On the news this morning, health experts were sharing concerns that we as a society are creating bad habits during this period of self-isolation that will likely affect us for years to come.
Instantly, I thought about how I’ve been spending more time on the couch than ever before. And I continue to do this even though, as a health and wellness writer, I know that research has linked sitting for long periods with an increased risk of blood sugar issues, blood pressure problems, and — of course — bigger waistlines.
My diet has suffered a bit lately as well. I’m an emotional eater, so it’s not uncommon for me to find myself in the kitchen more often when I’m feeling stressed. This increases the likelihood that I’ll make poorer choices while there, not to mention that it also increases the amount I eat.
Honestly, about the only habit that I’m proud to have kept during all of this is walking almost every day. Most of the time I aim for at least two miles, but there are some days where I’ll do three or more.
How are you doing during this period of self-isolation? More specifically, based on your daily actions, will you emerge on the other side of this pandemic with more good habits or will your bad habits prevail?
Look, I’m not pointing fingers here. When the going gets tough, it’s not uncommon to go into survival mode and try to make ourselves feel better however we can. I get it.
But I also want us all to make it through this stronger and better than we were before. How do we do that?
Know Your Why
One of the first rules of creating good habits is you need to know your why. In other words, what would it mean to you to make positive choices during this time period? What’s the payoff?
For me, I am strongly focused on my health. A couple years ago, my doctor wanted to put me on cholesterol meds because my numbers were too high. Through diet and exercise, I was able to bring these numbers down into a healthier range.
While this is great, I know that if I don’t keep up with these habits, I willy find myself in that dilemma once again. That’s why I continue to walk daily and strive to make better dietary choices. I don’t want to put myself in a position where I have no choice because I’m too far gone.
What is your why? Why is it important to you to develop positive habits, even at a time when it would be extremely easy to go the opposite way? What are the benefits?
Replace vs Stop
If you’ve ever tried to stop a bad habit, you know how hard it can be. Quitting anything cold turkey is enough to make you question your sanity as the more you try to forget about your habit, the more it consumes your mind.
That’s why it’s more helpful to replace your bad habit versus trying to stop it outright. This gives your brain something else to concentrate on, something more positive, increasing the likelihood that you’ll change that behavior.
For example, let’s say I want to reduce the number of times I wander into the kitchen each day. Instead of just telling myself that I can’t go into that room, I might replace my kitchen trips with trips up and down the stairs. Making this simple adjustment helps keep me away from food while also improving my health. Bonus!
Think about some of the bad habits you may have picked up over the last couple of weeks. What are a few things you can do instead? Try to come up with a few actionable steps that not only make it easier to get rid of the bad behavior, but that also get you closer to your goals! Speaking of goals…
Set a Goal
In past posts, I’ve mentioned how my town has created a virtual marathon for area residents. Its goal is to help flatten the curve by encouraging health and social distancing while also giving locals something productive to do with their time.
I can’t tell you how knowing that I must complete 26.2 miles by April 24th has helped me get on the treadmill or go out walking each day. There’s something about having this goal that makes it easier to do what I know I should do.
Consider some of the goals you have for yourself, both personally and professionally. What are a few things you can do during this at-home period to start working toward them?
Once you have your goals in place, set a somewhat stringent deadline so you start to take action today. If possible, come up with short-term goals that you can accomplish in the next few weeks. This encourages you to really work toward them.
Enlist the Help of a Friend
When I first saw the notice of the marathon, I asked my husband if he wanted to join me. Initially, he said no. However, after a day or two, he also signed up.
I was so excited about the prospect of working on this goal together! I now had someone who could motivate me on days that I wanted to give up. I also had someone to talk to who understood exactly what I was going through as I tried to create more positive habits.
Enlisting the help of a friend makes developing good habits a more pleasant process. It gives you someone you can lean on and obtain encouragement from as you seek to become a better version of yourself.
On a side note, I finished the marathon last night and when I shared this with another close friend of mine, she decided that having a virtual marathon would help her create better habits too. That has reignited my desire to keep going and we’re now doing one together. It’s like the revolving gift that gets stronger each time around.
Where Do You Want to Be When All of This is Over?
Ultimately, the question you want to ask yourself is where you want to be when all of this is over. When you look back on this period of time, will you be happy with the actions you took or will you feel ashamed and guilty because you used it as an excuse to give up on yourself?
I’m not saying you have to be perfect during what is, for many, an extremely chaotic and uncertain period. But I am suggesting that, when this ends — which it will — I want you to be able to look back and know that you didn’t waste this crisis.
Instead, I want you to see the you who took this pandemic by the horns and used it to take more control over your life. I want you to be able to say that you used it to strengthen all of the good habits you’ve been wanting to create, making you a stronger, better person as a result.
Any other tips that I may have missed? Please share them below so we can all build more grit during this historical time. I can’t wait to hear from you!
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