How are you coping with social isolation and lockdown? What are your lessons to remember?
A lot of people I know have been starting to wonder about life after the shelter-in-place orders have been lifted. What will it be like? What will the new normal be?
The answers to those questions will depend a lot on where you live, what your experience has been like, and what you make of it all.
Living in a city that imposed shelter-in-place orders 10 weeks ago, as of this writing, my own life has been a mixed bag. I shifted to working at home pretty easily, but it’s been hard finding a routine and avoiding distractions. I’m connected with friends online, but I miss their physical presence. Plus, my sleep and mood have suffered as anxiety looms over the future of our society.
I don’t want to negate these feelings or ignore our losses. But, as a writer for Greater Good, I can’t help but see some positives coming from this crisis, too. Reflecting on this moment has been a learning opportunity for me and for all of us—a chance to focus more on what matters and to think about living life differently going forward.
Here are some lessons I want to hold on to once sheltering in place is lifted.
1. Being with others is key to happiness
Many of us have been relying on social media and Zoom meetings to stay in touch with people during the pandemic. But, while I’m grateful that I can keep up with friends on Facebook or visit with folks via videoconferencing, these aren’t really the same as seeing people in-person.
Why? For one thing, social media doesn’t always bring us closer together. People often heavily curate what they post online to make their lives appear carefree and wonderful, which leaves little room for sharing vulnerability—an important way to connect with others. And, of course, there’s also a lot of alarmist news and clickbait on social media that can wreak havoc with your happiness. If you’re looking for deeper connection there, you’re bound to be disappointed.
Zoom conferencing is an improvement, as you can see people face to face and have actual conversations. But it’s tough to read body language on Zoom, and so it’s harder to pick up on how people are feeling. Also, the science of touch shows us that we humans crave physical contact, which neither Zoom conferencing nor social media can provide. This loss is especially profound for those living alone, where the lack of any physical affection has been particularly hard.
So, while I may continue to use available online tools to stay connected with faraway intimates, I’ve also gained a newfound appreciation for in-person get-togethers. Making more time in my life to be with the people I love and to express affection when we are together is something to bring forward from this experience.
In the near-term, as lockdown, I hope to have more physically distant backyard visits with friends and family. While we cannot hug, we can at least look at each other in the eye. When the crisis has passed, I plan to prioritize spending more time gathering in groups of diverse people for concerts, sporting events, ceremonies, dancing, and more.
The emotional high and sense of connection we get from being in the physical presence of others sharing an experience together is inspiring and sacred. Not only will I appreciate that presence so much more after shelter in place is over, doing so will deepen my sense of common humanity—something that when scaled up can build a kinder, more connected society.
Related video on key to happiness: