Dear Landing: Using Space to Encourage Behavior
I loved the exercise of mapping my routine to space from your past article. As I’ve been at home, I’ve realized I want to introduce new aspects to my routine that I am struggling to put into practice. Any tips for how to use space to create or encourage new routines?
Trying to Meditate
Dear Trying to Meditate,
We feel you! With so much time at home, we’ve found a lot more time for new practices and hobbies and a lot more need for activities that encourage calm and stability! Our mental states and behaviors are very influenced by our physical spaces. By that reasoning, we can use our physical space to encourage change in our day to day.
When trying to leverage space to encourage behavior, we like to think about three main things: (1) physical or visual cues, (2) forced movement and (3) rewards.
Physical or visual cues: when trying to build a new habit or behavior, a common problem is simply forgetting. We want to drink more water throughout the day or meditate first thing in the morning, but we forget. Visual cues are marks we put in the physical world to recall things in our mental world. For example, a post-it that says “meditate” or leaving a water bottle on the kitchen counter to remind you to drink up.
Forced movement: Space is a 360 degree experience, so moving through it can be very powerful. Forcing ourselves to move within our spaces can be a powerful way to literally change behavior. For example, if we want to break a candy habit, moving our sweet snacks to a shelf that requires a stepping stool creates a forced movement that can encourage us to rethink our behavior.
Rewards: One of the best ways to encourage a behavior is to reward ourselves at the end of its completion. Sounds simple and childish - but it’s true! To use the same candy example from above, perhaps the candy is stored by your yoga mat as a way to encourage you to do yoga before you hit the sweets.
While these hacks can seem silly, the intention behind all of them is to create a pause in your automatic thinking to give you the time to consider, change, or execute a new behavior. Habits tend to be very deeply ingrained, so anything you can do to call attention to them when you’re looking to change is deeply helpful!
One common behavior change we hear of is trying to enact a “first thing in the morning” activity, whether it’s meditating, breathing exercises, journaling or just getting out of bed.
My personal strategy is to use both forced movement and a visual cue to encourage a morning reflection. A few months ago, I received a daily meditation book as a gift and decided to read one passage a day, first thing in the morning. I quickly forgot and/or put it off but found the following strategy to be helpful.
I started to put the book under my phone and plug my phone into an outlet away from my bedside table (i.e. out of reach when I’m lying in bed). Since I use my phone as my alarm, when it rings, I’m both forced to move into a new space and then shown a visual cue, the book. While frustrating for days when I want to snooze, I’ve found the placement has made me much more consistent in completing my morning meditation. If you can’t give up your bedside snooze, another alternative would be storing the book next to your coffee maker, i.e., a visual cue and your reward. No caffeine until you meditate. ;)
We’d love to hear how you implement the above to cultivate new behaviors! Please share with us via social @thelandinghome or reach out again at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for #CreatingSpace for something new,
Alex and The Landing Team