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Healthy habits slip lately? How to get them back on track

Click to play video: 'Why healthy habits lead to increased happiness' Why healthy habits lead to increased happiness
WATCH: Why healthy habits lead to increased happiness – Apr 30, 2020

The novel coronavirus pandemic has shifted many of our regular routines, including some of our healthy habits like regular bedtimes and exercise.

While it’s certainly a stressful time that calls for self-compassion, maintaining the healthy habits we built before the pandemic can help us come out of the situation happier and stronger, said fitness expert and founder of Fit Feels Good Oonagh Duncan.

“If you’re someone who has maybe let your health habits slip a little bit, I want you to not feel bad about it — don’t beat yourself up about it — [and] instead reframe it as an experiment,” Duncan said in an interview on The Morning Show.

READ MORE: Small space and no equipment? Here’s how you can still exercise

“There’s this psychological phenomenon where we think that we want more freedom than [what] actually makes us happy. We think, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if I can just sleep in as late as I want?’ But actually, we are happier when we have a little bit more structure to our lives — even if the structure feels a little bit hard.”
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Duncan said if you’ve been letting those healthier habits go, now is a good time to reflect on the past month and evaluate where you can make some changes.

Say, for example, you’ve stopped your regular exercise routine or you’ve been drinking more coffee than usual. Be honest with yourself on how certain behaviours are making you feel, she said, and make adjustments accordingly.

Click to play video: 'Taking care of your teeth at home' Taking care of your teeth at home
Taking care of your teeth at home – Apr 22, 2020

“Think, ‘Is this working for me? Is it making me happier, or less happy?'” she said. “If it’s making you less happy, now is a great time to implement some more structure.”

Getting healthy habits back on track

Once you decide what habits you’d like to drop and which you’d like to adopt (or readopt), Duncan said to try something called “habit stacking.”

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Habit stacking is when you take an existing regular habit, like brushing your teeth in the morning, and add a behaviour to it. Over time, with repetition, the goal is to make this new behaviour a habit.

“You say, ‘As soon as I get out of bed, I’ll drink a big glass of water; right after I brush my teeth, I’m going to walk the dog; right after my Zoom team meeting, I’m going to go do my workout,'” Duncan said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus cabin fever? Keeping mental health a priority during self-isolation

“You really want to frame it like that: ‘If this, then that.'”

Some of the most important habits for Canadians during quarantine and physical distancing, Duncan said, are the behaviours that serve us well during “regular” life and promote health. These include eating plenty of vegetables, getting enough sleep, and regular exercise and meditation, which help reduce stress.

“There’s all these habits that maybe we thought of as a ‘duty’ — something we have to do … but the fact is, [they’ve] always been about self-care,” Duncan said.
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“If you reframe it like that, then they become even more important at a time like this.”

Click to play video: 'Exercise tips to stay fit at home' Exercise tips to stay fit at home
Exercise tips to stay fit at home – May 2, 2020

If you have kids at home, it’s also a good time to teach them positive habits.

Parenting expert Alyson Schafer previously told Global News that it’s important to model good habits and attitudes while discussing health from an educational perspective.

When it comes to getting your kids to exercise, Schafer said to make sure that you just don’t put on a YouTube video and let them follow along alone.

“That is not social enough for youngsters,” she said.

“They don’t need more screen time alone. If you are doing yoga, ask them to join you … Be active and inspire them. Discuss the health benefits in an age-appropriate way.”

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

Laura.Hensley@globalnews.ca

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