For better or worse, some behaviors just don’t want to quit — and we’ve picked up plenty of “new normals” during quarantine.
We strive to share insights based on diverse experiences without stigma or shame. These are two powerful voices.
We did a thing. We made it through more than a year of quarantine. And while we may never get back to the “old normal,” this new normal has brought about some interesting habits and behaviors we may (or not) want to keep around.
We yearned to create, connect, and express ourselves — all while surviving a traumatic and globally devastating pandemic.
Put simply, “a habit is essentially a pattern of behavior that becomes automatic after regular repetition,” says Taylor Hiers, licensed professional counselor with Thriveworks.
We become accustomed to some intentionally, while others start without a second thought.
But habits aren’t quite that simple.
There’s plenty of good habits we do that influence our well-being, like brushing our teeth, exercising, and journaling. Others we do because we can, it’s convenient, or it feels good to us.
On the flip side, there are those that aren’t inherently “bad” but you might be more hesitant to admit to (like picking your nose when nobody’s watching), and others that can have more harmful effects on our health, especially if they’re done in excess — such as smoking or drinking.
Plus, what one person deems an acceptable and positive habit might be viewed entirely different by someone else.
New habits don’t just appear overnight: It takes approximately 66 days for one to become a mainstay, and can take even longer to untangle from a long-standing one.
With things looking very different during COVID-19 restrictions, there’s been ample opportunity for everyone to develop new habits and behaviors.
Since the pandemic began, we’ve tried out and made habits that span from healthy and fun, to odd and potentially harmful.
We’re taking a look at 23 of the most popular and reveal how they influence our well-being.
1. Experiencing vivid dreams
Albeit unplanned, experiencing vivid dreams has become the norm for many, and it’s all down to the increased stress and intense emotions we’ve been feeling.
“Strange dreams can occur for many reasons, but one of those reasons is stress” Heirs says. “Humans naturally dream about — in roundabout ways — the things that are occurring in real life. [So] if the year of quarantine was causing any level of stress, this is often played out in our dreams.”
“If you notice that your dreams are increasing in stressful scenarios, or you wake up feeling worse than when you went to bed, stress is likely a factor,” he adds.
The good news is, processing the dreams you remember can help you make sense of it — so dream diaries can help you recognize stress and maybe even do something about it.
2. Understanding quarantine brain
Don’t panic if you’ve been feeling foggy, exhausted, confused, or unmotivated over the past year while barely leaving home. Quarantine brain is something many of us have had.
It’s simply our brain’s way of coping with and processing everything going on right now.
3. Being a good sport
Desperate times have called for desperate measures — and during quarantine folks have both invented a host of new sports and revisited forgotten ones.
Sports fans have sat through reruns in lieu of live events, and some sports-starved fans have even turned to watching late-night live curling competitions overseas.
Carry on cheering, because supporting a team can reduce feelings of depression and alienation.
4. Wearing sweat pants
Deciding on outfits is low on our priority list — who cares if you wear the same pair of sweat pants all week anyway? Aside from potentially being a tad unhygienic, you’re missing out on the added value that comes with routine.
Consider making an effort to dress up occasionally, though — doing so may boost your physical health and self-esteem.
5. Trying viral trends
Thanks to YouTube, being satisfied through trends like Mukbang — a Korean video phenomena where people film themselves eating while talking to the camera (sometimes quite loudly) — has taken off to the likes of hundreds of millions of subscribers.
Psychologists believe that the eating sounds in these videos have a similar effect on viewers as ASMR videos, eliciting psychological and physiological sensations that can lessen stress.
6. Seeking recreation online
In the absence of tropical (or any) vacations, millions sought refuge in the virtual paradise of Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
But there’s a good excuse for more screen time, as playing games involving elements of social connection may increase feelings of positive well-being.
7. Booking staycations
With travel restrictions in place, we’ve sought getaways closer to home.
Whether you’ve enjoyed days out to local attractions or stayed away for a few nights in a cozy cabin nearby, taking a break is always beneficial and creates a sense of newness in otherwise familiar stomping grounds.
8. Adopting new furry family members
As we found ourselves apart from family and friends, the number of pet adoptions increased.
9. Changing exercise routines
With gyms closed and no rushing to meetings, we’ve looked to other ways to get our heart pumping — such as brisk neighborhood walks and the resurgence of biking and rollerblading.
As more movement enhances all aspects of our well-being, it’s one to stick with.
10. Staying up later
When morning commutes were canceled, many ditched sensible bedtimes to watch more TV.
11. Binge watching is the new norm
“Tiger King,” “Hamilton,” and everything in between — we streamed a lot during the pandemic. So much so that we ran out of new things to watch and started rewatching old shows, from start to finish.
Watching an entire series in one day is a popular way to pass the time, but consider pressing pause next time you go to hit play.
Binge watching our favorite shows has been
12. Embracing DIY
Some of us have tried our hand at many of the goods or services we were in the habit of paying others to do in the “old normal,” such as dyeing our own hair, giving our housemates haircuts, or blending our own craft coffee drinks.
Other folks have used the indoor isolation to ‘embrace the gray‘ or other natural hair.
From painting walls to making handmade gifts, we’ve all been a little more DIY.
And craftiness is worth getting onboard with. Creativity has the potential to improve quality of life, enhance mental functioning, and lower anxiety.
Thanks in part to videos on TikTok and Instagram, tie-dye was huge in 2020.
13. Daytime munchies and happy hours
With the fridge a few steps away and no boss around, it’s been oh-so-easy to indulge a bit more. The Quarantine 15, as it’s known, became a thing.
No judgment here. You can find 7 reasons you don’t need to concern yourself with it right here.
And who can forget Stanley Tucci’s soothing cocktail instagrams? A lot of us didn’t just watch, though. We indulged too.
In fact, according to one study,
14. Skipping schedules
Without appointments and social commitments, it’s been easy for routines to go awry. Keep to a schedule if you can, as doing so helps instill feelings of certainty, control, and pleasure.
15. Developing new shopping habits
During the early days we saw lots of empty store shelves. Panic buying is an approach people take to feel relief and control, but can actually cause further stress — do you really need three extra boxes of pasta?
As time went on, free time and avoiding stores led to plenty of online purchases. Retail therapy may enhance mood and lower anxiety, but moderation is important. And be sure that you’re buying for the right reasons.
According to a report by J.P. Morgan, COVID-19 dramatically changed how we shopped for everything — whether electronics, groceries, clothes, or other essentials.
For many people, our new shopping habits emerged out of safety considerations. But for some of us, online shopping for essentials was a habit that triggered more compulsory buys.
16. Logging extra hours at work
With little else to occupy us, plenty of people have been putting in extra hours at the home office.
If social media is anything to go by, few people haven’t not baked during quarantine. There’s more than just good taste involved: Baking is a mindful activity that can encourage happiness and reduce symptoms of depression.
Popular faves (and ‘Pinterest fails’!): fresh bread loaves and banana bread bricks.
18. Learning online
Online courses mean we’ve dabbled in everything from photography and poker to yoga and gardening, without leaving our homes.
Learning new skills is connected to enjoyment, better self-esteem, and enhanced memory.
20. Balancing bucket lists
Extra downtime means we’ve been busy ticking things off our bucket lists, and doing so offers a real confidence boost and sense of achievement.
Remember the guy taking his 90-something grandma across the United States to visit every single national park? Well, as of this publishing they’re still going, making her bucket list overflow! Challenge accepted, Grandma Joy.
21. Playing with puzzles
Simple but fun, millions have tackled a jigsaw puzzle (or three). Activities like this are great for mindfulness and encouraging a sense of accomplishment — especially when you place that final tile.
22. Planning meals
Cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner can be tiring, but many have discovered that meal planning can reduce kitchen stress, avoid food waste, and make you a more confident cook.
23. Creating space for self-care
‘Self-care’ has been a big pandemic buzzword. From taking things sloooooow, to reflecting on the positives of the day, this writer reveals how to get started — and why it’s so beneficial.
It’s fascinating to recognize how our behaviors have changed during the pandemic, but what does this mean as we venture back out?
More time with our thoughts has allowed us to really take stock of ourselves and our actions — what we do and don’t like.
“The pandemic revealed a lot about human nature,” says Hiers. “People are different and therefore responses to situations — especially stressful ones — are different.”
“So many people used the pandemic as a time to accomplish something, to clear clutter, build something, garden, or learn a new skill,” he continues. “Others found the changes extremely stressful, resulting in anxiety, setting aside responsibilities, and essentially ‘freezing’ in the face of the stress to survive.”
Regardless of what reaction you had, though, try not to be too hard on yourself.
This past year was unprecedented and there was no “normal” way to react in the face of such widespread trauma, stress, and tragedy as we lost loved ones, jobs, and our sense of security and normalcy.
Still, Hiers says, “self-reflection on why that behavior occurred would be beneficial. Reflecting on why we behave certain ways, or why we make certain choices, only helps us grow.”
For example, it’s a good time to reflect on some of your habits from this past year — and decide which ones (if any) you’d like to keep and which ones you may need help stopping.
On to better things
If new habits have brought positive changes to your mental or physical well-being, you might seriously consider making them a permanent fixture.
Perhaps regular meditation has given you the inner peace you’d craved, or frequently checking in with friends has helped strengthen relationships.
Just because you might be heading back to the office, or the kids are returning to in-person school and spending less time at home, it doesn’t mean these new habits have to go away.
When it’s more than a bad habit
It’s important to be aware of behaviors that might have started venturing into “compulsion” territory, or any that are being fueled by a mental health condition you’re managing.
It’s possible for bad habits to be signs of a mental health condition
“If a habit has increased in frequency, is causing a loss of functioning during your day, or causing you to lose sleep or feel distressed, it is likely time to seek the help of a professional,” Hiers says.
That’s because there are a number of habits that could actually indicate an underlying mental health condition, such as trichotillomania (where one pulls out their hair) or .
Habits form when we repeat an activity over and over again, until it becomes something we do on autopilot.
Quarantining and restrictions due to the pandemic has meant there’s plenty of opportunities to develop a new habit or 10.
Like all habits and behaviors, some were good, some were “bad,” and some were embarrassing… but unless we did them to excess or caused ourselves harm, most were pretty harmless.
But if there’s a habit or two you’ve started that you don’t want to keep around, there are a number of ways you can break them. Recognizing the need to do so is a positive first step.
And if there’s a habit you’re a bit embarrassed to admit to but does absolutely no harm (we see you, people who talk to themselves)? Stick with it and be proud!
Chantelle Pattemore is a writer and editor based in London, UK. She focuses on health, lifestyle, beauty, food, and fitness.
Simone M. Scully is a new mom and journalist who writes about health, science, and parenting. Find her at simonescully.com or on Facebook and Twitter.