Personal Blog

All it takes is a global pandemic... November 28, 2020

We all want to make changes in our lives: “I wish I drank less coffee”, “I wish I started working out regularly”. But when it comes to implementing these changes, many people give up after a few days or weeks and go back to their old ways.

Covid19 pandemic brought sorrow and suffering to millions of families worlwide. I have been one of the few lucky who could continue working from home and thankfully have not experienced any significant consequences health-wise. One thing that the pandemic did to me and many others however is that it set up an experiment that would not have been possible otherwise by forcing certain lifestyle changes.

I have always liked working from coffeeshops and almost never worked at home. I very often ate out or got takeout rather than cooking my own food. With the pandemic, I had to give up these habits overnight: I completely stopped going to coffeeshops or the office. I started eating, sleeping and working in my one-bedroom apartment. For about 6 months, I cooked every meal. In a way, the pandemic forced an almost perfect experimental condition for me to test how my productivity would look like if I worked from home and how cooking at home would affect my health.

It is hard to say pandemic created the flawless experimental conditions, but it was close: Everyone is impacted negatively by the devastating news of deaths day after day. This definitely had an impact on productivity for many people. Not going to work or coffeeshops meant less walking and exercise, which affects health together with home cooking.

In general, it is very rare that humans make such sudden changes in their lifestyles. We most of the time make incremental changes to our behaviors. Even if we try a sudden change, we do not persist on the change for months. There may be couple of reasons for why we do not operate by trying to set up the perfect experimental conditions; but I think the most prominent one is the need to feel secure. Though suboptimal, our current state “works”, and we simply are scared to break it by making a significant change.

Before the pandemic, after trying to work from home for a few days I would always resume going to coffeeshops for work because I simply could not work from home and it felt like I was wasting my time. But part of the reason for why I could not work from home is also because I didn’t have to: I could always go back to my favorite coffeeshop to finish reading that paper. There is no denying that it must be an evolutionary trait to test out changes gradually. But I wonder if we are missing on changing things for the better because the comfort of our current states prevents us from putting in the necessary effort for change.