What Can You Do to Increase Positive Behaviors in 2021?
Whether it’s doing online yoga videos in your living room or attending fewer holiday family gatherings, our behaviors have changed in one way or another in the past year. According to Blue Cross Blue Shield, research shows that there have been both positive and negative behavioral changes since COVID-19 reared its contagious head. Unfortunately, you might recognize some of those negative behaviors in yourself or others.
Negative behaviors to watch out for: there has been an increase in smoking, as well as a hike in drinking alcohol, an uptick in vaping, an increase in people eating more food, and an upsurge of recreational drug use. Even more specifically, Generation Z, or those born from 1997 to 2002, are in the lead for eating more food, vaping more, and using more drugs for non-medical reasons. One can deduce from this that most of the 18–23-year-olds of America are not dealing with the stressors of the pandemic in the healthiest of ways.
Millennials, on the other hand, seem to be dealing with the most worry about COVID-19 contraction: 37% of Millennials are “very” or “extremely worried about Coronavirus.” 14% of Generation X (born 1965 – 1980) and 14% of Generation Z report having lost their job since the pandemic began, while Boomers reported 6% job loss. Additionally, 39% of Generation Z identify having CDC underlying conditions that puts them at a greater risk of contracting the virus.
While all of that can be quite depressing, there is still hope. The good news is that positive behaviors are increasing too. For instance, more people are calling/video chatting with their family members and friends more regularly, people are exercising more, taking more outdoor walks, and spending more time at home with immediate family.
So, what are some ways to boost your positive behaviors? Read on to find out more:
Keep a Daily Routine. If you like to live spontaneously and not have a schedule, well, you do you, Boo. However, if you can start making small steps towards a daily routine, you will discover a multitude of benefits. For example, retiring every evening at the same time reminds your mind and body of its natural circadian rhythms, so you can naturally fall asleep around the same time at night and wake around the same time each morning. If your bedtime is at an early enough hour, this will ensure more efficient and adequate rest, which means you handle stress or setbacks more readily.
If you have your kids on a routine, they will generally begin to find comfort in set times for set tasks. Like, “It’s 8:30, phones off! Time to brush teeth and wash up/shower before bed!” There will be moans and groans, but they will get through it and be more well-rested in the morning. Make your bedtime routine a ritual in which you take great comfort.
Leave Work at a Set Time Each Day. Even if you work from home, leave it in the home office. Bringing your phone/laptop to the table while trying to have dinner with family means that you aren’t fully present with your family or your work.
Exercise! Move that body! Even a short walk daily can boost your mood, change your perspective, and increase longevity. Add 5 minutes of yoga to your morning or evening and reap the benefits of getting in tune with your mind and body. Dust off those hand weights in the back of the garage,
follow along to an old Richard Simons video. Get the kids moving too!
Be Mindful. Being mindful means living fully in the present moment without negatively judging your thoughts, yourself, or others.
Being mindful can also mean being aware of what you consume. For example, if you are drinking 6-7 Ale 8 Ones every day, you may want to be mindful of your sugar/caffeine intake and cut back a wee bit.
Or, if you are spending more time scrolling the social media du jour than you are spending meaningful time with your kids/dogs/cats/lizards/etc, you may want to reevaluate your priorities and limit screen time; get back in tune with your family and re-visit the hobbies that bring meaning to your life.
Being mindful of your consumption of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs is very difficult if you have a substance use disorder. For these instances, reach out to someone who can help. Schedule an appointment with a mental health provider who is trained in evidence-based practices that can help with substance use disorders. Also, check out online support groups such as NA/AA and SMART Recovery meetings.
Thanks for reading!
Laura Cooper, CSW, MSSW, TCADC
Clinical Social Worker
Laura enjoys helping clients empower themselves with stress management techniques, coping skills, and necessary resources along their journey to improved mental health and wellbeing.
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