Info graphic with text 'Building Healthy and Sustainable Habits'

“One of the most important skills in fighting depression is simply being able to create and sticking to realistic and sustainable goals, while feeling like shit.”

COVID-19 has been especially hard on those of us dealing with mental health issues, like depression, as social isolation and increased stress have taken a toll on our health.

Though the pandemic is still ongoing, more and more restrictions are being lifted and life is slowly ‘returning’ to a new normal. 

A key factor in managing our mental health during this transitional period will be establishing new (and re-affirming existing) healthy habits and routines. 

Researchers who have studied habit formation say we often go about it the wrong way. Instead of making bold resolutions to create new habits that drastically diverge from our current state of being, it’s better to focus on taking small steps towards incremental improvements.[1]

Depression can interfere with our goals as low energy, lack of sleep, and decreased interest can make it more difficult to stick to newly created habits. But this doesn’t mean starting new healthy habits is impossible – it simply means that we need to start small, focus on the process, and be persistent.

Myths about forming new habits while fighting depression

Here are a few myths that often get in the way of us trying to start a new habit and sticking with it. 

MythFeeling like you don’t have enough energy.

FactStart with small and realistic steps and work your way up. As you recover, you will gain more energy to put towards new habits.

MythThinking that if habits don’t come easy for you, why bother trying.

FactGive yourself more time and be more realistic about how long it may take to form a new habit. If daunting, break the habit down into smaller steps.

MythThinking that you're bound to miss a day, and this will ruin things, so why start?

FactIt’s actually a good idea to create habits that allow for flexibility rather than demanding rigidity.

MythThinking it only takes 21 days to create a new habit.

FactResearchers have found that each person forms habits at different rates. The average time it took volunteers in one study was 66 days.[2]

A guide to forming new habits

Creating new healthier habits can be tough, but there are practical tips and strategies that can make them easier to build into your life. 

To help us along this journey, we’ve created some articles around forming habits and setting goals. Learn more about:


References

  1. Lally, P., Van Jaarsveld, C. H., Potts, H. W., & Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European journal of social psychology, 40(6), 998-1009. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ejsp.674 
  2. Ibid.