Saying this pandemic has been full of challenges is like saying the desert is dry. But for many of us, whether we realized it or not, it’s also cultivated some positive lifestyle shifts born out of necessity and stillness.
It might be a new self-care practice, more time spent cooking, frequent FaceTimes with loved ones who live far away, regular family dinners, or a simple absence of busyness. These deeply personal changes are different for each of us, but identifying them — and keeping them going once the COVID-19 pandemic ends — is one more challenge we should all take on.
The world will soon start to move more quickly again (we’re crossing our fingers, too), so let’s use this fleeting period of slowness to ask ourselves what kind of life we want to return to. Here are some strategies for preserving your positive COVID-19 shifts for the long haul:
1. Write down your silver linings.
Ironically, the slower pace of the last few weeks may have caused our thoughts to go on overdrive and get stuck in a repetitive loop of worry over food, finances and family, among other things. This is understandable, but it’s important to strive to find the silver linings in what we’re experiencing. Try taking 10 minutes to identify and write down the parts of your new daily life that make you feel good. It could be a hot bath, a virtual hangout with your friends or the new recipe you tried recently and loved; or perhaps it’s your daily walks, a new app on your phone, or a friendship you’ve forged from a distance with a neighbour.
Are you struggling to see the positives right now? It’s normal to feel worried, but if negative thoughts seem to be taking over, it’s time to seek professional support.
2. Turn them into habits.
Now that you’re looking at a list of things — big or small — that have had a positive impact on your COVID-19 life, it’s time to turn them into habits by scheduling them and repeating them on a regular basis. Studies show that setting visual reminders increase the likelihood of maintaining good habits (for example, set an alarm on your phone, write it down on a post-it note on your fridge, lay out your exercise clothes the night before, or add an activity to your calendar). Another proven way to stick to positive shifts is to share them. Telling someone about the habits you plan to keep practicing can help you stay accountable, and even inspire others to join you.
3. Plan for joy.
In addition to maintaining the new habits that have helped you get through these times, it’s also an ideal time to reflect on what you miss most from your pre-pandemic life. Have you been longing for a coffee date with a good friend? A visit to the library to refresh your reading list? Having your whole family around your dinner table again? A weekend spinning class? Commit to prioritizing the social and community connections you’ve been craving once they’re possible. Let’s make plans to savour the things that bring us joy — the things that matter most to us — so that we don’t take them for granted again.