How I kicked my quarantine bad habit
today at 5:17 pm
Let’s talk bad habits. A few months ago, we all lost the structure of our daily lives and had to start rebuilding new routines from scratch. For many of us, it was easy to either fall into old habits or develop new “bad” habits. Meanwhile, some of our good habits went flying out the window (oh how I miss you, weekly hot yoga class).
When that drastic shift occurred, there was no time for thoughtfulness with regard to new routines. All of the sudden, every aspect of your life was shoved into your home and the door was bolted up. Work, children, romance, exercise, leisure time, sleep. Not only did our homes become our everything, but we were forced to adjust with little warning and no guidance for how to effectively layer in all of these elements under one roof.
Now, if you’ve come anywhere near inspirational Instagram quotes or have a therapist, you know that the only constant is change. But all the essential oils in the world couldn’t make you zen enough for THIS level of change.
After a couple of months spent in our new reality, I had a chance to catch my breath and reflect. And what I saw wasn’t pretty. Hitting the snooze button as long as possible every morning. Bouts of exercise were few and far between. Snacking out of boredom. Coffee and more coffee. Wine and more wine. Cookies, lots of cookies. Too many days between a good hair-washing. Wash (or don’t wash), rinse, repeat.
While I know I’m not alone with some of these newly picked-up habits (alcohol sales have been soaring since March), I wondered to what extreme others were dealing with their own routine shakeups. I took to social media, as one does, to survey my loyal followers (including the most loyal of them all: cousins-in-law and my mother).
My suspicions were confirmed. ALL of the crappy habits I’d fallen prey to were also preying on other people across the country. Some of the top responses included:
Sleeping in – Yep, check.
Not enough exercise – Check.
More drinking and snacking than usual – I feel like I deserve it though?
Not showering – Yep!
Too much screen time for the kids – Fully understandable.
Quotable mentions include:
“Eating like a hobbit”
“Where do I begin”
“Crying in the shower”
“PJs doubling as day clothes”
“Making rice crispy treats in the microwave in individual servings”
That last one says it all. Other responses included too much social media, staying up late, and online shopping. If you can’t relate to any of these, what coronavirus-free planet are you living on, and how long will it take me to get there?
Needless to say, we’re all in the same boat. And I know what you’re thinking – how is this supposed to help me? Well, the good news is, while everything is a work in progress, I was able to break a couple of my bad habits recently.
This isn’t a blog where I’m going to tell you to do more yoga or eat more kale or whatever. What works for me is not going to necessarily work for you.
But here is what I think worked: I started doing more things that gave me energy. And I don’t mean protein shakes. I mean the things that make you feel like “Oh ok. Life makes sense in this moment.”
Ok I know that’s a little dramatic, but you know that feeling after a really good workout or the combination of chocolate and red wine or when your kid laughs really hard at a funny face you made? I started seeking out that feeling. I asked myself, what things gave me that feeling of contentment, even if it was fleeting? Could I do those things more?
For me, the things that give me energy to get up every morning are quality family time, writing, yoga, dance and soaking in some sun. I started writing, A LOT, on nights and weekends and trying to schedule more time for yoga – even 15 minutes – and one day I started waking up when my alarm clock went off (rather than snoozing three times) and washing my hair every other day (this is a lot) and I never looked back. (Ok let’s be real, I still snooze 5 minutes, but that is a huge improvement!).
According to one of my favorite podcasts, The Happiness Lab from Dr. Laurie Santos, the key to changing unwanted behavior lies in routine. From this recent episode on bad habits:
“Once we make the things we want to do habitual, they don’t require any more work.”
In Laurie’s words, you sometimes just have to hack your brain’s autopilot of unwanted habits in order to create new habits in their place. Once we form a new habit, we’ll continue to seek it out because we are reaping the reward (the endorphins from a good workout, the extra time you get when you wake up early, etc.).
I still have parts of my routine that I struggle with, and the number of cookies I consume daily, much like U.S. coronavirus cases, continues to increase. Who knows what life will look like in a few weeks (see: only constant = change). But that’s ok, because what we really need to do right now is be more forgiving of ourselves. Seeing the outpouring of replies on social media in response to this question broke my heart. With little time to dedicate to laying out new routines or identify where bad habits are forming, life can quickly become a swirl of days that go by with little thought, reflection or awareness. It sounds bad, but in reality, for some people, that’s just what life is right now. And that’s ok, because it’s not forever.
Maybe through all of this you’ve picked up some good habits too, ones that you hope will last way beyond silly old coronavirus. Like reading more with your kids, a nightly glass of wine on the deck, a new hobby or, my personal favorite, spontaneous snuggling with your dog in the middle of the day.
…Time to go snuggle.
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