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What I’ve Learned About Being Happy From One of the Longest Lockdowns in the World

By Imogenl @ImogenLamport
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Melbourne is slowly and cautiously coming out of a very strict lockdown that we’ve been in for the better part of 5 months. To give you an idea of the restrictions, we had an 8pm – 5am curfew, were not to travel more than 5km from home, and could only leave the house – no more than 2 people to go for a walk together at the same time, and only 1 person to the supermarket/chemist for 1 hour each day, all non-essential shops were closed, but you could purchase online and have things delivered.  Schools were shut to all kids apart from those of essential workers, if you can work from home you must work from home and we have to wear masks outside the home and were not allowed to have any visitors to our homes).

What is interesting to me, is that I’ve been completely OK, and have actually enjoyed the experience as a whole.  When I think about why I think it’s how I approach the situation and how I use language and daily habits to turn it from a negative into a positive.

Now please don’t think I’m diminishing anyone else’s pain or suffering. It’s been a tough time for many with job losses and lack of medical care in some places.   And I’m sure those living alone or if you have mental health issues have found it particularly tough at times and anyone in a domestic violence situation would not be feeling OK in the least.  

I know I’m lucky.  I’m safe, I live in a nice house in a suburb with plenty of parklands that I have been able to escape to for a short time each day.  Our house has enough space for all of us to get away from each other. I’m not in I’m lucky my husband’s job is secure so that as I watched a massive chunk of my income disappear because of not being able to work in person or travel (I had a few training courses planned for the year that didn’t get to happen), I know that we will not be out on the streets.   I am not alone, there are many like me in similarly fortunate positions. 

As a self-employed person I’ve had to figure out how to work within these restrictions.  As they say, we have all had to pivot.  

So if you’re about to go back into lockdown whether through government intervention or just self-preservation I want to offer you some insight into how to make it a great experience rather than a negative one.

This is how I’ve remained happy during our lockdown and I hope to take this mindset forwards in my life.

Focus on What You CAN Do

When I see the most unhappy people (often ranting away on social media) what I hear is all about what you “can’t do” right now (for whatever reason).  When you put all your energy on what is not possible, what you can’t do.  What you can’t have.  Who you can’t see.  Then you will feel much worse.  

What you focus on becomes your experience.

Instead, if you focus on what you can do, your whole perspective shifts.

So I may not be able to catch up with a friend in person, in the same room, but I can catch up with them by the many wonders of technology and have a “face to face” conversation.     Arrange regular Zoom catch-ups with friends and family to help stay connected. Remember, this is about PHYSICAL distancing, not SOCIAL distancing.  No restrictions stop you from communicating with your friends and family.

I may not be able to go shopping (for anything more than groceries) in stores, but, I can shop online if I need to (and there is so so much out there online).

I may not be able to go to the gym.  But I can go for a walk around my local park (wearing a mask) for an hour a day. And wearing a mask is a bit annoying, sure, but it’s no less comfortable than wearing a bra – which is also something I do every day, and knowing that I’m protecting both myself and others from disease and possible death, it’s a very very small price to pay. 

I can also do one of the millions of online exercise classes should I feel like it.

I am able to go outside, I can spend time in my garden, and in a park and enjoy nature and some sunshine and rain.

I can walk around my neighbourhood and enjoy seeing everyone’s gardens bursting with flowers this spring.

I can enjoy a glass of wine with a friend, it’s just on Zoom rather than in person (and BONUS – no need to worry about drinking and driving!).

I get to spend more time each day with my immediate family.  We talk each day, we are not rushing from one activity to the next.  I’ve spent more time having in-depth conversations with my teenage kids over the past few months as there are fewer activities and distractions and it has made our relationships stronger.

I can play with my dogs.

I can call up a friend with a pretty good assumption that they’re home and have time to have a chat rather than being out and busy all the time.

I can get back into hobbies that I’ve put to one side because I’ve been so busy.  I’ve been sewing more (lots and lots of masks as well as a few clothes) and doing some paint-by-numbers (my girl Bo in a custom Paint by numbers kit below) which for me is very calming and makes me feel quite zen!

Paint by numbers photo of your pet

Here is one of my paint-by-numbers that has kept me occupied!

I can spend more time reading and learning.

I can order takeaway so I don’t have to cook dinner every single night.

I can have space and time to figure out what is important to me.

I can enjoy that I’m not having to be Taxi-Mum driving kids to their activities.  

Knowing that my actions – wearing a mask when at the supermarket and out of the house (yes we wear them going for a walk in the park) and social distancing has helped us go from a spiralling number of cases down to 0 cases for the past 12 days.   And it’s protected me and my family as well as those who are vulnerable, makes me grateful that it’s one thing I can do that makes a positive difference.  Knowing that the science behind these actions has gotten us from potentially massive spread down to double doughnuts,  as it’s been labelled,  through these small sacrifices shows that lockdowns work and many lives are saved as well as long-term health issues avoided.

My actions CAN make a difference.  Just as yours can too.

Melbourne Covid Cases Double Donut

Appreciate What You Have Got

I’ve started a gratitude practice, so simple to write down 3 things a day that I’m grateful for from the tiny to the huge.  There is so much brain science that shows us that when you focus on the positive your brain forges new neural pathways that help you to see more good things in your life. Your brain becomes a more positive brain!

I can appreciate how much money I’ve saved on petrol and other normal expenses that have disappeared because of the lockdown, and maybe I’ll just enjoy treating myself to something nice now that we are easing out of it.

I love being less busy and feeling like there is no pressure to be filling every moment of every day with stuff.

I appreciate the small things, the flowers blooming in the garden this spring.  A lovely warm day to sit outside in my garden.  A delicious meal that I’ve made (and I’ve spent some time making us a fancy brunch one day each weekend, the kind I would have gone out and eaten in a cafe). 

Fancy brunch

Here is one fancy at home brunches!

I appreciate my neighbours who are all thoughtful and friendly during these times, offering to pick things up at the supermarket so that we all don’t have to be out and are keeping everyone in the community safer by limiting movement and possible transmission of the virus.  Our neighbourhood has become more of a community as these are the only people I’ve seen in person for months and months as we have had a 5km (3 mile) limit on how far we can travel.

I appreciate technology for allowing us to still be close when we can’t see each other in person.  Seriously, it’s not like the “olden days” where you might have to wait days, weeks and months for letters to be delivered.

Plenty of food (not food rationing) and no need to stockpile anything (that’s just your reptile brain telling you that you need certainty in this time of uncertainty and somehow you think if you have 400 rolls of toilet paper you’re safe).

I appreciate the plethora of entertainment at my fingertips – podcasts, streaming TV services (Netflix, Amazon Prime etc.), Libby for Libraries app so I can borrow books from my local library on my ipad, audiobooks … the list is endless

I appreciate my access to fascinating books that have kept me occupied and enlightened.  My recent favorite is Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty, and it’s gone some great messages to help you be more mindful and calm in this time.

I truly appreciate our universal free healthcare system, and access to Covid tests for everyone, in fact, a government listens to the scientists and who wants to test as many people as possible as that way we truly know what is happening in our area and therefore can make educated plans that make it as safe as possible for everyone.

I have a father who is currently undergoing chemotherapy, and a brother with type 1 diabetes, plus a mother in her 80s, all of whom would be considered to be high-risk for complications and possible death with Covid, my actions and all those who are also taking precautions and wearing masks means that they are safer.  Just because my parents are older doesn’t mean that they are expendable in the name of the economy.  I may not have been able to see them in person since the start of the year, but I appreciate that because we have taken these actions as a society, I will be able to see them again this Christmas.

For me, every time in my life I’ve been in situations in which it appears everything has gone to bad, (and there have been a few) I’ve used it to take stock of where I am, and if I want to go back to what it was like or do I want to make changes. 

My mantra is “the only way is up” and I spend my efforts looking for the light, the good, the next opportunity rather than dwelling on what I no longer have or what I have lost or can’t currently access.

I am truly happy and grateful that I am safe and healthy.

Lockdown Provides a Chance to Reset

I know now that we are out of lockdown I have had a reset.  I don’t want to go back to being busy all the time.  I’m going to schedule weekends that are all downtime, where I don’t have anything planned so I can just spend some time chilling at home.

With this extra time, you may want to bake bread, or you can find some other hobby you enjoy and have not had the time in the past to pursue.  You have some options to try out new things at home, or just get a few drawers more organised.  Clearing some clutter can be very therapeutic.  

If you’re in lockdown now, take note of what you are enjoying and also what you really dislike, as this will help you make plans for 2021 and how you want your life to be in the future when all this is over.  

You will then be able to plan to do more of what you love, and less of what you don’t when lockdown restrictions ease.

What I've Learned About Being Happy From One of the Longest Lockdowns in the World

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