abuse, he was very intelligent and insightful. He said that eating healthy and working out took daily effort. In addition, keeping his thoughts positive took vigilance.
He said those challenges were easy compared to staying away from his friends and family that still use them.
It can be lonely when you’re trying to better yourself. Paul knew full well that his sobriety had a price, at least in the short-term. He would have to be lonely for a while until he found a new group of friends that ate well, liked to work out, and didn’t abuse drugs.
Paul’s story is your story. If he can make the changes necessary to stay clean, you can make the changes you want to make in your life too.
Here are some ideas to help you change your surroundings to be better supported on your wellness journey.
Assess Your Space
Take a good objective look around. Make sure that the contents of your cabinets, pantry, and refrigerator support your efforts to have a healthy body. For example, are there more salty snack foods than leafy green vegetables? My workplace had candy and sweets everywhere as is typical in healthcare. You may have to make a concerted effort to have nutritious options at the ready.
If you’ve vowed to work out, make sure your exercise equipment is in good repair and readily accessible. A friend who’s a runner said to always have your shoes and running clothes all laid out in the evening. That gear is the last thing you see before you close your eyes and the first thing in the morning. When you take that small step, you’ve programmed your mind for that run.
Is there clutter around you? It’s hard to be at peace when there’s stuff everywhere. Take a few minutes to tidy up where you live and work (it’s easier if those are one in the same). Check your car too. You’ll feel better having a clean car.
If it’s overwhelming to do a deep clean, try this: One time each day do a quick scan of a room or two. Pick up just ten items. Either toss them in the trash or put them away. Another simple thing that has a big impact is to make sure the sink is free of dishes before you go to bed. It feels good to see a clean sink in the morning.
You May Need New People
Take a good look at the people you choose to spend time with. Do they lift you up and support you in your wellness goals? Do they have their act together? It’s very hard to stay positive if everyone you spend time with is constantly complaining and looking for reasons to be sad or angry. It may be time to find some new people.
If there’s someone you used to know that you want to reconnect with, go ahead and reach out. It doesn’t mean you will start hanging out again, but it’s good to catch up, see what thoughts are in their head, and what they’ve been doing. Who knows? Maybe an old college friend has a cool new hobby that sparks your creativity.
You can also check out people in your field on LinkedIn. I’ve “met” some really cool people by just reaching out on LI. Take an online course with an interactive feature. During this time of Covid, I took one of Seth Godin’s classes. Here’s a link to all of Seth’s workshops. I am still in a mastermind for this program and have collaborated with people I’ve met in that class. There are people like you who want to be the best they can be, and who want to do good in the world. You just have to find them.
You’re probably somewhere between wanting to learn a new word and trying to stay sober. It’s all about change. Just like a new word doesn’t fit into an old conversation, a new idea doesn’t fit with old thoughts. New habits are not formed in a vacuum.
Who and what you surround yourself with matters. They influence how you think, feel, and act. Take an honest look around. Make a change and two on the outside and see what a positive impact it has on the inside.
Is your environment conducive to the changes you want to make in your life?