Passive factors play a role in our health
When we think of health, we often think of our active, everyday choices—what we eat, how we move, how we react in a range of situations from work to home. All of these active parts in our lives are important, but passive factors also play a role in our health as well.
You might not be thinking about your waistline or your longevity when you paint your walls or buy a new set of plates, but these seemingly inconsequential decisions live with us for years and have a real impact.
Your environment, the people and things around you, influence your health. In the case of factors like air quality or smoke detectors or mold, that influence can be noticeably physical. When it comes to the colors of our rooms or how much light we get, the influences have physical consequences but can also have psychological impacts as well.
Seemingly inconsequential decisions live with us for years and have a real impact.
For example, if you eat on smaller plates, you are more likely to eat healthier portions. If you eat under bright light rather than dim light, you are less likely to overeat. On the other hand, if you block out light in your bedroom and use scents of lavender, you are more likely to have restful sleep.
Habits of a Healthy Environment might not feel as significant as getting your 10,000 steps a day or sticking to your meal plan for a few months, but that doesn’t mean that they are any less important. In fact, the beauty of Habits of a Healthy Environment is that you can often make the choice to change on one occasion and then bask in the results for many years to come.
You don’t buy plates or paint your walls each day, right? Nope! Make the healthy choice once and enjoy the benefits!
Ideas to get you started
Habits of a Healthy Environment can set you up for a series of easy long-term wins. Here are some ideas to get you started (in addition to the ideas we already discussed):
- Get more and less light. When you first wake up and throughout your day, bright light helps you to stay active and focused. Sunlight can improve mood and also help your body to produce some crucial vitamins and nutrients. At night, however, block out as much light as you can—even little blinking lights on your electronics—so that your sleep is restful.
- Step away from sound and other stimuli. Noise pollution, believe it or not, affects your health. Even if you don’t live in the city, always listening to music or watching television can put your brain into overdrive. Get away from the noise, either with ear plugs or by taking a trip somewhere quiet, and turn off your devices. Quiet time can help reduce stress and lower anxiety even if you don’t realize you have it.
- Surround yourself with soothing colors. It might sound like pop psychology, but our brains react to colors. Blues and greens can help you to be more relaxed while bright reds or oranges can potentially increase energy levels and even raise stress. If you can’t paint your walls something comforting, hang some big pieces of art and bring more plants into your home.
- Immerse yourself in green spaces. Even if you’re in the city, perhaps especially so, you should make an effort to regularly visit somewhere where there are trees and grass. The research isn’t perfectly clear on what mechanisms are at play here, but we do know from a number of studies that being in nature has a positive effect on a range of health markers, starting with mental disposition.
- Tidy up. An organized living or workspace is good for your brain and for your mood. If you aren’t sure where to start or perhaps feel overwhelmed by this suggestion, organize your bedroom first so that you fall asleep and wake up in an environment that feels structured and cared for. If the first thing you see when you open your eyes is a mess of clothes and you can’t find what you need as you rush off to work, you set yourself up for a stressful day before it has even started.
If you look at the environment around you, I’m sure that you can identify some opportunities for improvement that weren’t on this list. That doesn’t mean their impact won’t be positive! Also, check out Dr. A’s Habits of Health for a more thorough breakdown, going room by room, of how you can transform your home into your personal health bubble.