This year has caused unexpected changes to the way we go about our daily lives, and as a result, many of our prior habits have been impacted.
Grief, loss and stress are common emotional responses to major disruption. As we continue to navigate our path through this unusual period, it can be useful to reflect on how our habits have changed, and which habits we want to maintain.
A state of wellbeing: not just the absence of disease, but a sense of happiness, contentment and engaging in healthy behaviours.
Wellbeing is a complex combination of a person's physical, mental, emotional and social health factors. Achieving good wellbeing can be challenging at the best of times, let alone in the constantly shifting environment we currently find ourselves living in.
A healthy habit is any behaviour that benefits your physical, mental, and emotional health. Our habits therefore are the building blocks of our wellbeing.
Attempts to control the COVID-19 virus have caused large shifts to our usual way of life. The change in pace has caused many of us to re-think how we are spending our time. The disruption to our prior daily habits, good or bad, has left many of us reflecting on what is important.
As restrictions ease in varying degrees we are once again needing to adapt. This can be an opportunity to “reset” and establish habits, which are supportive of optimal wellbeing.
So how can you establish habits to support your wellbeing?
1. Know what matters
Consider planning out your day with a combination of behaviours and actions that are connected to what really matters to you. This includes finding time for yourself in all aspects of your life and living life according to your values. You may need to start this process by spending time to identify your values.
Values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live and work. They help you to determine your priorities, goals and direction in life. Perhaps you can ask yourself, was there a time in your life when you felt that you experienced good balance? What were you doing? What contributed to happiness in this circumstance? What gives your life meaning or what do you want to achieve in life? The answers to these questions will help you to start to form an idea of what is important to you and what will bring you happiness.
2. Choose keystone habits
Keystone habits are habits that automatically lead to multiple positive behaviours and positive effects in different areas. Common keystone habits are behaviours like getting enough sleep, exercise, fuelling your body well, getting social and practicing mindfulness. For instance, practicing mindfulness has accumulative benefits for coping with stress and overtime leads to changes in the brain, which support better emotional regulation. Consider starting with keystone habits to achieve enhanced vitality and energy to support you with other goals and actions.
3. Set small, achievable goals and repeat
As we are transitioning into a world with reduced restrictions on movement, but continued changes to how we live, we will again be facing a shift from automatic behaviours to having to think deliberately about what we are doing. Setting ourselves up for success means being realistic about what behaviour change we can achieve. Rather than expecting yourself to do everything to a gold standard, set small goals that feel almost easy, but are repeatable. Perhaps your starting point is a regular sleep schedule or getting out in the sun at lunch. If this plan does not work, consider how you can break this task down into smaller steps to help you tackle the goal the next time around. Aim for progress, not perfection.
4. Review and reflect
Often in today’s world, there is the push to be productive much of the day. However, research indicates we are more likely to succeed in our goals if we spend time understanding what we are doing and why. Understanding triggers to your behaviours will give you a much better vantage point for creating some change. For example, rather than automatically opening the fridge to have another snack you do not need, reflecting on what is prompting you to do this behaviour, such as boredom, will help you increase awareness to be able to make future changes.
5. Plan ahead
Research shows that planning to execute a behaviour results in an increased likelihood of success. For instance, if you want to walk in the mornings, getting your workout clothes ready the night before increases the likelihood of getting out the door. Consider what actions you can do ahead of time to set yourself up for success.