I love the fall. I love the weather, the beautiful colors of the New England foliage, and the energy around the natural harvest season. As it gets darker and colder, it’s often a time for more focused attention and reflection, and of planting the seeds that we’ll reap in the Spring.
We all know that for seeds of any kind to grow, the right conditions need to be present. Human beings are the same. For things in our lives to come to fruition and bloom, the right conditions need to be established and nurtured. But don’t take my word for it; take a minute to examine different seasons in your life when things bloomed, worked out, or things ended and new things took root. Think of the factors and conditions that facilitated that change. Some were probably in your control, and some were not. One way to directly influence what grows in the garden of our lives is to make room purposefully for those experiences that we need to take root. Without that expressed purpose—and sometimes in spite of it—we’ll soon find we’re in the weeds!
This season focus on planting seeds that you want to grow.
Seems simple right? But that doesn’t mean it’s not powerful. We often get overwhelmed and lose our sense of agency because we lose sight of the simple things we need for ourselves. Getting clear around where you can affect change in your life means seeing the behaviors that are connected and aligned with your identity, values, and goals, and setting boundaries around those to effectively move you forward. One of the most powerful things you can prioritize this season is personal time for hobbies and activities that bring you JOY. Here’s why:
Experiencing positive emotions like joy, flow, and gratitude are all significantly more impactful than we often give them credit for, probably because we view them as fleeting—and experience them less intensely than negative emotions. Barbara L. Frederickson’s seminal paper, “What Good Are Positive Emotions” established the broaden-and-build framework illustrating the wide-reaching effects positive emotions have on our health and how we think. Positive emotions influence our overall outlook on life. They broaden our attention, allow for higher level processing, and increase our willingness to engage in new experiences.
These states have also shown to be resilient, meaning we’re able to access them long after the experiences of joy have passed. Thus, they help us develop and grow overtime, with research showing those who experience more positive emotions have greater life satisfaction, stronger interpersonal relationships, higher incomes, and better overall physical health, Frederickson wrote in 2008. Open hearts build lives: Positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources.
Decide what types of environments your joy needs to flourish.
When the environment in which we live is considered in how we approach our habits, things really get interesting! Our behavior cues are triggered by time of day, the environments in which we’re working, and the sequence of action. Ensuring these are supportive allows us to create the conditions for the seeds of habit to grow. And grow they will!
In almost a decade of working with busy professionals, I’ve seen that real, sustainable life transformations happen when my clients nurture the environments around their habits. Let me explain, since we don’t directly control how things change (the outcome), but we do control what daily actions we take towards that change (our behaviors). We then create conditions that make it easier to do the behavior and getting things done.
Just as certain plants need the right conditions to grow and thrive, we have to think and plan around our habits—like using one calendar so personal needs are scheduled alongside professional appointments, or scheduling time each week to meet friends or go exploring with your camera.
Or, if we consider the conditions around getting optimal sleep: make the room as dark as possible, keep it cold, and put away screens one hour before bed. Do something that’s relaxing prior to bedtime like a warm bath, gentle breathing etc., and only use your bed for sex and sleep. Then, while we can see that we can’t will ourselves to sleep, we can lull ourselves to sleep! That’s creating the conditions that help nurture the habit.
So, take some time out this season to pre-seed your life’s garden with the seeds of joy by getting clear on what brings me joy, and what are the conditions I need to direct for those experiences to happen. Reach out and let me know what you’re planting for yourself this year! Reach me at Meghan.firstname.lastname@example.org or @habitqueer on Instagram.