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Building healthy new habits

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It’s often said that it takes 3 weeks for something to become a habit, so after months of lockdown it’s likely the lifestyle changes we’ve made are beginning to take hold.

Some of the new habits might be beneficial, but others may now be.

Healthy ones, such as: good sleep, regular exercise and a healthy diet improve our wellbeing and levels of happiness. But bad habits do the opposite, often leading to increased stress and anxiety.

To help you stay healthy, both physically and mentally, we’ve teamed up with CABA to offer you advice on how to develop new healthy habits, and kick the bad ones.

Adopting new habits

Once you’ve identified the areas you want to improve on, you can take steps to bring about change and introduce new habits into your daily routine.

  1. One step at a time

    It’s really important to not overwhelm yourself, and suddenly overhaul your entire life at once. Start off slowly and incorporate one habit at a time to 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 it needs. As soon as your habit has become part of your routine, you’ll be able to consider another.

  2. Use your support network

    Support networks go a long way in supporting change. For instance, 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.

    Where possible, 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

    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. It will almost feel odd to miss this new habit out of your routine.

  4. Don’t fear setbacks

    Setbacks are a natural part of anything in life and should be used as a learning curve instead of a road-block. So if you drop the ball, and revert back to previous habits, don’t be hard on yourself.

    If necessary, draw a line and start again. Every day is a new opportunity to succeed so take it one day at a time. Don’t chastise yourself for the occasional lapse.

Breaking bad habits

For some, the lockdown has really taken its toll and worsened negative habits. How can we break these habits?

  1. Choose a substitute

    Cutting something out of your life will leave a gap that can be difficult to fill. To combat this you need a plan for when these moments will inevitably happen and should have something prepared which will keep you occupied.

    So try to go for a gentle walk or reading a book to distract you. Find a healthy replacement.

  2. Cut out the triggers

    Finding things to break a bad 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. Take action.

  3. Visualisation

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

    Remember, when it comes to many of our new bad habits, before lockdown we never used to do them. Therefore, you aren’t looking to be someone new, but simply your former self.

Finally, the most important thing to bear in mind is to not be so hard on yourself. The last few months have been difficult 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 is the charity which supports the wellbeing of the chartered accountant community. They provide free lifelong support to past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, and their close family members.

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