As humans, we are creatures of habit. Our lifelong mission is to get into good ones, whilst revving up the willpower to break bad ones. Many become part of our routine without us even realising. They make us who we are, offering safety, a sense of belonging and control.
But if there is one common denominator for us all this year, it’s change. From the exhausting schedule of a key worker to the sudden standstill of someone suddenly furloughed (a word we’d never heard of before lockdown), any pre-existing habits have been turned upside down. We were all mindlessly (whilst attempting to be mindful) going about our daily lives when the cosy soft pile rug was dramatically pulled from under our overworked feet. We were searching for a work-life balance, yet we didn’t really know how to get there.
As time goes on and the vague sense of normality makes actual normality seem further away, it’s hard to know what the future holds, for any of us. Like it or not, our old lives currently feel unreachable.
September is usually a time for new goals and good intentions. But this September is like no other. Our forward-thinking minds have been unintentionally reprogrammed to take one day at a time.
Time to reflect
As lockdown-life eases and old or new pressures (work and social) take hold, we should step back and reflect on those changes we were forced to make. We have undertaken months of habit reforming through no choice of our own. As we move forward into this increasingly strange new world, we should think about the habits we want to keep and those we want to break.
Some may be good, some not so. Some might have lasted the course (or a few weeks at least), while others fell by the wayside. Our enthusiastic lunge into lockdown with Joe Wicks may have collapsed into a giant bowl of Doritos. We might have spent more time in nature, counteracted with a significant rise in screen time. Perhaps we’re determined to maintain the order of our newly organised colour-coded wardrobe, whilst shopping sustainably, despite the oh-so-tempting discounts.
Try and hang onto the good ones and if you want to kick the bad ones, research suggests it can be done in three weeks. You’ve survived over three months of lockdown; this should be a walk in the park.
5 steps to success
1. Write down your pre-lockdown habits (good and bad). Do the same with your lockdown routine. This is a great way to reflect on what’s changed. Which habits do you want to keep, and which need to go?
2. Ask why. How is this new habit going to change your life?
3. Take one at a time. Attempting to give up every bad habit simultaneously is destined to fail.
4. It’s much easier to start something new than stop something you do on autopilot. If you want to quit the 11am latte, find a substitute. And if the green tea isn’t cutting it, change the routine completely and nip out for some fresh air.
5. Be realistic about your lifestyle and what you can achieve. If you’re back in the office on 10-hour days, it’s unlikely you’ll make five weekly gym sessions. Find an exercise routine that fits.
Remember to be kind to yourself. You are human and we are still in the middle of a global pandemic. If you slip up one day, don’t give up. Reset the next day and don’t overthink it. Try and stay positive. Focus on what you have achieved, not on what you haven’t. Look at what you can control, forget what you can’t.
If there is any good to be taken from this catastrophic situation (I have always been one to dig out a positive), surely rethinking old habits should be at the top of the list? 2020 is a year that is changing us all. What has changed you for the better?