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  • Sarah

The Power Of Your Environment

In my previous post I was having a mental block. I felt like I was stuck and not moving forwards with my work. I am now in France. My parents have a house over here so the boys and I are staying here for 2 weeks. This is the first time abroad since before COVID and a very much needed change of scenery where my parents will be helping me look after the boys and I can therefore do some work. I feel very lucky to be able to do this and to be able to reset, recharge and move forwards.

I've been here a few days now and I already feel so much more productive. I've made progress on my website and just feel a lot more relaxed and creative. I've now submitted my application to the FCA so now I just need to wait to get approved (this can take up to 6 months). My Financial Advice company will be called Blyth Wealth Management. Blyth is my surname. It was actually a friend who suggested I use my surname and I initially felt like it was a bit egotistical to use it. It felt a little uncomfortable. I asked several people about the name and they have told me it sounds good and I should use it so I have! I know I keep saying this, but I think it's so important to have supportive people around you and let them help you. Sometimes you can't see clearly because you're so close to whatever it is you are working on. It's like when you write an article, check it and can't see any mistakes. But then when you ask others to check it they can spot the mistakes straight away. And you think, why didn't I spot that, it's so obvious? It's good to get other people's perspectives and ideas. Good and also important!

I've also decided to give up alcohol. I've tried to do it before but it's only lasted a few days. I'm now on my 6th day. I couldn't do this at home. I wasn't sure about whether to write about this but it's part of my journey so why should I miss it out. And I'm sure I'm not the only one. During lockdown my alcohol consumption gradually increased and I was drinking most nights. Everyone struggled with lockdown in their own way. Trying to home school and work was tough. When I wasn't looking after the boys and home schooling, I was working. I was working weekends and evenings. During the lockdown of January 2021 when the schools closed again, I was self-employed so if I didn't work, I didn't get paid. This was OK, I know people had it much harder, but what happened was that I got on a hamster wheel of constantly working when I wasn't home schooling or looking after the boys.

A stable environment where everything has a place and a purpose, is an environment where habits can easily form.

I would work until about 10pm every day and then I would have a drink (or few) and watch Netflix. I guess it broke up the days. It was the only time I relaxed, or thought I was relaxing. The same thing would happen the next day. It became a habit but one that I found really hard to break. So hard, that it's now 2 years later and I'm still trying to break it. At home I find it hard as it's the same environment so I fall back into the same habit. In France I have found it a lot easier. It's amazing how much a change of scenery can really help you break a habit or form a new one.

A couple of my friends in the past have stopped drinking as they were on antibiotics, or for some other reason, and I asked them whether they felt any better. They said they didn't really feel any benefit. Do I feel any benefit after 6 days of no drinking? I don't know if it's psychological but I feel like I have more energy. I also feel good because I know it wasn't healthy for me, the amount I was drinking over the week. Do I think everyone should stop drinking? Not at all. I guess there's only really a reason to stop if it's affecting you but it was affecting me. I was feeling sluggish and sometimes my mind was foggy. It also added to my stress and the time and money I spent drinking I could spend on true self-care, which I had neglected during lockdown and even after lockdown had ended. So that is what I'm going to do. I'm hoping 2 weeks of no drinking in France will be enough to help break the habit (apparently it takes 21 days of conscious and consistent effort to create a new habit).

I know I've been lucky to get away to France for 2 weeks and have the help of my parents to look after the boys. But sometimes a change of scenery can just mean going to a new coffee shop or sitting on a different bench in the park. The environment where you do your daily work is also linked to your current thought patterns so if you want to get new ideas or are having trouble thinking, then changing your environment or moving to a different space can help with this. I read a book by James Clear called Atomic Habits (highly recommend it) and in it he says that we mentally assign our habits to the locations in which they occur, whether that be at home, in the office or in the gym. You establish a certain relationship with a particular environment and our behaviours are defined by our relationship to the objects around us. It's good to ask yourself this question - "How do you interact with the space around you?" For me, the living room couch was where I worked and also watched TV and also where I would drink. I had different habits associated with the same space which is why I found it hard to stop working and why I also found it hard to break the habit of drinking. There wasn't a clear line between work and home life so it was difficult for me to turn off the professional side of my brain.

I was also surrounded by the subtle triggers and cues that moved me towards my habit of drinking on the evening. That's why habits are easier to change in a new environment as it's easier to escape these triggers. If you have limited space, then you could divide your current space into activity zones, such as a desk for writing and a chair for reading. If you want to create a new routine, go to a new place or find an area of a room that you rarely use (a new context) and form the new routine here, as it's more likely to stick. One space, one use. As James says in his book "a stable environment where everything has a place and a purpose, is an environment where habits can easily form."


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