How Your Home Can Encourage Good Habits
Drink a full glass of water. Move. Have something to look forward to. Create a welcoming environment, or an enlivening space — sunlight, dim light, aromas of mint, bergamot, grapefruit, ginger. Wake up at the same time every day.
If I still made New Years Resolutions, giving up the snooze button would top the list. Most of the year, my mornings start in darkness. May until early August things feel as they should. The sun encourages my brain’s circadian rhythm. Waking happens without much effort. I feel energetic throughout the day.
The rest of the year, the snooze button wins. Good feelings are replaced with lethargy, lack of focus and guilt. “Insufficient sleep is associated with a range of adverse health outcomes, including obesity, type two diabetes, cardiovascular disease, injuries, depression and reduced overall well-being” Between 2007-2013 Statistics Canada found about half of all adults had troubled sleep. When we don’t have the sun or routines of physical labour to guide our bodies, a helpful space can nudge us towards quality restful sleep.
My morning begins slightly before the alarm goes off. The alarm illuminates gradually until it glows warmly. At its full glow, the radio turns on. I wake gently within a 30 minute interval. I drink water that I’ve left on my bedside table. Compacted shearling within my slippers keep my feet warm as I slide them in. With my house coat wrapped tightly around me, my feet scuff down the hallway.
I move through lowly lit spaces. (Look for bulbs that have a colour temperature of 2,300-2,700K) Cool or bright light is disruptive. Hospitable and long, a shower is one of my favourite indulgences. Wet warmth patters gently on my skin, heavy humid air hydrates my lungs, rich smooth soap lathers. Alternating between crisp and sophisticated neroli or invigorating eucalyptus, glass jars of essential oils, with closed eyes, turn my bathroom into a spa.
The furnace has kicked in. The house is warming up. It’s automated to turn on an hour before waking, to save fuel and keep us comfortable. Your body temperature goes down while sleeping. When you wake, your internal temperature rises, like the heat in my home.
I move downstairs. The dishes from last night’s dinner have been put away. Bills that need paying, laundry that needs folding have already been stowed away the night before. It’s easier to wake up when the space you’ll go to doesn’t cause stress.
In The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, habits are described as a loops: Cue, Action, Reward. The alarm cues me to wake. I get out of bed, then receive both an immediate reward of a pleasant morning and feel better throughout the day.
If I hit the snooze button the habit loop looks different. The alarm cues me to wake up, but instead I sleep more. The cozy comfort of my bed and sleep is the reward. Duhigg says that habits never go away, and cannot be created. He goes on, “Habits can be changed, if we understand how they work.”
How to create this change? Keep the cue and reward the same, but alter the action. When my alarm goes off, I can instead sit cross-legged in my bed, still wrapped in blankets. Instead of sleeping more, I can do something that promotes waking, like gentle movement. Stretch. I’ll wind up rewarded in the same way, but stay awake. When I asked around to ultra-productive people, that seemed to resonate. I will move instead of snooze, in my conducive space. Will my home be the support I need to master my morning routine?
Originally published on Guide to the Good, this article was written with the support and advice of certified sleep consultant Dana Murrin, owner of St. John’s based Dreamtime Sleep Solutions. She focuses on sleep hygiene related issues for children and adults.