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How to Create Positive New Habits in our New World

Our lives and routines have changed because of COVID-19. Gyms are closed, parks are closed, shopping trips are limited, and personal hygiene is more important than ever. How can we stay healthy with our habits broken? Here are some tips to help you.

Tip #1: Make an oath

Write and sign an oath that says “I will stay home!” If you can do it, commit now to only going out when you have to. Even better, write an oath on a piece of paper and sign it.

Why is this important?
People like to live up to their promises. Making an oath makes you that much more likely to stick to your guns when the going gets tough.

Tip #2: Play a game

Make a fun game out of staying safe. When you have to go out, pretend you have a secret force field around yourself. If anyone gets inside, you lose! Remember playing “the floor is hot lava” as a kid? It’s like that, but you might save a life.

Why is this important?
Doing things that are good for you is so much easier when they’re also fun. Turning a chore into a game means you don’t have to choose between safety and having a good time.

Get more information about social distancing.

Tip #1: Set aside real time to talk

Call or text a friend to schedule a date and time to talk. Video chat is great to feel like you’re really together.

How can I do that?

If you’re new to video chat, Skype and Google Hangouts are both free and easy to use.

Tip #2: Talk about the important things

People get closer when they talk about the things that matter. Don't just chat. Really connect about your joys, dreams, and worries.

How can I do that?

Use questions to get to know a friend even better than before. Try asking about their favorite memories, what they are most grateful for, a funny embarrassing story – or something else that allows the two of you to learn more about each other dig deeper into what makes you unique.

Tip #3: Give the support they need

When someone comes to you with their problems, it's natural to try to solve them. But what people really want is just a listening ear.

How can I do that?

Try not to give people advice they didn't ask for. Instead, focus on showing them you care about how they feel.

Tip #4: Don't forget to have fun!

Relationships don't rely on just the big moments. Doing fun things together is a great way to stay close, too.

How can I do that?

Whatever you're into, there's a way to do it online with other people! You can watch shows together, game together, or draw and write together.

No matter what you do, the idea is the same. Put in the effort to keep up with your loved ones. Just because we're physically apart in person doesn't mean we have to be apart in our hearts.

Get more information about managing mental health during COVID-19.

Tip #1: Scented Soap

Cover your hands in something that smells nice! Scented soap or hand lotion means you’ll notice when your hands get too close to your face.

Why is this important?

We touch our faces on auto-pilot. Adding a new smell helps jolt us out of our familiar routines.

Tip #2: Text a Friend

Commit to texting a friend every time you catch yourself touching your face. Find a buddy who will help keep your hands where they belong.

Why is this important?

We don’t want to look bad in front of our friends. Knowing we’ll have to admit we’ve messed up makes us a lot more careful.

Tip #3: Use Sticky Notes

Write "Don't touch your face" on sticky notes. Put the notes around the house where you’re likely to see them. Sticky notes serve as a great reminder if you see them throughout your day.

Why is this important?

This is another way to stop an automatic habit in its tracks. The note will make you think about touching your face instead of just acting.

Tip #4: Fidget Spinning

Keep your hands busy. Buy a fidget spinner or twirl a pen! You can’t touch your face if you’re using your hands for something else.

Why is this important?

Sometimes it’s easiest to just replace a bad habit with a better one.

Get more information on what you can do to prevent COVID-19.

Tip #1: Practice three times

Go wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds. Time yourself with your phone. Make sure to clean the backs, fronts, between the fingers, and fingertips each twice. This is how long you need to wash every time! Do this three times.

Why is this important?

You may already wash your hands but it might not be thorough enough. Practice the right method to undo this habit and replace it with a better one.

Tip #2: Use feelings of disgust (“cooties effect”)

Place stickers of germs on door handles or signs above handles that make it clear that they’re dirty.

Why is this important?

Disgust is a strong feeling. Making germs visible can cause strong feelings of disgust. That might keep people from directly touching handles or make them properly wash their hands.

Tip #3: Use posters

Post posters on bathroom mirrors that show a step-by-step outline of how to wash hands. Posters can be found on the CDC website.

Why is this important?

Washing your hands is just a series of steps. People might think they know how to do it, but the data shows otherwise. A poster can help make sure people don’t miss any steps!

Tip #4: Reward hand-washing with nice soap

Put nice-smelling soap in the bathrooms to reward people for washing their hands.

Why is this important?

It might seem silly, but people care about the small things. Leaving the bathroom smelling nice makes washing your hands a treat.

Tip #5: Learn the “Scrub Your Palms” song

Sing to the tune of Brother John (Frère Jacques):

Scrub your palms / Between the fingers
Wash the back / Wash the back
Twirl the tips around / Scrub them upside down
Thumb attack / Thumb attack

Why is this important?

Let’s face it: We don’t really do all the right steps while washing hands! Even if we try, we don’t wash for 20 seconds! To get it right, you just need to hum the “Scrub Your Palms” song to yourself.

Get more information about handwashing.

Tip #1: Clean your phone right now

Drop what you’re doing! Clean your phone and case right now using disinfecting wipes or spray.

Why is this important?

It’s easy to say “I can always clean my phone later.” If you do it right now, you won’t forget!

Tip #2: Use an alarm

Set an alarm on your phone called “clean phone” once per day. When it goes off, clean your phone right then and there!

Why is this important?

Even if you just cleaned your phone right now, you’re going to forget later! That’s why reminders are so important.

Get more information about cleaning and disinfecting. 

Tip #1: Be mindful about social media use

Use social media to keep up with loved ones. But stay away from news that might be untrue or upset you.

How do I do it?

Spend more time on direct messages to your friends and family and less time just reading your feed. Don’t scroll – connect!

Tip #2: Maximize self-care

We’re better at handling stress when we take time out to care for ourselves.

How do I do it?

Plan and create a list of things that make you happy. For example, you could relax outside, dance, or read a good book.

Tip #3: Look for the silver lining

It sounds like a cliché, but when you're feeling bad, finding a good side to your situation can help.

How do I do it?

When you feel upset, really think through what’s bothering you. In many cases, you’ll see the problem in a new light. For example, instead of saying “I am tired of sitting home” say instead “I am happy to be home and safe.” By viewing a stressful situation in a positive light you are thinking about it in a way that makes you feel less stressed.

Tip #4: Establish a daily routine

Creating a routine helps us feel safe and secure. We know what to expect out of life when we organize our days.

How do I do it?

Make a list of what you do every day. Plan your most important tasks first. You can slip in the others after. Don’t block out your whole day, though. Life is unpredictable! Leave wiggle room in your schedule to keep things running smoothly.

If you need more help, you’re not alone. Please call the Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990. You can also text MHFA to 741741 to talk to a Crisis Text Line counselor today.

Get more information about managing mental health during COVID-19.

Even when the world around us is scary, we can thrive in our day-to-day lives. The key is staying grounded. Being grounded means taking charge of our own thoughts and feelings.

Tip #1: Express gratitude

Take a moment to think of something you’re grateful for. Then put that feeling into words.

  • How do I do it? Try gratitude journaling. Writing helps to organize and process your thoughts. Doing so means you will have a calm and clear mind because you are choosing to focus on the positive in your life and less on the negative. There are so many ways that you can do it. For example, write down a few people who you are thankful for and why. Share it out loud with them if you like.
  • When do I do it? There’s no right or wrong time to journal. Regardless of when you journal, the goal is to be consistent. If you find that journaling in the morning works best for you, commit to do it at that time.
  • How often do I do it? You don’t have to journal every day, but try to do so at least one to three times a week.

Tip #2: Practice self-compassion

When bad things happen to others, we feel sorry for them and do what we can to help. Treat yourself the same way! This means to stop criticizing yourself for normal mistakes. Instead, try being kind and forgiving.

  • How do I do it? There are many ways to practice self-compassion. One way is by learning how to view negative events in a self-compassionate manner. First, think of an event that resulted in evaluating yourself in a negative manner. Next, write down ways in which others have experienced a similar event that you went through and how you would express compassion to that friend if they have experienced the event.
  • When do I do it? There’s no wrong way of when to do it. You can do it right at the moment when you recognize you’re being overly harsh on yourself or at a later time. The goal is to do what works for you!
  • How often do I do it? Having self-compassion for yourself takes time. The more you practice the better you can quiet your inner critic.

Tip #3: Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is about living in the now, not thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Being mindful lets us focus our attention on what matters.

  • How do I do it? There are many ways to be mindful in our everyday lives. One way to do so is by mindful breathing. To get a guided sense of mindfulness, try free apps such as Smiling Mind or UCLA Mindfulful.
  • When do I do it? You can practice mindful breathing anywhere! Do so by incorporating it in your everyday activities like showering or walking. If you feel yourself having negative thoughts, sit down and take slow deep breaths. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body. Sitting and breathing for even just a minute can help to give you a peace of mind.
  • How often do I do it? Mindfulness takes practice so try to do it on a daily basis. The more that you do it, the better you get at it. Take at least five minutes each day to practice mindful breathing.

We don’t have to let the world decide how we feel. Ground yourself so that you can choose your own path. Get more information about managing mental health during COVID-19

Tip #1: Try online exercise classes

Each morning, try a virtual class. The YMCA and YouTube are both good places to look.

Why is this important?

There are so many classes out there and many are free! You may not need equipment or much space, so it’s easy to incorporate these into your home.

Tip #2: Bundle exercise with fun

Pick something you look forward to and pair it with your workout. For example, you could save your favorite podcast for when you run or listen to your favorite playlist while doing living room aerobics.

Why is this important?

Research shows that bundling things you want to do with things you should do helps you stick to your routine.

Tip #3: Use extra time

If you’re working from home, use the time you used to spend commuting to try a new exercise routine.

Why is this important?

You’re used to getting up early already. You might as well use that time to get a head start on fitness! You’ll have a bigger block of free time after work, too. 

Tip #4: Plan 30 minutes

Pick a time that works for you every day. Then go for a half-hour walk, run, or bike ride. You can even split it between morning and night! Just make sure you stay six feet away from others.

Why is this important?

Planning helps us follow through on our goals. Say when, where, and what you’re going to do for exercise. That makes you much more likely to do it! Exercising at the same time every day also makes it easier to start a habit. 

Tip #5: Play active games

Things like musical chairs make exercise seem fun! Grab the kitchen chairs, some tunes, and your family for a fun-filled game that will get your blood pumping. In between the laughter, you’ll find out who’s the most competitive too!

Why is this important?

Making exercise a game can turn a chore into the highlight of your day. Doing it with your family adds quality time too!

Get more information about exercising.

Tip #1: Shop less often

Plan meals for at least the next two weeks. Before you make a list, check what you’ve got on hand. Then you can stock up on everything with just one trip. 

Why is this important?

Limiting store runs means less exposure to COVID-19. It also gives structure to your shopping routine. Going in with a clear list helps you make healthy home-cooked meals. You’ll buy less junk food too! For more information about shopping, visit the CDC website.

Tip #2: Prep fruit and vegetables

Find cooking hard? You can cut up your fruits and vegetables for cooking ahead of time. To save money and time, try frozen fruits and veggies. They provide the same nutritional benefits, but last longer and are available no matter the season. 

Why is this important?

Everything you can do to make healthy eating easier helps. If cooking takes one less step, you’re that much more likely to do it!

Tip #3: Drink water

After breakfast, put a full bottle of water where you can see it. Continue to fill it throughout the day. 

Why is this important?

Your water bottle can be a reminder to drink more water throughout the day. Get more information about drinking water.

Tip #4: Limit caffeine

Choose a specific cut-off time in the afternoon that after, you won’t drink anything with caffeine. Try replacing afternoon coffee or tea with decaf.

Why is this important?

We all know not to drink coffee at night if we want to sleep. Caffeine in the afternoon also can make it hard to fall asleep. But habits are hard to break. It’s easier to replace your afternoon coffee than to stop drinking it cold turkey.

Tip #5 Have dinner together

Set the table each evening for a family dinner. Don’t turn on the TV!

Why is this important?

Turning off the TV lets you pay more attention to your dinner. This means quality time with your family. But it also means you’re less likely to overeat! Focusing on your food stops mindless eating. Your food might even taste better too!

Get more information about nutrition.