Published on: 1 March 2021. Written by: Geraldine Meadows
As we mark a year of life in lockdown, therapist Geraldine Meadows shares the little wins we can hold on to as we emerge into spring.
This month marks a year since we entered lockdown for the first time, forced to adapt to a new way of living none of us had known before.
It’s well known that the restrictions have come at a steep price, not least in terms of its effect on our collective mental health. That said, humans are wonderfully adaptable creatures and we adjusted overnight, turning our hand to new ways of working, schooling and socialising.
We have suffered, but we have also survived and, amid all the strain, even found some positives in our new way of being. With the end of restrictions finally in sight, we look at six small positive aspects we can take with us as we emerge into the new normal.
1. The strengthening of key connections
If there’s anything we can take from the past year, it’s a reminder of the importance of our closest connections. Humans need connection to thrive, and as our chances for daily interaction diminished, it seems many of us turned to more regular check-ins, with just one or two of the people closest to us.
For me, after a 20-year friendship based on hanging out together or talking via text, it was a surprise that I started having weekly phone calls with my best friend in Glasgow. This new development felt entirely natural, critical even – an anchoring point in an otherwise adrift week. I think many of us have taken great comfort in establishing regular calls with loved ones far away, strengthening bonds and providing important support. Let’s hope these closer links will remain as more normal life resumes.
2. The gentle joy of a slower pace
One thing I’ve heard often from peers and clients is that they have not missed the constant cut-and-thrust of normal busy life, with all its comings and goings.
The exodus of high numbers of people from London bears this out. And, without the need to travel into big cities, many people have had a chance to savour quieter moments at home with family, enjoying cooking, baking and eating together.
Many tell me they cannot comprehend ever commuting to an office five days a week again. I believe this taste of an alternative lifestyle will remain and that we’ll work hard to take some of this benefit forward: namely, more time to enjoy our lives at a slower, more gentle and nurturing pace.
3. The utter greatness of outdoors
With statistics showing our collective mental health took a hit during repeated lockdowns, I’ve heard from many people about the vital comfort of being outdoors, in whatever scrap of nature they can find.
The enforced time spent in our local areas meant many of us discovered pockets of space we’d never known about before — even a small patch of woodland or well-tended park would do the trick. As they’ve often been our only time away from home, those daily walks have taken on a whole new meaning.
Given that it seems many people will continue working from home to an extent at least, it looks like the 2020 tradition of a daily local stroll is here to stay.
4. The adaptability of healthy habits
They say necessity is the mother of invention and, with the likes of gyms and swimming pools closed, it’s clear more of us turned to other things we could do to stay healthy. This resulted in more of us than ever taking up activities like running, or even cold-water swimming. The fact that these provide a chance to exercise at the same time as getting out of the house proved a double win.
While many of us will undoubtedly return to gyms and exercise studios when we can, it seems clear that an ever-increasing portion of us will continue to be more flexible with exercise. Whether that’s a 30-minute yoga session in the front room or a morning run around the park.
5. The blossoming of digital communities
When Zoom seemingly appeared out of nowhere last March to become a regular companion to many, it wasn’t the only digital platform to soar in popularity. Research by Facebook showed that 70 per cent of people found online groups an important tool in helping communities thrive. Our street was one of many to set up a supportive WhatsApp group during lockdown and it’s certainly here to stay. Neighbours have organised charity collections, traded baking tips and local info – and some have mentioned how much safer and more connected they feel thanks to the group.
Along with birthday Zoom calls attended by people in four countries and work drinks held with colleagues in Derby, York and Dundee, these platforms offer a useful, fresh way to connect that we can take with us as the world reopens again.
6. The pleasure of those small things
As our lives shrank, seemingly becoming smaller by the week, the intensity of simple pleasures soared. Take that daily walk when the bright sun came up and warmed you to the bone. Or that time you met your bubble pal for takeaway coffee and a stroll, only to be handed the creamiest, most delicious latte you can recall. Or a simple socially distanced chat with a neighbour that resulted in 20 minutes of unexpected laughter.
I think one thing many of us can take from the past year is a more intense ‘felt sense’ for the things that bring us joy. However fleeting, those feelings of contentment have been priceless. And those mindful, momentary small pleasures can be taken with us even as more normal life returns.
Read about the 7 types of rest we could all use more of here.
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