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The #1 Worst Grocery Shopping Error You Need to Stop Making

Now that we're in a pandemic with no end in sight, it's time to rethink how we approach this ritual.

Many of us used to look forward to grocery shopping. We got into the zone as we moved through the aisles, checking off items on our grocery list, maybe listening to a podcast or music to add some entertainment. If shopping took a little longer than absolutely necessary, that wasn't a problem since we were kind of enjoying it anyway.

But now that we're in the middle of a pandemic with no end in sight, it's required that many grocery shoppers rethink how we approach this ritual. Due to the health risks it can introduce, we no longer have the luxury of a leisurely shopping trip. With that in mind, one unsuspecting habit that medical experts suggest we all reconsider is listening to loud music or other audio entertainment while inside the grocery store.

"For some, listening to music can make a seemingly mundane task like shopping more enjoyable, but I'd argue that grocery shopping does not have to be mundane and require a distraction to help the process," says Daniel Rosen, M.D., a bariatric surgeon who runs and serves as a concierge COVID-19 medical adviser. "With the threat of COVID-19 and the need for social distancing, it's advisable to limit all distractions, including excessively loud music, for the safety of yourself and other shoppers."

Dr. Rosen says that while music may help you focus on getting the food items you need, it's become increasingly important for shoppers to be aware of their surroundings in order to practice safe habits and maintain social distancing. For this reason, you'll need all of your senses activated.

"The last thing you want to do is get so caught up in the music that you become distracted and overlook adequate social distancing measures or proper hygiene practices," says Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, M.D., M.S., internist and health expert. "Do not let your guard down while out grocery shopping during this pandemic crisis. The goal is to get in and out of the store as quickly as possible with minimal exposure to the germs of others. You must remain focused at all times."

Jagdish Khubchandani, Ph.D., professor of health at Ball State University, points out how those who listen to loud music or podcasts can present risks to themselves and others.

"They can't listen to store announcements on precautions to be taken, and a general sense of space and position may be lost with regards to keeping distance from others," Khubchandani says.

For those who enjoy having some loud music while shopping, this might come as bad news—especially as music or other audio distractions have provided relief to many during these high-stress times.

"While music can be a great anxiety reliever and many shoppers are nervous going to grocery stores and public places during COVID-19, if the music is too loud, it can become a detriment," says Dr. Abe Malkin, M.D. M.B.A., founder and medical director of Concierge MD LA. "Music that is too loud can actually increase anxiety and irritability of shoppers, as well as distract shoppers causing them to linger in the store longer than needed or become less aware of social distancing and other precautions."

These experts suggest that while in an indoor, potentially crowded space like a grocery store, pop those headphones off and be sure you're paying attention. You can always resume your listening once you're out of the store. (Of course, this does not apply to those with hearing devices or other medical needs that require the use of earpieces or headphones.)

For more, here are 5 other things to keep in mind when you're shopping at the grocery store.

Alex Daniel
A journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. Read more about Alex