How to Break Quarantine Bad Habits in 3 Steps

I think each of us has developed a bad habit at some point during lockdown. From endless screen time & lack of movement to negative thoughts and over eating, we’ve seen it all this year.

And that’s nothing to be ashamed of, but I do think it’s important to recognize how our environments, levels of activity and mental states can affect our decisions when it comes to our habits – especially in how we treat our bodies.

I’ll help you break your habits in 3 easy(ish) steps. Keep reading to see if your bad habit made my list!

What’s a habit?

Anything that we do regularly, that we are settled into doing as a routine. Big or small, habits come in all shapes and sizes and everyone’s look different.

Some are very helpful and productive, others calming and grounding. Even others can become harmful, unhelpful and unhealthy.

How to recognize a habit

For me, it’s when I do something subconsciously. I’ll reach for my phone, open it, and have literally no reason to be going on it. Just having it in my hand feels normal and it’s a habit for me to pick it up, even when there’s no need.

I also have a habit of stretching. I stretch while I wait for my water to heat up for tea, I stretch when I wake up, I stretch when I’m just sitting around. It’s a habit that feels normal to me and I do it when I find my body is still and craving a stretch.

It’s important to recognize what our brains tell our bodies to do without us even registering it. And it’s important because these habits that we do not even on command obviously become a bit part of our lives as we do them sometimes multiple times a day.

Something we do multiple times a day (stretching) can be helpful to our bodies & minds. Something we do multiple times a day (excessive phone checking) can potentially be harmful to our bodies & minds.

Think for a minute right now – what are some of your habits?

Is your habit helpful or harmful?

Sometimes they’re self-explanatory. If someone has a habit to eat veggies with every meal, that’s probably a good thing.

If someone has a habit to punch a wall every time they pass it, that’s probably a bad thing.

Others are hard. is your gym-going habit helpful or harmful? This can be a fine line for some, so it’s hard to assume that working out is always helpful.

Making a habit of getting enough sleep is incredibly important for stress levels, productivity levels, performance, recovery, etc. However, getting in the habit of taking unnecessary naps instead of getting your tasks done, may be harmful.

It really depends on the person. Once you’ve identified your habits, try to think of how they may be helpful or how they may be harmful. I like to think about how much time they consume, how they make me feel, and why I do them. This helps me figure out if they’re more helpful or harmful.

Lazy days at home….every day.

3 steps to kicking your habits

It’s hard, but it’s not impossible. You’ve trained yourself on every habit you have currently, good and bad, so you can retrain yourself for sure. It just takes a bit of effort, but it’s worth it!

  1. Notice every time you do your bad habit & take note!

This takes a level of mindfulness, as we don’t even realize we’re doing our habits sometimes. It’s normal for me to pick up my phone without thinking about it. But making a point to NOTICE each time you do it is the first step. Once you start noticing, you realize just how much you may do your bad habit.

You can even make note of each time you do it. Whether it’s a daily occurrence, mark on the calendar the days you do it. If it’s multiple times a day, make a tally on a sticky note or on your phone. Seeing on paper or on a list how many times we do our bad habits sometimes gives us the motivation to make a change (it can be shocking seeing how much we do them!).

2. Action – find a replacement!

Finding a replacement is SO effective. Taking action and changing the behavior is ESSENTIAL to breaking your habit.

Say you want to be on your phone less. So, out of every time you reach for your phone, you notice that 80% of the time it’s for mindless scrolling on social media.

Each time you go to pick up your phone for no REAL reason – come on, a new TikTok post or an IG comment is not urgent – so notice your bad habit when you do it, accept that you’re working on it, and pick something you can do instead.

Really good options for replacement (for ANY habit) include:

  • getting up to walk around (can be inside around your house, outside, anywhere)
  • getting a glass of water
  • check your to-do list, pick your next task/goal
  • call a friend/family member (I always walk while I’m on the phone!)
  • do some stretches
  • plan out the rest of your day (grocery run, when you’ll workout, what to make for dinner)
  • pick up a book
  • listen to a podcast

Obviously your replacement will depend on how often you do your habit. If you bite your nails, that probably happens often. When you notice you’re biting, occupy your hands. You can sit on them, clasp them together, start writing on paper or on your phone/computer (about anything! I suggest about why you want to stop biting your nails lol). I’ve found doing gel manicures at home has SIGNIFICANTLY reduced my nail biting, I am just diligent about redoing them when they start chipping.

If your bad habit is drinking every night, you need to find something to fill that time better, not just distract your brain from biting your nails for a few minutes. For this one, I suggest setting a goal before having a drink. Tell yourself you need to drink 5 glasses of water after work and before you pour a glass of wine. That way you’ll spend quite a bit of time getting through all of the water, and you’ll likely also be full/not feel like drinking as much. You could also set an alarm every day to do a walk/stretching/workout in the evening. This also takes up time and you’ll be less inclined to drink after doing something so healthy for your body. Or you’ll at least drink less! I also always have other drinks on hand that I find I’m satisfied with most of the time when I think I want alcohol – tea, sparkling water, etc.

Remember: taking this action will only come from motivation to change, to be better. Always remember WHY you wan’t to break the habit. Do you want to be addicted to what you’re doing if it’s harmful? Find your why, find your healthy replacement.

3. Accountability – do it for you

Oftentimes when we create daily goals for ourselves, we are more likely to partake in actions that will get us to those goals, ESPECIALLY when we hold ourselves accountable.

One way to hold yourself accountable is by telling someone close to you that you want to break your habit. Once you speak it into existence, it makes you more likely to realize it and it also allows someone to check in on you.

I told Keir that I hate that I bite my nails. So every time we are together and I start picking/biting, he grabs my hands. Sometimes he just holds them and other times he makes me massage him, but same same. My hands are occupied and I want to make myself and now him proud, since I asked him to hold me accountable, by changing my habits.

Always mentally return to why you want to stop. This habit isn’t healthy, it’s not serving you, it’s not as helpful as it could be. These should be more than enough to motivate you to be better. You know you can, and it’s up to you to make it happen.

Let’s get down to business – YOUR bad habits

I asked my following to tell me about the bad habits they’ve acquired during lockdown. I’m going to go through each one and provide the best advice I have for each!

Bad habit: eating sweets/dessert every night

They’re in the cupboard – why not?! Well, it’s probably not the healthiest to eat excessive sweets every day.

I like to find ways that actually make the habit impossible. So here, you have to have some self restraint at the grocery store. Don’t let yourself buy sweets every trip, don’t set yourself up for failure at home.

Replacement: if you do want something sweet at home, tell yourself you want to eat a piece of fruit first every time. Odds are, once you eat the fruit (pick one you love & satisfies you!), you won’t be as hungry/craving for something sweet.

Bad habit: using your low energy levels as an excuse

This one is tough, especially during winter and when we have basically nothing to do that normally would energize us. Again, I like the proactive approach on this one.

If we can raise our energy levels, we won’t have to use low energy as an excuse as we won’t be lacking! Ways to do this include prioritizing a good night’s sleep (length of time AND quality), moving our bodies throughout the day to energize ourselves (mind AND body), and fueling our bodies with all things energizing (carbs, proteins, micronutrients).

Once you have started to change your routine to cater to a more-energized state, you need to replace the excuses for low energy. Even if you do feel low one day, think about something that fulfills you. Sometimes we’re tired and don’t want to do anything. But in reality, once we get one foot out the door, we are energized and finding meaning in what we end up doing.

I find that sometimes I feel too tired to chat with a friend, when really once we’re talking it makes me so happy. When I’m tired I don’t feel like working out. But once I turn on my music and set up my space, I’m motivated and remember why I workout and how good it makes me feel. These initial steps (hitting call, pressing play) are what we replace our excuses with, and it gets us on our way to braking our habit.

Bad habit: laziness/not moving enough/not taking enough steps

Getting enough movement during the day is so, so important. Unfortunately, lockdown doesn’t cater to lots of step-taking during the day when we work from home and have nowhere fun to go.

Noticing your lack of steps during the day is important. Maybe you go on your phone and check this time last year on the Health app – how are your average step counts different? This will help you internalize your desire to get more steps in.

Set alarms during the day. If you have meetings, set an alarm for when you have some sort of a break during the day, and go for a quick walk. This can be outside or literally just around your house. If you have a phone call to take, take it on your headphones and make sure you can walk around. If you can’t walk until the evening, dedicate time (pre-dinner OR post-dinner and pre-Netflix) for a walk and make it happen by setting an alarm, waiting to watch TV until your walk is done. Walk with a friend (in-person or virtually) for accountability, or spend some quality time with your partner, away from screens, getting out for a walk. It becomes fun and not a chore!

Bad habit: not sticking to my workout routine

This one is hard because most of us have had to adjust to home workouts. But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing! Read about why home workouts are good for you and good for the environment here.

But we may not always know what to do, how to do it, etc. when working out from home. But again, it’s called a routine for a reason, and we need it to be habit to stick.

Accountability is huge for working out. I have so many reasons that are so important to me for why I workout. They include:

  • being strong for myself
  • being healthy long-term – I really want to be able to keep up with my kids in the future
  • creating confidence mentally
  • sense of independence
  • sense of security in myself and capabilities
  • avoiding injury (didn’t quite work for my foot, but usually does!)

You really need to find your reason for working out. It isn’t a punishment, and it shouldn’t feel like one. It should be providing you with something that other things cannot (like the items above). Finding reasons that are important to you, and being truly healthy, will motivate you to stick to creating a habit to workout.

Next, you HAVE to have a plan. Without a plan, you’re destined to fail because you don’t know what to do, don’t have equipment, have to spend time researching/planning. It doesn’t work. Create a plan (or ask me for my home workout guide, reference this article and I’ll send it for free!) and schedule your workouts.

It’s helpful to have them at the same time every day – that way you have the same energy levels, you know what happens at what time, and you can prepare for a routine to fall into place.

Bad habit: sleeping in late

This one pretty much only has one replacement…which is waking up early. But it’s not so hard after a few days when you have a REASON to wake up early.

It doesn’t have to be to work or workout or something insanely productive. But use it for something that you enjoy. Maybe you get to spend an hour alone without your kids. Maybe you get to spend an hour without screen-time, when no one is posting anyway. Or maybe you just sit and enjoy your coffee and enjoy the sun rising.

Set a reasonable time, don’t go wild and think you can get up at 4am every day (unless that fits your schedule). Be reasonable, and maybe do it in phases where you get up 30 minutes earlier each day.

Also, the snooze button is the devil. Don’t do that. Put your phone across the room or turn on a light or do something that makes you get up when your alarm goes off, and gets you up for your WHY. And then go to bed earlier (put your phone away, read a book, drink some sleepy-time tea) to set yourself up for success the next day. Don’t make it hard to get up from lack of sleep.

There you have it!

Did I leave out your quarantine bad habit?!

I think we’re all working on ourselves, all the time. Sometimes we just need a bit of direction and a bit of encouragement. We’ll get there soon! Don’t forget to be kind to each other.



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