The bombardment began mere days into social distancing. “Write a screenplay! Plant a veggie patch! Work on those abs! Restyle your home! And don’t forget to meditate!” It seemed like the whole world was planning to overachieve during the pandemic - even though everyone I actually spoke to barely had time to work, sleep and worry. Two weeks on, the fog is starting to clear a little. There are still plenty of brands and influencers hustling to sell us a life-changing solution to x, y, or z. But on the whole, we’re finding out that the tools which really work are already at our fingertips.
In a culture obsessed with quick fixes and miracle cures, the quiet power of daily habits is easy to overlook. We’re hard-wired for novelty, and easily distracted by the hot new fitness craze or supplement. But time and again it turns out that slow and steady really does win the race, especially when it comes to our health. Small changes that are easy to incorporate into everyday life turn into healthy habits that stick – and that’s the only ‘miracle cure’ out there.
The good news is, those small acts of healthy living take a whole lot less effort to get started than all-at-once sprints. What’s more, it might take less time than you think for those habits to become second nature.
It’s not the most exciting news, but it’s true: if you want to be healthier and happier, then forget about overnight success and spread your effort over a longer timeframe. Taking a brisk walk each day is better than an expensive gym membership you only use for a month. Keeping up your daily intake of fruits and veggies helps your immune system far more than slamming 1000mg of Vitamin C when you feel a cold coming on. And if you’re looking to stay in shape, then you want to be prioritizing whole foods and plenty of plants, year round - not relying on a week-long “bikini boot camp.”
That’s so important to bear in mind right now, when most of us are scrambling to adapt to life during the global coronavirus outbreak. To be clear, I’m not talking to the first responders and essential workers who are out there taking care of sick people, and making sure the shelves are stocked and the garbage is picked up: they are all doing a heroic job, and need the space to get it done, not a lecture about healthy habits. I’m talking to the rest of us, the ones stuck at home feeling a little claustrophobic, and maybe a little aimless too. If that describes you, and you’re putting pressure on yourself to fill all of your compulsory indoor time with productive and healthful new activities: relax! Instead of trying to fix everything RIGHT NOW, play for keeps. Figure out what simple routines you can put in place that you’ll still be doing happily in three, six, twelve months’ time.
How long it takes for a new habit to become second nature depends on the person. One study found the average was 66 days: do something every day for just over 2 months, and the effort required will diminish to almost nothing. Sticking to a habit can also help with mental health, because it gives you a sense of purpose and a small achievement to celebrate, every day.
Like so many others, the team here at kencko is getting used to new working conditions. We’re busier than ever: for obvious reasons, shelf-stable fruits and veggies are in high demand right now. Plus, like you, we’re each figuring out how to adapt our day-to-day lives to the time of COVID-19.
And that adjustment throws our daily habits into sharper focus. Some are on hold for now, and that’s a source of frustration, even grief: it’s hard to come to terms with losing our cherished visits to the gym, brunches with friends, and shopping trips. But a little lateral thinking - and a decent internet connection - can go some way towards filling these gaps. Missing the gym? Take a leaf out of my colleague Raquel’s book, and put those big bottles of laundry detergent to work as dumbbells. Drinks with friends? A Houseparty happy hour every Friday is a bearable placeholder until we can really get together again.
When it comes to following self-improvement advice, we’re using our judgment. “I know it’s against all the tutorials on ‘how to be productive at home,’ but I’ve always loved wearing pajamas around the house,” says Rita, kencko’s Operations coordinator. “It is literally the first thing I do as soon as I get home. So, you know - find what works for you!” And while busy parents are no strangers to multitasking, we’re throwing the rulebook out of the window. Designer Joana laughs at the idea of exercise as “me-time.” “I’ve given up trying to do my workout videos alone. My daughter thinks she’s Jane Fonda at this point.”
But other habits are really coming into their own. Simple, easy things, like taking care of plants and pets, cleaning and mending, cooking from scratch: these daily routines can be a real source of comfort, connection and stability in a time of great change and uncertainty. Our lead designer, Carmo, has been tending to her grandmother’s garden. “I can’t spend time with her right now, but at least I can make sure her beloved plants are happy and healthy. It gets me outdoors, and lifts my mood.” Our kitchens are getting more love than they have in a while, too. Silviana has been perfecting her sourdough loaves, and trying out vegan recipes from Pick up Limes, while Maggie has been “procrastibaking” (mainly chocolate chip cookies - it’s called comfort food for a reason!).
The rhythm and repetition of these familiar daily tasks provides us with a soothing reminder that life goes on, and so do we. Over the next days and weeks, I think we’ll all discover which of these habits are just getting us through the current crisis, and which ones - small, simple, but oh so satisfying - we want to focus on for keeps.
To help you audit your own daily habits, try asking yourself these three questions:
Does this ease tension, or add to it?
If the effort of maintaining the habit is adding to your stress levels, let it go.
Can I see myself doing this forever? The habits we sustain are the ones that sustain us. We want them for keeps.
Does it truly nourish me? It’s normal to feel tired right after working out - but over time, do you feel replenished by your exercise routine? If not, you might want to change the workout. Same with food: what’s momentarily satisfying may not be long-term nourishing. Use this time to listen to your body and tune in to what real nourishment means to you.
Do you have a story about how your daily habits have changed, and how kencko fits in? We’d love to hear from you: [email protected]