State of Emergency: Time to Break Bad Habits?


JouAn Anne Chen is a counselor at Tokyo Mental Health

What does the state of emergency present to you? A chance to surf the net? Recklessly procrastinate? Or an opportunity to break such bad habits for good? With ample time on everyone’s hands, counselors say this is the opportune moment to break bad habits. 

“A habit is a simple routine we fall into,” said JouAn Anne Chen, a counselor at Tokyo Mental Health. “Some are beneficial, some are not,” she added. To identify a bad habit from a good one, Chen suggests you ask yourself: “Is this behavior letting me live my best life?” If not, grab a pen and write it down. Great start! You’ve pulled off the first step on this journey: paying attention to your behavior. 

Next: “When you notice the impulse to do the old habit, intentionally replace it with a new habit you want to develop,” Chen said.  For example, when people get bored, they turn to their devices. Instead, why not open a book? “Then, repeat the new habitual patterns purposely,” Chen said. “Repetition is important when you want to wire a new pattern in your brain.”

Repetition is important when you want to wire a new pattern in your brain.”

While it sounds easy enough, it’s not. Chen said the key to staying efficient is to relax and give yourself the necessary time. “One day, you will suddenly realize that you don’t have to force yourself to intentionally conduct the new habit,” she added.

Chen said this golden opportunity for change also comes with an element of mental rejuvenation. Overcoming the challenges nurtures a positive view of self and helps develop resilience, both of which account for good mental health. 

And speaking of good mental health, Chen had a few words to add in light of the pandemic. “During this period, we are all doing the best we can – we will have good days and bad days. Do something good for yourself. Read that book, watch that series, call that friend, organize your closet, take the nap,” she said. “Be kind to yourself.”

So, what is your plan for change? For this writer, not hitting the snooze button on the alarm clock for 22 days in a row has been life-changing.