How to kick bad lockdown habits

27 Aug 2020

The Audit Lab

Claire Crompton

Claire Crompton

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When lockdown swept in and disrupted our entire routines, it unfortunately paved the way for unhelpful and bad habits to settle in and cosy up with us. With many either working from home, furloughed or out of work, it completely upended our carefully crafted routines and tossed them out the window for good measure. This combined with restrictions has completely transformed our day-to-day lives. 

Getting up and dressed for non-existent meetings and commutes seemed redundant. Being the couch potato was the new role many assigned themselves. But with the world starting to return to some resemblance of “normal”, it’s time to give yourself a shake and help yourself out of the rut and kick out those bad lockdown habits that have overstayed their welcome!

How we develop habits

The trick to kicking bad habits is understanding how we develop them in the first place. Charles Duhigg (author of The Power of Habit), explains that all habits can be broken down into three core components:

  1. The Trigger: This is the part of the habit loop where you are triggered to take some sort of action through a cue in your internal or external environment
  2. The Action: Good or bad, this is the part of the habit loop where you actually take action on the habit you want to adopt or drop
  3. The Reward: This is the part of the habit loop where your brain receives a reward for taking the desired activity (this reward isn’t always instant)

So, for instance, when smoking a cigarette, eating chocolate or opening a bottle of wine, your brain lights up from the dopamine these habits release. The brain associates these habits with that dopamine release and instant gratification, hence why people develop cravings and get stuck with repetitive bad habits. The trigger can be the craving or seeing an advert, the action is then you indulging in the habit, and the reward can be instant where dopamine release is concerned. For healthier habits, often the reward is more long-term, like opting for healthier snacks, which is why bad habits are so easily adopted as we can feel the reward almost instantly.

Recognising bad lockdown habits

It can be a struggle to stamp out bad habits, when our brain is used to receiving that instant gratification. They may give you instant satisfaction, but the habits that do this are most often always detrimental to our health and wellbeing. 

Sometimes, soon after we’ve had the instant gratification, we can crash and feel guilty as we recognise we’ve indulged in something we know isn’t good for us.

Rather than wallowing in it, it’s time to let this guilt help and fuel you into targeting what habits you want to change or maybe need to. If you’ve started to spot negative behaviour patterns in your life recently, then it’s time to turn things around.

How to kick bad lockdown habits

1. Develop a good routine again

It’s time to pause and rethink your daily routine as it stands. Recognising your bad habits starts by recognising how you feel about the outcomes. Review and think about the last week or two and spot the repeated patterns and behaviours, then think about what outcomes they’ve brought you, regarding fulfilment, positivity and productivity.

Does guilt come to mind and a feeling of negativity over positivity and accomplishment? If so, you know what you need to change and you may even recognise you’ve hardly even had a routine, more of an up-in-the-air existence, which can leave us very unmotivated and apathetic. 

2. Small steps

Shifting negative behaviour patterns can seem drastic or daunting, especially if we’ve gotten so used to them or found ourselves stuck in a rut. That’s why taking small steps is the best and most realistic way to set you up for success. 

If you were getting used to waking up and lounging in bed every morning, feeling unproductive, that first small step can be setting yourself a time limit of how long you stay in bed before you make it a part of your routine to get up, make the bed, open the curtains and head downstairs all before a specific time to set you up for the day.

3. Mental health and self-care

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself because if you start to make big changes and end up failing, you may end up falling further into a guilt pit and wind up feeling a lot worse about yourself. No matter what bad habits you are trying to shift, recognise you are doing something about it and want to.

Reward your efforts with small things that aren’t detrimental to your health and wellbeing but also remember to relax and take things in moderation. For instance, if you have a major sweet tooth and want to cut down the sugar, reduce your consumption each week rather than going completely cold turkey. This way you are making it more realistic and you’re also helping your brain with withdrawing. Yep, sugar addiction is a real thing!

Be mindful. Take time for yourself and try some relaxing hobbies. Mental health is so important and there are many things you can do to help with self-care and mental health in lockdown.

4. Replace with better ones

A great way to help kick bad habits in lockdown is to replace them with better ones. It’s time to change your thinking and to train your brain into recognising the greater value in better, healthier habits over the quick-fix, instantly rewarding bad ones.

You’ll keep the guilt monster at bay and feel tons better when you start to replace the bad habits. If you’ve found yourself spending quite a bit of time shopping online or on social media, give yourself screen timeouts. Instead, occupy yourself with some outdoor activities, a DIY project or an art hobby. Swapping endless scrolling through feeds with self-improvement and projects will bring us much more accomplished and positive feelings, especially once you complete that project.

5. Changing your diet

We’ve all heard of the phrase ‘you are what you eat’, and letting food and cravings control us rather than the other way around can negatively impact our lives and health. When in lockdown, it may be tempting to fall into a slump but you can actually use this time to your advantage.

With more time indoors, it means more time for cooking, baking and trying out new, exciting and healthy recipes. Not only will it keep your mind busy but getting into the habit of creating new meals can save money, improve your health and stimulate your creative juices. 

6. Listening to nature

Living in lockdown has made us understandably more reclusive. We are social creatures and having to spend most of our time indoors can give us cabin fever. Now is the perfect time to listen to nature, which isn’t just about listening to naturistic sounds but also about listening to ourselves and our own nature.

Reserve quality time to get outdoors, whether it’s your garden, the woods or time out for walks. We can get too stuck in our ways and making time for the outdoors as part of our routine can improve our quality of life, our health and our wellbeing.

Getting more exercise, being in touch with nature, having more time to think and explore is one of the best ways to kick out and replace many of the bad habits we may have developed through lockdown.

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