As the UK heads into its second national lockdown of the Covid pandemic, I thought I’d take a minute to talk about all the positives we can get from a lockdown.
It goes without saying that there are, of course, many negatives as well. No doubt many jobs will be lost, businesses will be forced to close, and for many, a lockdown will bring a fresh bout of loneliness and isolation. But I’d like to focus on the positives today.
I’d like to start by saying that you should not feel guilty about focusing on the positives. I cannot emphasise this enough. Just because someone else might have it worse, this doesn’t mean a) that your bad days aren’t valid, or b) that your good days aren’t valid. Without further ado, here’s my list of positives a lockdown brings!
1. More time
The most obvious advantage to a lockdown is there there’s simply more time in the day to spend as we please, as (particularly in London) commuting can take up a large portion of the day. As an example, it takes me between 35 and 45 minutes to get to my yoga studio, whereas a zoom yoga class takes me precisely 0 minutes to get to.
Additionally, with so many things cancelled, there really is often quite a lot of free time in the day. It might be that all those free hours simply make people bored, but I honestly think most people can and will find things to do that genuinely interest them. Remember last lockdown when everyone in the country started baking bread??
Having almost a full 24 hours in the day to spend as we please also means we’re more likely to get enough sleep (and as someone who is currently reading Why We Sleep, I cannot stress enough how important it is to prioritise sleep). It means we’re likely to take time to ourselves to read, watch films, and talk to the people we care about, rather than rushing from place to place doing errands.
With many young Londoners feeling increasingly time-poor, I think being given time that we otherwise wouldn’t have had is really a precious thing – and I think many are feeling it. Anecdotally, speaking to others about the lockdown I’ve definitely gotten the impression that slowing down the hustle and bustle of daily life has actually been helpful to many people, and meant that they can catch their breath a bit.
2. More control
This one goes hand-in-hand with “time”, but when we’re locked down we ultimately have more control over our own lives. Whether this is a good or a bad thing depends on the individual – but I think we can all agree there are positive aspects to it, even if you’re someone who benefits more from an externally imposed routine.
The ability to control your environment and daily structure to the extent that we all do in lockdown not only helps us develop a bunch of skills (planning, time management, self-motivation), but is also an incredibly unique opportunity that doesn’t come along every day. How often is there just no one around telling you how to spend your time? When will this ever happen again (at least for such long periods at a time)? I think it’s a fantastic opportunity to check in with yourself, with how life is going, and with your goals, dreams, and aspirations. It’s rare that we get the chance to stop and think about these things – lockdown is our chance.
On a personal note, I’ve found the following helpful when trying to make rules and put down a routine for myself during lockdown:
- Having a clear distinction between weekdays and the weekend
- Prioritising keeping your environment clean and tidy
- Trying to keep bedtimes and wake-up times consistent
- Eating meals at a similar time every day, and structuring the day around said mealtimes
3. Less FOMO
One of the biggest problems with modern life is that with social media, we’re constantly exposed to what others are doing. This constant reminder of all the cooler, more adventurous, and more productive ways we could be spending our time is immensely stressful. It’s not just a case of being reminded of other peoples’ successes (which is bad enough on its own); it’s a case of being reminded of all the experiences other people are enriching their lives with on top of that. News flash: travel is exhausting. And yet it’s often held up as this gold standard of “the best way of spending our time”, because we’re trying new things, immersing ourselves in new cultures, living our best lives.
One of the best things about lockdown for me has hands down been a distinct lack of FOMO. For those who are unaware, FOMO stands for “fear of missing out”. According to Wikipedia, it is defined as “a social anxiety stemmed from the belief that others might be having fun while the person experiencing the anxiety is not present”, or “a fear of regret, which may lead to concerns that one might miss an opportunity for social interaction, a novel experience, or a profitable investment”. Basically, it’s a fear that deciding against doing something is a mistake. As the saying goes, “in the end, you only regret the things you didn’t do”.
When the entire nation is in lockdown, FOMO becomes much easier to avoid. It’s easy not to envy anyone’s experiences when they’re not out having those experiences. Even if there are people doing things, somewhere in the world, it’s still kind of a weight off your shoulders when you’re in lockdown – there’s no use stressing about all the things you could theoretically be doing, because you’re not allowed to do those things right now. It’s oddly comforting.
4. Less spending
This one comes with a bit of a caveat; I’m not convinced I actually spend less in lockdown. Because there’s less necessary spending on things like public transport and eating out, it becomes much easier to spend more on ordering things in – and I’ve definitely been guilty of this in lockdown before.
However, there’s a massive difference in my view between ordering yourself a new coffee machine and getting a coffee every day on your way to work, namely, that the former actually lasts. So I’m going to be more specific: we may not spend less in lockdown, but we spend less on expendable things. Most things we buy in lockdown are things we’re stuck with – things that make our lives better in the long run, things we needed all along, things that make us happier at home. It’s not really necessary to buy anything at all – but I think spending more time with all our possessions makes us more aware of the flaws in our current way of living. It might be that we invest in some home decor, or as in my case, a coffee table for the living room (which has been a solid purchase and something I use every day). We live in a generation where buying “experiences” rather than “things” is the norm; and while this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does mean that when we get down to things, when we’re locked in a room at home with everything we own, we’re forced to evaluate whether the long-term objects we have actually reflect the way we want to live our lives.
It might be that for the first few months of lockdown, we spend a little more than usual, simply because we’ve become aware of all the things that we actually do need. But once you’ve bought them, you won’t need to keep buying them (unlike that cup of Starbucks every morning). Alternatively, it might be that you really don’t feel your home needs anything else in it – in which case, you actually are spending less! It’s a win-win, in any case.
5. Spending time with the people you want to spend time with
How often do you video call friends who live halfway across the world? My guess is that it’s not very often. This is because, when presented with the option of meeting people in person and meeting people on a call, we (understandably) tend to prefer to speak to people in person. It might also be that we run into enough people on an average week that we’re simply “maxed out” in terms of human interaction, and don’t have the energy to make a bunch of calls to all our other friends and relatives.
But when faced with a lockdown, where the only person you can talk to is your roommate (or in some cases, no one at all), and you’re forced to make zoom calls in order to communicate with the outside world, you’re then faced with the question: who should I call? And what I’ve found is that in lockdown, I tend to prioritise the people I’m actually close to – whether that’s regular calls with my parents and grandparents, or simply close friends that live far away. When distance is no longer a factor, because having a coffee with someone who lives a 20 minute walk away feels exactly the same as having a coffee with someone who lives a 10 hour flight away, you’re more likely to choose to spend time with the person you actually get along better with; the one you’re closer to; the one you want to spend time with.
I’ve had some really fantastic zoom parties throughout lockdown, and one of my favourite things about them was the irrelevance of where people lived. So use the lockdown as an opportunity to reconnect with your friends – both near and far!
6. More focus on the here and now
I’ve found lockdown is a fantastic opportunity to live in the moment. There’s something about being isolated in your own space that shifts the focus from “what should I be doing?” to “this is what I’m doing.”
Of course, social media can interrupt this – and at least for me, there are times when it does. But it’s well-known that prolonged social media use is terrible for our self-esteem; this makes it easier to detach ourselves from those feelings of inadequacy and put the phone down.
Instead of rushing from place to place, trying to accomplish everything and please everyone, we’re forced to focus on basic things like “cooking dinner” or “cleaning the patio”. There’s something very wholesome about these activities. For me, it’s a meditative quality combined with a sigh of relief.
7. Slow living // Space to breathe
Since the first lockdown in March 2020, there has been a massive spike in the “slow living” trend, as well as the #cottagecore aesthetic. I genuinely think many people have come to realise that slowing life down a bit is a good thing. It’s good for your physical and mental health, as well as making you feel calmer, happier, and more secure.
Something I’ve noticed since the start of lockdown is that people in general have been kinder. When lockdown was ending in August, my husband and I had planned a trip to the English countryside. It happened that we missed our train (completely my fault), including a Seatfrog upgrade to first class that only applied to that particular train. I still remember how kind and helpful all the staff at Paddington station were when we tried to fix the problem. We ended up on a different train which it turned out our ticket was still valid on, and the train manager even let us use the upgrade. When everyone’s in a better mood because they’ve had enough sleep and enough time to rest, they tend to be kinder to those around them – and I’ve definitely noticed a difference, particularly since Londoners are known for being a bit grumpy in general. I genuinely think this is why.
The lockdowns have given us all a bit of space to breathe. Slowing down life a bit makes you a happier person; and I, for one, would like to prioritise that quality as much as I can.