Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Lockdown and habit

What we in the UK call Lockdown is what US folk are calling Shelter-in-place — a prettier term, in my opinion.

It is an interesting and revealing, many-faceted experience.

Not immediately, but after a while, noticing myself following new grooves unrelated to anything imposed on me by circumstances, I woke up to the reality that this is a first-class opportunity to establish a new habit. Or habits.

Under normal (or perhaps one should say "former" or "previous") circumstances, I find an obstacle to establishing new habits is the distraction of other things to think about.

Say, for example, I want to establish the habit of walking down to the spring to fetch water as soon as one of the big bottles is empty, rather than waiting for all six bottles to be empty, then making a trip to the spring in the car. I can do that; of course I can — but I don't. The reason I don't is because there are so many other things to occupy my mind; obligations and stressors and worries and commitments that fill up my mental bandwidth, such that walking down to the spring becomes one more darned thing to think about, and I don't go and don't go — and suddenly all six bottles are empty and a car trip looks essential, when it wasn't in the first place.

During lockdown we are allowed one walk a day for exercise. So, once a bottle is empty, we walk down to the spring and fill it up. To make it an extensive enough walk for exercise, we go the long way round by the brook and through the park. Simple.

Those who have investigated into the matter have discovered it takes anything from 18 to 254 days to establish a new habit, but the average time it takes people is 66 days — so, just over 2 months.

I am finding, in this lockdown, the lack of things competing for my attention is allowing me to focus properly on evaluating what I want to prioritise, and then I have this golden opportunity to begin laying down the tracks for a new habit. 

Habit energy is one of the strongest forces in our lives. It is what creates the phenomenon of the path of least resistance — the way we have always walked will be that. A habit is extremely hard to break. 

I cannot think of a time in my life that has offered a more shining opportunity than this for establishing new habits. This jewel of lockdown is surely one of the arcana secretorum Isaiah mentioned. 


Rapunzel said...

Excellent--once you've got your water walk habit established it will be extremely hard to break!

Obviously we all need to think up a good habit to establish now that we have time away from perpetual business to both think and practice.
Our family are finding all sorts of silver linings to this particular government imposed cloud.

Not surprising. God has a habit (probably hard to break) of tucking in blessings everywhere.

You do make me smile, Pen!

Pen Wilcock said...

Well, that's mutual. For somebody far away, whom I've never physically met, you feel like a remarkably good friend. x

Bean said...

I totally agree with you, my sister and I spoke on the phone together this past weekend, we both agreed the slower pace of life is very nice. Both of us have rearranged our daily activity because we have more time to ourselves each day.
I wonder how many families will be in a real big hurry to cram all of their activities back into their daily/weekly routine? As and when we are allowed back out, and life resumes some kind of normality, I think many people will realize that the shut down time was for the most part a very much relaxing, spiritually recharging time.
Have we missed sports, missed lots of shopping trips, missed running endless errands, I haven't. I have missed seeing my children and grandchildren in person, that is the huge downside of the social distancing, but otherwise it is good.
But I know there are people who are suffering extreme anxiety and isolation. I think it would be hard if a person lives alone and is suddenly very isolated and can no longer pop out to the store, or church, or social activity to be around other people. And of course those that have lost their job and the household income is suddenly gone or greatly reduced. Or perhaps someone in the household has the virus.
And I feel bad for all of the small business owners who are seeing the business they built with blood, sweat and tears get wiped out because they cannot operate during the shutdown.
As with all things in life, there are upsides and downsides, but one thing is for sure, things come and go and we all weather the storm.

Peace be with you,

Pen Wilcock said...

I think we must be cautious when the lockdown is lifted, because in its wake will come the second wave.

It has been a winnowing, for sure, this time. It has made things rise to the surface and reveal themselves — which choices we made were wise, which countries have provident governments, what matters to us personally . . . so many realities are stepping forward from the shadows into the light.

Pax et bonum, Bean x

Anonymous said...

Ah Pen, here you are. Phew. I was beginning to worry things might be difficult for you... but you were wandering to the spring!! Yay!! How perfect... and such a wonderful habit to cultivate. I love the connection of water and life and think there’s something wonderfully spiritual about you embracing this opportunity. I wonder what it is that makes us frenetic ( even when we’re considered calm people). I’m really taking stock of how much time and space I need. A lot.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and wisdom.
Deb x

Pen Wilcock said...

Hello, my friend. Waving! May you be peaceful, may you be free. x

Elin said...

Sweden isn't as still as the UK but there are plenty of changes here too. I mostly work from home. I am not that fond of it, it is lonely, boring and being at home makes me want to do things in my home rather than work. I do like that I can take a nap during my lunch break and then eat a quick meal while working later. I like that I don't go on a bus every weekday or ride my bike to work in a panic because I am so late. Since I work from home my time is more mine even though I also get more distracted. I miss my wonderful colleagues and our discussions about work issues and more. Sure, we have an online fika once a week and I keep contact with some other colleagues with facebook messenger but it is not like meeting them. I do go to work about once a week and then I get to talk to some people which is great but I miss having that every day.

I am sad for the kids and for MIL that we didn't get to meet during Easter as we usually do. For me, I can do without it, we have a sometimes complicated relationship but I do know she loves her grandkids and I want her to see them as often as we can which isn't often due to distance and two parents working. It is sad for her and the kids but we hope we can at least go to our summer cabin this summer and we can meet with some distance if the risk of spread is still high. If we will need to sit on the lawn and she on the porch that is still better than nothing.

Since not everything is closed here I do my best to support small businesses that I like. I bought a lovely soap two weeks ago at a eco-friendly store that I like and a wooden owl at a shop that sells folk art and locally made stuff. I have wanted one of their wooden birds for some time so I felt today was the day. It is now named Ludwig Flap by the kids. On the day I go to work I try to buy take-out at my favorite restaurants so they have a chance to survive.

If I hope for anything after this I hope it is different changes for the sake of the environment like less flying but I don't know if that much will really happen. I might be a pessimist but I am rather negative until I know for sure.

Pen Wilcock said...

Ah yes — the best possible outcomes to this would be the capacity to work together and the will to tackle climate change; a far more serious threat to all life than any virus. Like you I am finding ways to support those small businesses still trading, so they don't fold completely. Some eBayers have been able to continue; I suppose it depends if they have a commercial premises like a warehouse or a separate garage where they can store what they sell.
It will be interesting to see what lasting changes come out of this change in work patterns. I wonder if more people will continue to work from home at least part of the time, once the new way of doing things has settled in.

Suzan said...

Pen I am so happy to see this post. It is good to see that you are well. May it stay so. You have mentioned the possibility of the virus resurfacing once restrictions are lifted.

My heart is distressed that I won't be able to see my Bethany marry. They are marrying in a big church but the current rules state five. So bride, groom, priest and two witnesses. Yet you can have ten at a funeral.

I love that you are establishing new routines. How wonderful.

I am afraid my life has altered little. I miss social interaction. I have so little of it usually. This morning I am tired of mum's constant criticism and chatter. I crave some silence. Days without a break are taking a toll.

God bless us all and may mercy and wisdom be given in abundance to our leaders.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to add there're some things I am truly enjoying. Many birds calls are sweeter and more obvious. I do have a huge hearing loss and there is less outside noise competing with them. They are extending our freeways and building a new light rail system. Now they are working through the day and not overnight. What a huge blessing

Pen Wilcock said...

Oh, how bitterly sad that you won't be able to be present at Bethany's wedding! I suppose they allow more people at a funeral for compassion.
We too notice the birds more, which is lovely. We are allowed to go out once a day for a walk for exercise, and in addition we may go to fetch essential groceries or medicines, making as few trips as possible. We're enjoying the quietness of the streets, the sense of spaciousness. There is some traffic about still, because people do have to get to work or collect their groceries, but much less. In our small residential road, we can walk down the middle of the road and just move aside if a car comes — not something we could ever normally do.

Rapunzel said...

Oh my heck--
my cynical side suddenly thought: I bet they allow twice as many people to gather for a funeral than for a wedding because about half of marriages aren't reallly going to last anyway, but death is definitely for the long haul.

I wonder about my brain sometimes.

Pen Wilcock said...

Ooh! Good point! So if you get divorced and remarried during lockdown, you get your full ten people! x

greta said...

the term 'shelter in place' has been in use here in the midwest for a long time. it comes up about this time every year when tornado season resumes. we are well trained to head to our safe space and shelter in place the minute we hear the sirens wailing! so i was intrigued to hear it used in a completely different context. my new habit is treating the grocery runs as a 'surgical strike' (as one expert put it.) i make a list, sit in my car in the parking lot to plan my route once i get inside, dash about in an efficient manner, have credit card at the ready so i don't have to rummage in purse and then make a beeline for the exit. sure prevents impulse buying!

Pen Wilcock said...

Ha ha — yes! I am so lucky, I already had a weekly online order for groceries with a firm that has remained faithful and true and hasn't flung me out of their list, so my food is dropped off for me every Friday. And other people in my household go to the grocer's about once a week, and are willing to pick up the odd extras not available at the place I shop online. I tend to be rather hesitant in a store, so I think I would have trouble with the one-way system that (I think) they've put in place. I'd keep changing my mind and needing to double back.