The global pandemic of 2019/20 upturned our lives and forced us to change and adapt, sometimes with very little notice. For many of us it has been a challenging time. As I write this, my state of Victoria in Australia is still in lockdown after a large increase in community transmission. We have been lucky in Australia to avoid the huge death toll and suffering that other countries have experienced. We had time to watch and learn and put things in place before we started getting cases. But pandemics are unpredictable and just when we started getting back to some normality Victorians were sent back into restrictions.
Has the pandemic been all bad though? I’m not saying it has been easy and I know that many Australians have had it tough with job losses and business closures. However, I’ve heard many conversations and read stories of people who have found positives in all the madness. Many are embracing their new lifestyles and I wonder if being forced to live our lives differently might be the catalyst for new ways of living that are more mindful, slower paced and sustainable.
What are the opportunities for a different lifestyle going forward?
Our society values busyness. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve met up with someone I know and asked how things have been to get the reply “Oh I’ve been so busy!” It’s like it’s a badge of honour or maybe it’s just become the norm and people have forgotten that no-one expects us to do it all and that we do have a choice to live slower, less busy lives. The pandemic has shut down organised sport, community groups, parties, events and even school. It has resulted in many ‘busy’ people having a lot less to do and nowhere to be. Many families are embracing more quality time together at home, exercising and cooking together and even more self care (reading books, relaxing, craft etc). Sounds so much nicer than being busy!
We have been very lucky to not have any significant disruptions to our food supply in Australia during the pandemic however, panic buying in the initial stages revealed the vulnerability of our food supply. We tend to rely on the big supermarkets and our local food systems are not generally well developed (except for some exceptional areas).
Could the pandemic get people thinking more about local food and growing some of our own to prevent vulnerability in the future? I heard plenty of stories of people starting or re-developing their vegetable gardens and seedlings and seeds selling out in shops. A revolution in home gardening! Just like the Victory Gardens during WWII, people were wanting to have more control over their food access. I sure hope the benefits and taste difference of home grown produce inspires them to continue even when the pandemic is over. Let’s face it, we have no idea when the next global or national event will occur or if climate change will reduce our access to food in the future.
Cooking more meals at home has also been a change for many. Less eating out and take-away foods and more time to cook meals from scratch has been a positive experience for some. Getting the kids in the kitchen to learn valuable skills and sitting and eating as a family has got to have long term benefits don’t you agree? Some have also challenged themselves to make sough dough bread, pasta from scratch and of course banana bread! I hope the joys and accomplishment of finding new things to cook will inspire many to get in the kitchen more often long into the future.
Working from home
In Victoria, the government asked everyone who can work from home to do so for the duration of the pandemic. For many, this was the first time they have had an opportunity to do this. Although initially stressful as people learned this new way of working, many have enjoyed it and are hoping to continue into the future (even if just 1 or 2 days week). The benefits of working from home include less travel, more time with family, more time for exercise and cooking and a greater work/life balance. And I would imagine all these benefits would translate to more happy and healthy workers which has to be good for business and the economy right?
What will your new normal be?
We are still in the thick of the pandemic but I think now is a good time to reflect and think about the positive changes we have made that we would like to continue long term. Before life gets busy again and we return to more normality. Before we forget about how good it felt to have a meal with the family, pull out a freshly baked loaf of sough dough from the oven, play board games and pick fresh produce from the garden. I’m hoping for a society that is more resilient, sustainable and slow as a result of these challenging times.