While many of us are itching to get back to our normal lives, it’s possible that we may have developed some great habits during the pandemic that we don’t want to lose. Find out how to check in with yourself, keep the habits you want, and ditch the ones you want to break.

Around 25% of the U.S. population is now fully vaccinated, and more and more businesses, schools, and restaurants are re-opening throughout the U.S. With these changes, many people working from home during the pandemic have mentioned to us that they will be trying to maintain some of the positive habits they discovered during the pandemic. Most of all, many people were able to spend more time with family while working from home. And some people working from home were able to prioritize their physical and mental health in ways they may have always wanted but never got around to pursuing before the stay-at-home orders. Many of them are asking: “How can we keep the positive habits we have gained and throw the less helpful ones to the wayside?”

In this article from The Washington Post, Sunny Fitzgerald speaks with psychologists regarding the science of habit formation and how to effectively keep the habits we want. Contrary to popular lore, habits are not just formed through repetition, says BJ Fogg, a behavioral scientist and the founder and director of Stanford University’s Behavior Design Lab. He goes on to say that “it’s not repetition [but rather] emotions that create habits.” He encourages people to reinforce the habits they want to change with positive self-talk and affirmation. It’s also more likely we will keep a habit if there is some kind of reward associated with it immediately after or during the activity. So instead of a big cheat meal at the end of the week, a small portion of chocolate at the end of the day may do more to reinforce the daily habit of healthy eating. If the reward is closer to you, the more likely you are to keep the positive habit going.

So we know how to train ourselves to keep the habits but what about deciding which ones to keep? Celeste Viciere, therapist and podcast host, suggests taking sometime to jot down our goals for the rest of the year and then list the habits that support or detract from them. This can shed light on “helpful” and “not so helpful” habits going forward. From there, try to schedule in time for your new habits that you want to keep. For example, let’s say you have gotten accustomed to a nice 40 minute walk in the morning, but with going back to work, you won’t have the time in the morning to do this. Pencil in a “twenty minute lunch-time walk” or “ten minute cardio session in the office gym” in your planner or phone. This way, you are still getting in that activity the best you can with your new schedule. And while you may have to “scale back a bit” when it comes to time for your habits, Fogg urges people not to fear. Doing some of the habit is better than nothing and will give the habit continued space to grow when you do have more time in the future. 

There’s a lot of change going on right now, and we at CalPsychiatry want you to feel supported now more than ever. Maybe you have recently begun to put more energy into your mental health and want to keep this up. Or perhaps re-entering society is causing some new anxiety that you would like to discuss. Whatever the reason, wherever you are on your journey, we are dedicated to helping you and meeting you right where you are. Book a free consultation with one of our physicians today. Your mental health is as important as ever in these trying times and we wish you health and happiness.


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