Lockdown habits to kick and keep

With the easing of Stage 4 restrictions, as Melbournians dust off the lockdown cobwebs, Monash University behaviour experts urge the community to shed the bad habits developed in lockdown and replace them with good ones.

“The change in circumstances may be a disruption to our routines that we can leverage to either change our current behaviours or embed the ones we want to continue,” says Dr Breanna Wright, a Research Fellow at BehaviourWorks Australia, part of the Monash Sustainable Development Institute (MSDI).

While research shows it takes approximately 66 days to establish a habit, and while bad habits are easier to adopt than good ones, both have equal staying power once established.

“If you want to keep good habits after lockdown, it’s easier if the time and place remain constant,” says Dr Wright, adding that if that’s not possible, “motivation and planning are key”.

“Schedule a new time to do a behaviour or pair the behaviour with something you already do automatically,” she suggests.

“This will help (re)embed it as part of your day. For example, if you want to develop a habit of stretching, then you’re better off stretching immediately after you get out of bed.

“Over time, stretching will become associated with the behaviour of getting out of bed and become automatic.”

On the flip side, when it comes to bad habits Co-Researcher, Dr Fraser Tull says that it’s about “removing the opportunity to engage in the behaviour”.

Dr Tull suggests that if iso-snacking was your vice, identifying “when this usually occurs” and “trying to be out of the house doing another activity during this time” may be the key to breaking that habit.

“Bad habits are likely to be more prevalent during lockdown than good habits,” says Dr Tull.

“The pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty, especially in Melbourne where people weren’t sure how long restrictions would last.

“This long-term uncertainty may have nudged people to focus more on short-term enjoyment.”