They say it takes 3 weeks for something to become a habit, so after months of lockdown it’s likely that the changes we’ve made to our routines and lifestyles, whether intentional or not, have firmly taken hold.

Some of the new habits we’ve developed will be beneficial. However, others might not be so good for us in the long run. Healthy habits, such as good sleep, regular exercise and a healthy, balanced diet improve our wellbeing and levels of happiness. Bad habits, on the other hand, do the opposite, often leading to increased stress and anxiety.

To help you stay healthy both physically and mentally in a post-lockdown world, here’s some advice on how to develop new habits that stick and how to kick the bad habits.

Adopting new habits

Once you have identified the areas you want to improve on, you can take steps to bring about change and introduce new habits into your daily routine. Here are some tips to help you do just that.

1. Take it one step at a time

It’s really important to not overwhelm yourself, and suddenly overhaul your entire life at once. Starting off slowly and incorporating one habit at a time will increase your chances of success. When we try to do too much in one go, we can easily lose focus and not give each habit the attention is needs to develop fully. As soon as your habit has become part of your routine, you’ll be able to consider another.

2. Lean on your support network

Like anything worth doing, developing a healthy habit is hard, and a support network will go a long way in supporting your changes. If you’re surrounded by people who are still partaking in the lifestyle you’re trying to get away from, it’ll be more difficult to maintain. Encourage your family and loved ones to join in and make positive changes with you. Not only will it increase your chances of success, but it will also deepen your relationships as you learn new things together.

3. Consistency is key

The more you do something, the quicker it will feel like a natural part of your routine. For example, the more you work out before breakfast, the quicker it will feel like a completely normal part of your day. 

4. Don’t be afraid of setbacks

Setbacks are a natural part of anything in life and should be used as a learning curve instead of a road-block. If you drop the ball, don’t be hard on yourself, draw a line and start again. Every day is a new opportunity to succeed so take it one day at a time. 

Breaking bad habits

But what if the lockdown has developed or exacerbated any negative habits you might have? What if you are getting up later each day, eating or drinking more, or have given up exercising? How can you break these habits?

1. Choose a substitute

Cutting something out of your life will leave a gap that can be difficult to fill and feel as though you’re missing something, or something isn’t right. You need a plan for when these moments happen and should have something prepared which will keep you occupied and your mind busy, try going for a gentle walk or reading a book to distract you.

2. Cut out the triggers

Making it as easy as possible to break a habit might seem obvious, but if your environment is enhancing these bad habits and making good habits harder, change it. Get rid of the sugary snacks from the kitchen cupboards, delete the apps on your phone that distract you or take the batteries out of your TV remote. 

3. Visualise yourself succeeding

Whatever the bad habit is that you are looking to break, visualise yourself succeeding with it, smiling, and enjoying your success. See yourself building a new identity.

Remember, when it comes to many of our bad habits, before lockdown we never used to do them. Therefore, you aren’t looking to be someone new, but simply your former self. Removing that pressure will go a long way in helping you reach your goal. 

Finally, the most important thing to bear in mind is to not be so hard on yourself. The last few months have been difficult, scary, and incredibly emotional for many of us. So cut yourself some slack; it’s natural for your habits to have changed in this period, and when you’re ready to start working towards a new and more positive routine, take it step by step. 

CABA provides free lifelong support to past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, ICAEW staff, and their close family members.

If you’re worried about the impact of the coronavirus on you and your family, find out how CABA can support you.