How to Stop Bad Habit Spiralling out of Control during Lockdown

You might think that during a time when all our social activities are constrained and we are spending long periods of time at home, it would be an ideal time to give up those annoying bad habits that you have been struggling with, perhaps for years, unfortunately the opposite seems to be the case. 

Whether your habit is smoking, eating too much, drinking coffee, alcohol, taking drugs or even computer games we are prone to start to increase our indulgence at any time.  We might be at home, but the chances are your stress levels are raised and your moods will be all over the place with your lows being lower that normal and unnatural highs or no highs at all.

It can be difficult to focus on normal daily activities as our minds drift to the uncertainty of the future, and the unknown of how this will all end and what our lives will be like once things return to what will be a new normality.  Our greatest stress comes from insecurity and uncertainty about the future.  How long have you spent worrying about things that may happen in the future, even in the small hours of them morning when we are least able to do anything about it.

It becomes too easy to use our bad habits as a crutch to change how we are feeling in the moment, to try to improve our low moods and after all we now have a wonderful excuse –

“We all have to do what we can to get through this, I’ll give up when it’s over”

After all, we have been using our habit for a long time to make us feel better when we get down, now we are down more often what better solution than to give yourself a pickup with your favourite bad habit.

But, what if the lock down lasts longer than we think and what if your habit starts to spiral out of control.  Bad habits are usually developed over a long period of time when something that started as fun becomes something we cannot stop doing.  If you are feeling that you are starting to indulge more than is healthy, if your one glass of wine a night has become a bottle, if your sugar treat has now gone from a snack after lunch to an evening box of chocolates, then here are 10 easy ways that you can use to distract yourself and change your focus of attention away from your habit into something that will not be detrimental to your health.

  1. Make a list – write down all the things you could be doing instead. Make a list of interesting things you enjoy doing instead.   Make them challenging and varied.  When you mind drifts to wine, check you list and see what you could be doing instead.  My list includes, reading a foreign language book, reading an English novel, practice my foreign languages on Duo Lingo, Sudoku, Yoga practice, meditation, go for a walk, reading cookery books to find new recipes, adult colouring in books.  These are just a few and your list will be entirely different depending on your hobbies and interests.  I know when we are down it can be hard to motivate ourselves but if we have a list ready, we can browse through and choose something that will suit our mood in that moment.  It doesn’t have to be anything energetic or good for your mind, it just has to be something that you will enjoy, why no curl up on the couch with a comfortable blanket and watch some old movies.
  • Exercise – get up and move about, when your mind drifts to your habit, don’t sit there and dwell on what you are missing.  Use your energy up doing some exercise.  Even if you only moving about the house from room to room – it will give your mind time to change the focus of attention and think of something positive you could be doing instead.  It is amazing how quickly our minds will move away from our habit onto something else if we move.  How many times have you gone into another room to get something only to forget what it was the moment you set out on your journey?  I can go upstairs for something, do 6 other things on the way completely forgetting that I was heading upstairs for something and I only remember when I come back and sit down again, that I don’t have the thing that I went to get!

So, get up, and move.  If you have a garden go for a wander round and enjoy the fresh air and nature. If you are unable to get up, then do some chair exercises.  If you are fit and can exercise, then get a daily routine of exercising.

  • Smile – even when you don’t feel like.  It’s amazing how much better you will feel if you smile, your mind doesn’t know there is no reason but it will improve your mood and relieve stress and can help if you are struggling with anxiety or depression.  It has also been suggested that it will conjure up pleasant thoughts and images. It also releases endorphins which are responsible for making us feel happy.
  • Plan the Future – remember you might be living in the moment now, feeling that you have lost control of your life and worrying about the future.  This can be because we see our future as the one we had planned before the lockdown started.  Maybe you had your future all mapped out and like a child screaming for his favourite toy, you can’t let go.  When we take a step back and realise that there is a whole toy box full of futures, then we can stop panicking about our future being different from the one we planned.  Who can say the new one won’t be better, and life is full of surprises we spend our life having to change course as unexpected events arise. 

So, why not plan your future, have some lovely daydreams about all the new futures you can see for yourself.  Sometimes stepping off the merry go round of life gives us a chance to step back, breathe, and see things from a different perspective.

  • Meditate – if you do not already meditate then I cannot recommend this enough, as a great way to control addictive habits.  There have been studies down in America that show that people with drink and drug problems have given up their addictions without doing anything else but meditating twice a day.  That is all it takes, just switch off for 10 minutes twice a day and let your mind rest.  There are many books and You Tube videos that will help you get started.  But, the simplest way is to get yourself comfortable,  but not lying down, a seated position, and just start to focus on your breathing, just noticing your breath as you breath in and breath out, just you normal breathing and just become fascinated with it, where it travels to, how it feels.  If you mind wonders just come back to your breathing. 

If might feel a little strange at first, but it won’t take long until you start to feel the wonder benefits of stilling the mind.

  • Fill you Diary – this is a bit like number one getting your list of activities, but now I want you to fill you your diary either a physical one (if you are like me) or an online one.  Make you exercise regime an appointment, make your hobbies appointments, and like appointments they must be kept.  This is a sample for one of my days:

Organising and filling up your days in advance are a wonderful way of stopping the boredom setting in.

  • Give up anything that increases our mood swings.  Our moods are already all over the place, hitting new lows and highs on what can feel like minute by minute.  So, here is a good reason to give up sugar, alcohol and caffeine.  They all contribute to mood swings, we might get a nice kick that gives a lift, but shortly after we must deal with the lows which only entices us to hit the sugar, wine or caffeine again. 
  •  Breath – might seem obvious, but when we are stressed our breathing tends to be very shallow and we don’t use up our full lungs, the older we get the more guilty we are of our breathing becoming shallow.  So, why not practice breathing deep into your lungs, and holding your breath for a count of five that breathing out again, if you do this 5 times, and as you breath out imagine breathing our all the stress and tension that you are holding in your body and as you breath in image breathing in a white light of calm that can fill up your whole body. 

As human beings we do not need much to make us happy.  Yesterday morning while I was doing my yoga I saw a little blue bird on the bushes outside the window.  It was hopping about from branch to branch and such was the prettiness of the picture it made me stop to watch, and wish I had a camera to take a picture.  It made me thing of how much pleasure we can get in life from simple things and if we could just slow down and appreciate the beauty all around us maybe it would leave less space for all the negative and worrying thoughts that swirl round in our heads. 

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