How can we hang onto the good things and positive habits we’ve developed in lockdown?

There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a tough year.

While the pandemic has meant our lives have had to be different this year, lots of people have found ways to make their experience as positive as possible. Some of the silver linings of lockdown include people making more time for exercise, starting a new hobby or picking up old ones, or simply cooking more at home.

VicHealth CEO Dr Sandro Demaio spoke to ABC Radio Melbourne’s Raf Epstein last week about how we might be able to retain these healthy habits of lockdown life as we emerge into a ‘COVID normal’.

What makes us feel happy and how has coronavirus affected this?

A positive mood or mindset is largely caused by the hormone dopamine, which is produced in the brain.

Sandro said:

“Dopamine, which is the happy hormone releases into our brain and body when we have something good happen in our lives or even the expectation of something good happening. Both of those have been significantly lower across the coronavirus lockdown.”

But Sandro added that lockdown has meant some people seek this positive feeling through unhealthy alternatives.

He added:

“People are probably finding they’re looking at some unhealthy ways to find that dopamine fix and fuel the rewards in their life. It could be drinking alcohol, online shopping or being on social media.”

However, lots of Victorians have been able to make the best of this period by finding positives in lockdown life.

Sandro said:

“The lockdowns have been such a difficult time for so many families across Victoria, but we are also hearing of some small silver linings, that have come working from home, commuting less, spending more time with family and cooking home-made meals from scratch.”

How to decide what habits to keep from lockdown

As we slowly begin to move into a ‘COVID normal’ time, things will start to get a bit busier. Some of us may return to work and our social calendars will start to ramp up in the lead up to the holidays.

Sandro said now is the ideal time to reflect on your experiences and determine what positives you want to hang on to as restrictions ease.

He explained:

“It is a challenge and life will slowly return to a relative normal, but it’s important to ask yourself actively ‘What do I want to retain? What do I want to return to? How busy do I want my weekends to be?’”

“What is it that you really want to prioritise? You may want to build back your weekends the way you want to, rather than with the habits you’ve accumulated over many years.

“Now is a great time to be asking ourselves these questions and actively think about what you want to retain in your ‘new’ normal.”

How to keep positive habits from lockdown in ‘COVID normal’ life

  • Keep making time for your physical and mental wellbeing. Continue to get regular exercise and take the chance to socialise with family and friends either in person or virtually.
  • Take the chance to think about how you want your ‘COVID normal’ life to look. Are there things from pre-coronavirus you want to return to? Are there habits you want to stop? Have you done things during lockdown that you want to continue?
  • Try to see this time as a positive, not a negative. Many of us have led much less busy lives during lockdown. Try to view this experience as a positive, as a time where you can potentially re-shape your daily life and habits based on what you get enjoyment from.
  • Keep doing the things you enjoy! You may have become an amateur baker during lockdown, you might have started some arts or craft, or you may have found renewed enjoyment in exercising and being outdoors. Just because restrictions are easing doesn’t mean you have to stop your new-found passions. Keep doing them!

So while we often hear about the negatives of lockdown, it’s also important to take the time to reflect on the good stuff as well. These positives could help shape your ‘COVID normal’ life well into the future.