Today’s blog topic is on a very relevant topic for pretty much all humans, especially considering the current events of …
And that topic is how to NOT engage in bad habits when you’re bored … and quarantined.
So I’m sure we’ve all been there. Whether that’s opening the fridge or pantry 5 times per hour as if something delicious is going to appear, scrolling through social media for hours on end, or watching movies and taking a “staycation” rather than getting in your usual workout, we all engage in bad habits. …Except David Goggins, Am I right!?
Okay I’m sure he must have some bad habits… But i’m not quite sure what they are. Anyways, let me first explain why we revert to bad habits during boredom.
Lack of Stimulation
So when we are bored, what’s really happening is our brains are saying “I’m not being stimulated right now.” Our brains love pleasurable stimulation, and when they receive this feel-good stimulation, it is felt because of a neuro-transmitter called dopamine. So what we proceed to do next is seek-out the quickest and simplest way the brain can receive that stimulation That often comes in the form sugary food or – the newest craze – Tik Tok videos.
Especially in this day-and age with access to so much social media, our attention spans are getting smaller and boredom is increasing. Side note: How baffling is it that there is more to do and learn now than ever before, yet people are the bored-est they’ve ever been?!
So if you want to learn how to stop engaging in bad habits while your bored (and quarantined) here are 5 effective tips:
1) Pre-plan your day, pre-plan your meals
Here’s a simple question: Why do you get bored? Answer: Because you think you have nothing to do.
I found that writing detailed lists of what I want to do in a day has helped me not just counteract boredom, but become more productive during this quarantine. If you write down exactly what you want to and need to get done in a day, then follow that list so you go from one activity to the next, you won’t have any free time to be bored. And through my own experimenting, I find that making a list with things that you need to do but also adding in things that you want to do throughout the day will keep you focused on the task at hand. Doing so will also keep you from craving things we shouldn’t be doing such as going on social media while you’re actually trying to read a book, or eating a mug cake while trying to write a blog post (I can’t be the only one!…)
And now speaking of craving, in order for you to not crave those sugary snacks, you can pre-plan your meals for the day including your snack. The night before, plan out everything you are going to eat the next day. I used to do this back in university and I’m telling you, it really helps you slow down and enjoy your food in the moment, knowing that you may only have 1 more snack left to eat in your day.
And another note on this is to remember we often crave sweets when we are thirsty. What I like to do is make a fruit-flavoured tea that has sweetness to it or I will have a snack with high fat content like eggs or an avocado to make sure I feel satiated and not hungry for anything else.
Creating organizational habits like this are 1 of 5 types of habits you need to create in your life. If you want to know more about organizational habits, then you can check out this blog post here as well as the video below.
2) Introduce novelty into your day, constantly
Your brain likes new things because new things means stimulation. And as I mentioned previously, stimulation means dopamine and pleasure.
So constantly introducing new activities into your schedule, listening to new podcasts, watching new educational YouTube videos or even changing up your scenery, can provide you with enough novelty that will always make you feel focused and interested. Eventually you might find something you like doing so much that you’ll stick to it for longer than expected.
And if you’re struggling with which types of novel activities to introduce into your life I am going to do an Instagram live this Thursday April 2nd at 3 pm EST talking about habit. Then I’ll be going live again later that day at 6 pm PST / 9 PM EST with Sara from @thesunnysideofgrey to talk about self-fulfilling prophecies and mental rehabilitation.
Additionally, every Monday I do a weekly Instagram lives@joesorocks (Instagram page here) who is a podcaster and fellow stroke survivor. Him and I have conversations about different aspects of mental health and brain injuries.
I hope to see you during those live streams!
3) Break down tasks so that they provide you with immediate gratification
This one is one of my favourite tips because it requires you to be mindful with your behaviour.
Normally, people avoid activities like reading, puzzles, or knitting because they seem boring; people view success with reading as finishing an entire book, or they view success with puzzles as finishing an entire puzzle, or success with knitting as knitting an entire project to completion. Well I want you to change that mindset – instead, I want you to start breaking down tasks into tiny micro-tasks. That means, success with reading means reading 1 page, success with puzzle as putting down 1 piece, and success with knitting as knitting 1 row.
By breaking down one big task into multiple micro-tasks, you are creating immediate gratification and therefore stimulation for yourself. So create that intention and watch boring activities become exciting again. If you want to learn more about micro-goals, check out this post here.
By the way, if you guys want to go deeper into learning how to break and create habits, I am offering 50% off all coaching sessions for as long as this quarantine is going on . All you have to do is go to my website or the link in the description and use the coupon code BYECORONA at check out. And by the way all consultations are always free!
I also have a free 5 day course available on my website which basically teaches you the in’s and out’s of habit.
4) Stop getting your brain used to immediate gratification
Unlike the previous tip where I wanted you to change your idea of what immediate gratification is. For this tip I want you to get your brain used to not being stimulated by traditional forms of immediate gratification.
That means turn off all notifications including text messages. You be the one to decide when you want to pick up your phone, don’t let the habit control you. And when you do want to scroll through social media, be conscious about your intention. This means you tell yourself, “I am only going to look at 5 posts or go online for 25 minutes.” And when you’re online, start reading people’s Instagram captions instead of just quickly scrolling through the pictures. Again, you want to be training your brain to have a longer attention span and not crave immediate gratification.
5) Understand the context of your bad habits
You engage in bad habits when you’re bored – yes. BUT there might be something else within the context of your habit that is cue-ing you to engage n it.
For example, I noticed that when I do my work sitting on my couch, I tend to crave snacks. Even though I might not be bored, I am still being cued to engage in a bad habit by sitting in the spot where I usually eat snacks. To counter this, I will change my work environment to the office and make myself a sweet tea. And by changing up my environment, I am providing my brain with novelty which it will get satisfaction from.
If you want to understand the full context of your bad habits, I recommend you start writing down the context:
- WHAT (what you’re doing in detail, from beginning to end)
- WHERE (where exactly you are located right before you engage in the habit)
- WHEN (the time of day)
- WHAT YOU FEEL right before/as you crave engaging in a bad habit.
Over time, you will begin to see a pattern and then you can adjust as needed o break your habit. That is exactly the the of thing I do when working with you in one-on-one sessions.
By the Way!
If you think any of these 5 tips are helpful, make sure you share it with at least 1 friend – your support is always appreciated! Be safe, stay sanitary, and as always, I hope you have a great day and don’t forget to make this the year of you!
Disclaimer: I am not a medical or mental health professional. Any information and content on my website is not a substitute for professional health advice.