We all know that spring is on its way, it’s just taking its time getting here.

Along with the signs of new life in the flowers, budding trees and symphony of birds in the morning, I’m guessing there are things you are looking forward to when the warmer weather arrives. I hope getting outside is one and maybe improving my habits, another. How do you set yourself up for healthy choices? There are many things that vie for our time, our motivation and so many things distract us from reaching our goals. This week in our Live Healthy, Live Well message there were a couple of concepts I found helpful.

The environments in which we live, work, worship and play have an impact on the choices we make each day. Experts suggest that many of the decisions we make on a daily basis are unconscious, especially those pertaining to what, when, where, how much and how often we eat. This makes sense, because it would be exhausting to consciously think through every decision we make each day. Instead, many of our daily actions are dictated by routine, habit and environmental cues.

For example, how often do you think through how, when and where to brush your teeth? Probably not very often. Instead, you rely upon an established habit to keep your teeth clean and healthy. In the same way, habits, routines and environmental cues influence our daily eating and physical activity choices in more ways than we realize.

If you truly want to change a behavior for the better, it is worthwhile to consider how your home, work and social environments are either helping or hindering your success.

Begin by thinking about whether there are specific environmental cues or triggers in your home, office or community that lead you toward or away from your desired behavior. If you identify cues that are leading you away from your desired behavior, brainstorm ways to replace them with positive cues. For example, if you’re trying to eat healthier:

 Have a variety of healthy food on hand, in places where it’s easy to see, convenient to eat (e.g. pre-sliced, prepared and/or pre-portioned) and appealing as an option. At the same time, keep unhealthy food out of the house, or at least out of site.

 Pack snacks and lunches so you’ll be less tempted to indulge when there are sweets in the break room at work, or when you need to run out for lunch and may not select the healthiest option because you’re hungry and in a hurry.

 Surround yourself with good role models. Just like spending time with positive people can help you develop a more positive outlook, spending time with people who practice the behavior you wish to adopt can rub off.

 Avoid going more than 3-4 hours without eating something small

 Put your utensils down between bites to slow down your eating. Savor the flavor of your food by chewing slowly and enjoying the mealtime experience.

Choose one or two of these to get you started on a healthier lifestyle. One step at a time toward better overall health for you and your family is worth the investment. If you have any questions, give me a call at 330-264-8722.

Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.