Community//

How to ditch bad habits acquired over many lockdowns?

From extra shopping to news overdosing and social media binging, we will have to work harder to reclaim our lives.

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Anxious young woman staring at a laptop screen

One year ago, when the world was already watching life from behind closed doors and we had no idea that a global pandemic would last many more months, media analytics group Comscore estimated that our online traffic, measured by unique page views, had jumped about 20 per cent on average across key markets in Europe and the US.

And with extra time spent online, bad habits were acquired along the way, ranging from extra shopping to news overdosing and social media binging.

And although the internet, an essential tool to keep hundreds of millions of people connected, is the one to blame for several new habits and lost hours during the global pandemic, some of these new habits were also identified in the offline world. For example, habits like smoking and excessive sugar consumption, involving the brain’s dopamine (or reward) system, also became prominent.

Here, professionals battling bad habits acquired over many lockdowns reveal how they are working to ditch them and reclaim their life.

I am turning off my computer to reconnect offline

“Like many of us over the course of the pandemic, I have accumulated a few unhelpful online habits
that I’m working on reversing. The main one is my habit of completely replacing in-person interactions with online communication. Of course, quarantine has made this a necessity, but I’ve been trying to turn off the computer more. I now give someone a phone call instead or make plans to see them in person (socially distanced, of course). Utilizing remote communication is great and very helpful under the circumstances, but we shouldn’t replace it with in-person interactions, which are more personal and intimate.”
Kristaps Brencans – Chief Marketing Officer at digital marketing agency www.onthemapmarketing.com

Setting reminders to fight a loss of focus

“One online habit I’ve acquired during lockdown is losing focus during work and finding myself on irrelevant sites, primarily social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. It’s common for me to start in a place relevant to networking, such as LinkedIn, and then that soon leads me down the rabbit hole of going to other social media sites that are less related to my work.

I’m working to solve this by setting up reminders on my computer that let me know when it’s been 10-15 minutes, such as the ‘Take a Break’ function available on YouTube. I’m also trying to be more conscious and aware of my habits, and the kinds of sites that lead me down the path of distraction.
For example, realizing that LinkedIn usually leads me to more non-work-related social media sites is a step in the right direction to self-awareness, which will help me overcome the habit as a whole.
Nathan Murphy – Co-Founder at www.quizbreaker.com

Learning to stop continuously working
“The one thing I am trying to unlearn from my time at home is working beyond office hours.
To start getting rid of this habit, I have been restructuring my calendar, and setting my OOTO autoresponse to send once it’s 5:00 PM. It is through these systemic changes that the habit can be kicked.”
Ted Liu – Founder at SEO marketing agency www.justseo.co.nz

We have locked each other’s phones

“In the last 12 months, my husband and I have spent more than twice the amount of time on our phones, specifically on Instagram, than before the pandemic. In an attempt to ditch it, we’ve decided to enforce a 45-minute limit on social media apps. From 8pm to 10am, we can’t use anything except messages and calls. But here’s where the real kicker comes in…we’ve each set a password on the other’s phone, so we can’t bypass the lock.
We’ve received hours of our lives back!!!”
Becca Rich – Holistic time management Coach at www.theholistictimecoach.com

Constantly checking Covid updates made me more anxious

“I have to admit I’ve picked up a few bad online habits during the pandemic. I think the worst is the tendency to check online news reports about Covid-related restrictions.
It seems like a lifetime since I last went on vacation, and I love to travel. It’s the primary reason I’m constantly scanning for news about when we’ll be able to fly to exotic destinations again.
Since most of what I read is pure speculation, it just adds to my anxiety and frustration. Thankfully, I’ve overcome my obsessive need to check by practicing mindfulness. I go and spend time in the garden to focus on the here and now, and this way, I’m learning to enjoy the present despite the hardships. It’s much healthier than living in the future and constantly worrying that life will never return to normal.”
Gina Harper – Content creator at urban gardening website www.harpersnurseries.com

I am replacing shopping bags with exercise
“During the lockdown, I developed a shopping obsession. I was constantly looking for something new to buy. I found that replacing my new habit with exercise helped immensely. Every time the urge to shop came over me, I would exercise instead. Not only has it helped curb my problem, I’m also much fitter and healthier.”
Rachel Cassidy – Veterinarian Consultant at www.animalso.com

I don’t need to get an alert from every news app
“The unhelpful online habit that I recently acquired is turning on alerts for every news app so that I don’t miss any Covid-related news. I’m working to get rid of it before it becomes a problem by only having my phone send me these alerts during a one-hour time frame in the afternoon, usually between noon and 1pm.”
Marc Lewis – General Manager at environmental news site www.ecowatch.com

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