Building a Supportive Environment

New Year’s resolutions are a form of cultural procrastination; they’re things we wish were part of our lives but haven’t made a priority—until now. As we ring in the new year, about 45% of Americans will make a New Year’s resolution. Many will fail because our culture and environment does not support our new goal and priority. But how do we make our environment a supportive one?

Making new choices isn’t about having self-discipline, but instead making lifestyle changes and fostering a supportive environment. For example, a person who wants to lose weight can’t do so without proper access to nutritious foods.

Supportive environments offer protection from factors that threaten good health and positive new choices or goals. These environments help people expand their own independence through participation in new activities. Supportive environments are sometimes referred to as supportive settings, and refer to where people live, learn, work, and play.

Here are five tips on how to create and maintain a supportive environment:

  1. Create rules and guidelines. No need to write a formal guideline document, but make sure you set some rules for yourself to keep your environment “safe.”
  2. Provide financial incentives and disincentives. Everyone needs a reason to do something or not do something, so build that into your environment. Be sure to take time to reward yourself, but also discourage yourself from things that could derail you.
  3. Join a support or social group with similar interests. Support groups are a great way to find other people who have the same goals in mind. These people will act as your “pack” when building a new environment for yourself. You may even find a mentor from this group of people.
  4. Mediate between conflicting interests. Not everyone will agree with you and that is okay! Just agree to disagree. Do not let conflicts throw you off track.
  5. Be inclusive to others in your environment. Include others in your new environment to help support, guide, and cheer you on!

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