Listen: Monash University's Breanna Wright on keeping good habits you've acquired in 2020, while ditching the bad ones
By Laura BennettThursday 12 Nov 2020Hope Afternoons
At this stage of the fight, the daily habits you’ve formed during the pandemic are pretty well embedded. Whether it’s wearing your PJs to the home office, or finally having time for that morning walk in your routine, seven months in we’ve got some engrained behaviours.
So what do you do if you picked up some detrimental ones? Or you don’t want to lose the good ones you’ve acquired when more of your pre-covid life returns?
Breanna Wright is a research fellow and co-director of Health Programs at Monash University and told Hope 103.2 that “it’s not uncommon this year for some of us to have developed things that we don’t necessarily want to keep going into the future”.
“The strategies that have helped us get through the restrictions and lockdown probably aren’t going to help us live our best lives going forward,” Breanna said.
Before we think about trying to adjust some of our new habits though, she said we first need to identity whether they are a habit or just an infrequent behaviour.
What distinguishes a habit from a behaviour is that habits “are pretty much automatic” – they are the end result of a sequence of behaviours that become locked into to our everyday ways of doing things.
“We don’t really think about [habits] too much,” Breanna said.
Hope 103.2 is proudly supported by
“So if you’ve developed a habit and you’re not thinking about the behaviour that you’re doing, that can be pretty challenging to change. If it is just a behaviour though, that can be a bit easier [to change].”
For the person who’s picked up ‘iso-snacking’, upped their alcohol intake or who’s watching more TV than they’d like, one tactic Breanna suggests is eliminating the trigger.
“One of the ways we can stop, or try and break that habit, is to try and make it impossible,” she said.
“So get the snacks out of the house, or get yourself out of the house at the time where you’re tempted to snack.
“If there’s a particular time of day where you’re reaching for the biscuits, try and do something else at that time; try and do an activity or occupy yourself in another way so that the cues are there to tempt you.”
If you’ve developed a habit you’d like to keep – for example, going for a daily walk, checking in more regularly with friends and family, or not overcommitting your time – ‘habit stacking’ is a useful tool you can use.
“Try to pair the behaviour with something that you’re already doing,” Breanna said.
“If you’re trying to learn a new language, try and do it as the same time as something you’ll definitely do: brushing your teeth, having breakfast – those things that are already embedded in your day. If you can pair it with one of those behaviours it’s more likely to continue, and not get displaced by other activities as the world opens up again.”
When it comes to managing your time and maintaining the healthy work-life balance you might’ve enjoyed in 2020, Breanna said, “Have really clean boundaries about when is work time and when is socialising time. Actually schedule things at the end of the work day so you’re not tempted to keep working into the night”.
She said if you’re feeling hesitant about the intensity of you pre-covid life returning “be kind to yourself”.
“Everyone’s been though a rough 2020, and understand where you’re at. If you need to take things slowly that’s completely fine. If you need to just have short catch-ups, or if you need to limit the number of people that you want to see at the moment that’s all completely fine.”
Listen to the full interview with Monash University Health Programs co-director Breanna Wright in the player above.