It apparently takes an average of 2 months to form a habit, and around 9 months to properly embed one. It struck me that it’s now been 5 months since we were first told to stay at home, so habits formed during these difficult and strange few months might be starting to set in – in theory at least!
I’ve been reflecting on which lifestyle changes I’ve made and kept, and which have already proven to be passing phases.
Habits fallen by the wayside
Unsurprisingly I set out with some good intentions, and I largely kept these up during the most intensive ‘stay at home’ period. However sadly not many of these turned in to lasting habits today.
I bought a keyboard and made my way through 3 children’s piano books, practicing every day. Said keyboard is currently sitting under the bed a little dusty, but the dream isn’t totally dead (though my neighbours may wish it to be). I decided – seemingly along with the rest of the nation - that baking fresh bread was surprisingly easy and so worth it, but I was back on the plastic sliced after a few weeks. My partner practiced juggling for 30 minutes every day to get closer to his mission to juggle 5 balls. But these were always unlikely to last long term – committing to something every day is pretty challenging.
Chatting with others in the team, the story is similar – we made elaborate weekly dinners with flatmates, hosted gameshow style Zoom quizzes, worked out with the pros online, and chatted with neighbours for the first time. These habits were a direct response to the circumstances forced upon us, but ultimately as soon as restrictions were even slightly lifted, they had to compete with other priorities and options. It didn’t take long for meeting with one person in the park to be more appealing than yet another quiz with extended family, or 3 hours making bagels…
Habits kept… so far
Lasting habits are definitely fewer and far between, but tend to be ones that set a new routine, or form part of a routine that is still going. Many of us have had to find ways to try and draw a line between work and home – and for as long as my dining table is also my office, it feels important to do so. These are really simple but manageable things like a daily walk, a run, a game of cards at lunch time, or cracking a beer to mark the end of the working day. We’re still making more of an effort to keep connecting with nature, speaking with friends and family that live far away, and doing more activities and shopping locally.
One habit I have managed to keep up is doing online yoga videos – but this is more an adaptation of my existing habit of going to classes. I can now see myself maintaining a mix of home and studio in the future – but the behaviour was already embedded, just the means is new.
So, what is next?
Habits are based around a routine, and we’ve certainly all been thrust into new routines this year - for better or worse.
Brands have long targeted people who are going through ‘lifestage’ changes, where new habits, behaviours and purchasing patterns tend to emerge. New situations breed the opportunity to seek new activities that may eventually become habits.
- How can brands who have benefited from recent behaviour change find ways to make it easy and appealing for people to keep up these habits, even as circumstances change again?
- Brands will also need to be flexible to further change – it’s become clear that the situation will be volatile for a while yet. People will yet have plenty of opportunity to form, break, and cement habits
- It seems that habits can lie dormant, and be awoken by a change in circumstance or routine, so it’s important to be able to identify those triggers
- Some habits that have been formed and maintained are not completely new ones, but rather adaptations to existing behaviours – there may be some quick wins out there, but it does seem we are truly creatures of habit
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