As many of us continue to work from home, it’s natural to form new habits and mindsets to navigate a new way of working. While some of these behaviors may feel helpful in the moment, they may not serve you well as we consider life post-pandemic.
“Research has found that about 40% of everyday life is shaped by habits,” says Gretchen Rubin, author of The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too) and creator of the Happier app, which helps users track and stick to habits by tapping into personalized motivation techniques. “If you have habits that work for you, you’re much more likely to be happier, healthier, more productive, and more creative. And if you have habits that don’t work for you, it’s much harder. Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. They shape our whole existence, and they matter tremendously.”
As we look to what awaits in 2022, consider if you’re holding onto these three habits.
Spending Mental Energy on Things You Can’t Control
With the roll out of the vaccine, a light at the end of the tunnel seemed to get closer. Then came the delta variant and now omicron. One habit that you may need to break is recognizing that you can’t control what’s going to happen with the pandemic, says Ethan Kross, author of Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It.
“There are lots of things that we can do to be safer and to live productive, satisfying lives, even in the current climate, but there are some things that are just out of our control,” he says. “The moment we recognize that, we can minimize the chatter surrounding the pandemic and move forward.”
Kross defines chatter as our negative inner voice that can keep us feeling stuck and helpless. “Chatter is the dark manifestation of our inner voice, and it’s a huge problem,” he says. “It makes it hard for us to do our jobs and gets in the way of our relationships and our health. Uncertainty and lack of control fuel the experience of chatter. Anxiety and depression rates spiked over 30% during the pandemic. Clearly, these are chatter fueled times.”
Fortunately, there are use a few techniques you can use to control the chatter, such as temporal distancing or mental time travel.
“Instead of focusing on this very moment, think of how you will feel sometime down the road?” asks Kross. “For example, my kids are getting their second dose of vaccine. In two weeks, I’m going to feel much better about the current circumstances than I do right now because they’ll be fully protected. You can imagine traveling in time even further into the future. How will you feel two years from now when more people are vaccinated and when we have more therapeutics?”
Looking backward can also help, adds Kross. “Think about the last major pandemic,” he suggests. “Things were much worse back then. There was no Zoom, no takeout, no mRNA vaccines. You could go further back in time to the time of the bubonic plague that decimated society for much longer periods of time. Broadening your perspective can be helpful.”
Measuring Success by Old Standards
Another mindset you may have adopted during the pandemic is buying into limiting beliefs that may be holding you back, says Kindra Hall, author of Choose Your Story, Change Your Life: Silence Your Inner Critic and Rewrite Your Life from the Inside Out.
“It’s those statements like, ‘Oh, I just can’t do this, or ‘What’s the point?\’” she says. “It’s stories that are reeling around in the background that keep us from taking action.”
Limiting beliefs may be due to past measures of success. “I was struggling with my own idea of success, and I was telling myself, ‘I can’t achieve it. I can’t succeed,\’” says Hall. “When I started catching that belief running subtly in the background, I analyzed it and realized that in 2019, I measured my success in airline miles, hotel night stays, and time zone fatigue. Suddenly that was gone, and my inner voice was saying that I can’t be successful because it’s done the math and I wasn’t flying all over the place.”
Instead, Hall suggests redefining what success looks. For her, a better measure became doing virtual keynotes from her bedroom and then going out and building Legos with her kids. “I had to work to change that programming and replace the negative stories with ones that were relevant going forward,” she says.
Not Planning for the Next Normal
Just when you got used to remote working, many employers are calling back teams to office or hybrid arrangements. This can be a big disruptor to the habits you’ve adopted, good or bad.
“So many habits were disrupted during the pandemic, but what’s interesting is that some people have introduced positive habits, such as eating more healthfully because they’re cooking more or doing morning meditations because they’re not commuting,” says Rubin.
Some habits may be worse, such as watching more television or no longer going to the gym. Rubin suggests being honest with yourself by asking, “How do I hold on to the things that are working better for me? How might those things be challenged? And how do I get back to the habits that I’ve maybe lost or got disrupted?”
“Consider what your next normal will be by reflecting over the past year and mindfully choosing what stays and what goes as you move forward,” she says.
Habits often form before you realize it, as a reaction to our surroundings. Rubin says it’s important to step back, give yourself a little space and time, and think about what you want your life to look like. “Ask yourself, ‘What’s working and what’s not working?\’” she says. “Then determine how you will build toward this next normal by mindfully shaping new habits.”