Habit change related to environment.

Our habits are tied to our environment – the good and the bad. Sometimes a break from home can allow for more reflection and perhaps a better chance to change habits you want to change.

A couple of days ago I wrote about changing up your workout schedule, which I do based on seasons and racing schedules/training plans. I enjoy recreating a new plan after a race is done. I enjoy the extra flexibility. And then again love the switch back into a more rigid training plan.

But returning from a long vacation also has me thinking about the effect of location on our routines. After nearly a month of travel, it’s amazing how I can just settle in at home and how easily my old routines come back. Some of these are good; but I have plenty of bad habits as well that can easily creep back in when back in the same place. I am trying to be mindful about choosing the routines that I get back into. I floss much more often at home – a good routine to keep. But I was getting lazy about some other things and I am trying to take advantage of a fresher perspective to be more aware and change some of those negatives.

This connection between place and habits reminds me of a story I heard in Atomic Habits by James Clear. Heroine addiction is a tremendous problem right now in the United States, and we hear about how tough it is for addicts to kick their addiction, despite attempting different treatment programs. Possibly 90% of addicts become re-addicted after they return home from a treatment program. Contrast that with studies that have shown that while about 20% of soldiers who went to Vietnam used and were addicted to heroine; of those 20%, only 12% were not able to curb their addiction and remain sober for the following 3 years. In other words, 88% were no longer addicted to heroine 3 years later (and that was even higher – 95% – at the one year mark).

It’s thought that the discrepancy is due in large part to the fact that the soldiers’ environment was drastically different. They were addicted in Vietnam, but found it easy not to use back at home. Addicts returning to the same place where they were users after a treatment program face all of the same triggers they had before. Despite their best intentions, it is a very different battle than if they could return to a totally different environment.

How can you learn from this and change your own environment in order to change those habits that you desire to change? If you have a big change coming up, remember that that’s a great time to change your habits too – or better yet – to mindfully choose them. To re-start the great in your new environment and replace the bad.

The excerpt from Atomic Habits that I refer to is available here. (same link cited above).

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