Some Positives That Might Come Out of Covid-19

Toby Hazlewood

Trying to see the silver lining of a dark cloud

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The news bulletins remind me that things are only just getting started as Covid-19 wreaks havoc across our country and around the world. We went into lockdown in the UK today (the 24th March) and it feels very much like the calm before a very long and punishing storm.

Nonetheless, I’m trying to keep grounded and there already seem to be some positive effects emerging that might possibly outlive the virus itself. These are effects I’m feeling in my own life and which are also exhibited in the behaviours of those around me.

Less reliance on spending money for fun

I’m not ignoring the frenzy in supermarkets as people compete to stockpile groceries and toilet paper, but I think we’re genuinely learning that more accumulation and acquisition of stuff doesn’t equate to a better life.

In recent weeks it’s become apparent that none of us needs to spend the amount of money that we do in pursuit of leisure and entertainment. People seem happy to be able to exercise, take a walk in the fresh air or simply to be around their families. It truly is about the simple pleasures it would seem.

Parks and open spaces seem to be bringing joy to many more people than they would ordinarily. Social distancing is being observed for the most part and many seem to be realising that it’s a blessing to step out into the outside world and appreciate the surroundings.

The relentless material consumption that has prevailed in recent times will no doubt be recognised as a contributing factor for those facing financial difficulties as their income is radically reduced or lost altogether. Life will go on and hopefully all such people will recover and secure new jobs in due course, and get their finances back in order.

When they do, they might just recognise that building up a buffer of savings in future might be preferable to shopping for new clothes on a weekly basis.

A renewed focus on improving the world around us

It’s striking how many people seem to be taking better care of their property in the absence of anything else to do. Painting and decorating projects are being tackled, gardens are being tidied, lawns mown and cars washed.

This may be prompted by boredom as people try and keep busy to pass the time. Hopefully being forced to spend more time at home has helped many to realise with gratitude that they have a great deal already. Hopefully they are choosing to maximise the enjoyment they can get from their property by taking more care of it.

The same seems true for the conversations struck up between passers-by. Social relationships and neighbourhood spirit seem to be appreciated more than ever. We’ve had conversations (at a safe distance) with passing neighbours who we’ve never previously spoken with and it’s nice to feel a community spirit growing in the town.

The renewed focus on our local environment also seems to extend to the support of local businesses. At times like this we’re all keen to get the food needed to feed our family, but there‘s also a real drive to help local businesses through these times. It stands to reason as these are also local employers. Nonetheless, it’s refreshing to see.

Education and work may change for good

While there were some teething issues initially (some technical, some cultural) home-schooling seems to have been largely successful for our 11 and 14 year old kids. Our eldest daughter has already been advised that her university won’t open again before the next semester and so is completing this one studying remotely.

There will be many lessons that come about as a result of this shift away from classroom learning by default. While I doubt it’ll change things completely, there could be real cultural shifts that happen in education forever.

Technologies to support remote learning have existed for a long while but many of these seem only now to be getting rolled-out when they’re absolutely necessary. With the majority of the pain having been overcome, perhaps educational establishments will continue to use them?

The same also seems to be true for remote working. I’ve long been a home-worker and actually prefer working at home to being in the office. Currently most of my coworkers are doing the same. While it’s prompting a lot of learning and demanding adaptability for many, it seems to be mostly successful.

Once more of us are conversant with home working it may well prove more sustainable and get utilised more in future.

Appreciating the things we took for granted

I will never again take for granted the plentifully-stocked supermarket shelves and freedom of movement that were the norm here in the UK until a few weeks ago. Covid-19 has given many of us an insight into how others around the world are used to living — that’s a good thing.

I’m ashamed to realise how much I had come to assume that food would always be available and that toilet roll could be easily obtained. Being able to get what we want, whenever we want it seems excessive once we realise the peace and serenity that comes from having what we actually need.

Valuing our health

Another thing that many have taken for granted for a very long time, myself included is health and wellbeing. I get that many more people die every day for many other reasons — it’s still unnerving that such a potent virus can come about from virtually nowhere and claim so many lives, spreading so quickly.

Again, the number of people who are out taking exercise outdoors as a means of preserving their physical and mental health attests that more are realising that health and wellbeing can’t be taken for granted.

Becoming less wasteful

With stocks of food now being limited and appreciating that supply chains may not return to normal any time soon, I’m encouraging our kids not to waste anything and doing the same myself.

It means eating up the food we take and not throwing anything away without good reason. It means being satisfied with and grateful for enough, not defaulting to greed or excess just because there’s more available. It means making do with what we have so that others can get what they need too.

It’s not just with food that excess has become the norm. Generally in life we seem to have gotten used to only being satisfied when we have more than we need. We have hundreds of TV channels available to us, multiple apps for sending messages and texts, a choice of outfits depending on our mood and more space than we can possibly need in our homes.

Through being less wasteful we can hopefully learn how little we really need to survive and to thrive. That in turn may revise our baseline of what’s necessary to live a happy life in future.

There will undoubtedly be many serious adverse effects from Covid-19 and these aren’t to be downplayed. Nonetheless, I hope that many of the positive effects that I’ve witnessed already will endure into the future.

A greater spirit of community, a more grateful population and a less wasteful and entitled society sound like positive legacies of Covid-19 to me!

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