Emerging from lockdown…and kicking those new bad habits

February 17 2021

Like many people I’ve got into a few bad habits during the lockdown. Habits I want to kick before I have to return to the office and face the world!

It’s not surprising that so many of us find ourselves stuck in a lockdown rut. Christmas was a write off. January seemed endless. February is freezing. There is nowhere to go, and we can’t see our friends.

I can’t remember the last time I wore proper shoes and trousers rather than my cosy lined Crocs and tracky bottoms. I need to see the hairdresser and the dentist. I have to shed a few Covid pounds. I’m not sure I want to face the world in my current state!

For the first time in ages there is good news. The vaccine is bringing hope, the days are getting longer, and the snowdrops are in bloom. I have decided to believe that we will emerge from lockdown in time for some warm weather and family fun at Easter. That is over 6 weeks away – plenty of time to make a difference.

For almost a year now we have been living under threat. We have been constantly reminded by the government that our lives are in danger from the virus to scare us into staying at home. Staying at home has caused more threat. Everyone is affected in different ways, but many people are feeling isolated, anxious, depressed, yearning for a hug, or maybe even yearning for some time alone out of the family house.

No wonder we have all sought comfort.

I had slipped back into an old habit of having a glass of wine when I finished work for the day. I caught my own self talk.

Oh look it is 6pm – enough work for today.
I have worked hard today.
No one has noticed.
Does anyone care?
It’s so cold and dark outside.
I’m lonely.
I want to relax now.
I deserve a glass of wine.. and maybe some chocolate… that should do the trick!

Seeking comfort – seeking carbs.
And before long it’s a habit.

I’ve finished work – wine time!

Many of us have gradually slipped into our lockdown bad habits and I think it is time start reversing the trend.

For the next 6 weeks I am going to fix one bad new lockdown habit each week. I’m starting with eliminating that evening glass of wine.

Here are a few tips for eliminating your lockdown habits:

  • Frame your new habit positively (our brains can’t process negatives – if I say ‘don’t think of a blue tree’ you will immediately form an image of a blue tree).So my new habit is ‘when I finish work for the day I will watch a bit of mindless TV until I feel relaxed’
  • Take the advice of Charles Duhigg in his book The Power of Habits – keep the cue/trigger, change the routine, keep the reward. In my case the old cue (I’ve finished work), new routine (a bit of mindless TV) and same reward (relax).
  • It is easier to go back to a previously established habit than it is to start a brand new one. Why? The neural pathways already exist in your brain. When you start a brand-new habit you have to build those neural pathways from scratch.
  • Neural pathways are built quicker if you think about your new habit several times a day. Remember visualising something is nearly as good as doing it as far as your brain is concerned. So, think about doing your new habit several times a day.Neural pathways are also built stronger if you can add emotion – so think about why you want your new habit – in my case ‘to emerge slim and healthy from lockdown’ that makes me feel good.
  • Remember a habit is a process that happens automatically without any conscious thought. In fact our habits are programs stored in our ancient subconscious limbic brain. However, until your new habit is established you will need to rely on willpower. Willpower is a limited resource – and no matter how strong you feel in the morning it weakens during the day. Think about the last time you had an ‘oh stuff it’ moment – I bet it was later in the day! So just work on one habit at a time so you have enough willpower to convert the routine to a habit.
  • Start with something you will find easy so that you build confidence. If you make a promise to yourself (eg to watch a bit of TV when you finish work for the day instead of having a glass of wine) and then you keep that promise for a week your brain will note, ‘Oh she does mean it! We had better get on with it then.’ You will believe you are capable of making change.
  • Use all the tricks in the book to help you on the way at first. Set alarms, put a note on the fridge door, put the chocolate in the bin and tell the family what you are doing and ask them to hold you to account.

Good luck – I look forward to seeing some of you in person soon.