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10 Positive Outcomes of the Pandemic

During these trying times, we all need silver linings. Here are 10.

Key points

  • The pandemic has had adverse consequences in just about every facet of the human experience.
  • In spite of how awful the pandemic is, there have actually been lots of positives that have emerged.
  • The pandemic has taught us profound lessons about what it means to be human, and we will keep these lessons with us.
Nidan / Pixabay
Source: Nidan / Pixabay

As I type from my kitchen island on a Thursday in the middle of the day (working from home, pandemic-style ) I am producing what will be my 400th Psychology Today post. A lot has happened in my life and in the world since I started blogging here in 2013. Without question, the COVID pandemic stands as perhaps the most conspicuous and (for many of us) unexpected event that we have collectively encountered during this time.

The adverse consequences associated with the pandemic are obvious. Millions of people from all around the world have tragically died as a result of COVID. Entire industries have been decimated. Education around the world has been dramatically affected. Millions have lost their jobs and homes. And the whole thing has, tragically, become highly politicized, exacerbating already dramatic political fissures. And more.

People who know me well know that I generally try to keep things positive. With this in mind, here are ten outcomes of the pandemic that actually are having positive outcomes and that will, hopefully, continue to have positive outcomes into our shared future.

1. Staying connected across miles.

Humans did not evolve to be separated from kin and other loved ones by thousands of miles (see Evolutionary Psychology 101 for a discussion of this). My family, for instance, is dispersed across New York, New Jersey, Florida, and California. For members of a species that evolved to be close to kin, this is rough.

During the pandemic, people have been more encouraged than ever to reach out to family. People are having regular ZOOM meetings with family. People are texting family members regularly. People are checking on one another with seemingly increased care and compassion. And this is a good thing.

2. Harnessing technology for good.

While I have written extensively about the dark side of technology, the pandemic has shown us many bright facets that modern technology holds. It has become easier than ever to communicate with others. In many cases, technology has improved at lightning speed to make virtual meetings productive, efficient, and legitimate. And these improvements in such technologies will surely allow us, moving forward, to have more options for getting people together for all kinds of purposes.

3. Seeing life in a bigger frame.

The pandemic has definitely given all of us pause. I still get the chills when I go into a business and see all the tables and chairs pushed to the side or see all of my students socially distanced in a giant lecture hall and wearing masks. The immediate changes in our daily lives have been so deeply dramatic. And this fact has the capacity to have us see life in a bigger frame as we move toward the other side of the pandemic.

4. Learning new skills.

Many people chose to take up new skills and hobbies during the pandemic. People are learning how to paint with watercolors, write poetry, speak other languages, and more. And these skills and interests will certainly transcend the pandemic.

5. Appreciating nature.

As someone who has always been an avid hiker, the abrupt change in the appreciation of nature that so many people have experienced has been obvious. Trailheads near me that usually have one or two parked cars will, these days, often be overflowing. The trails are filled with people who are tired of being cooped up and who are ready to adventure into the mountains. Humans are naturally biophilic , having a natural inclination toward the natural world (see Wilson, 1984). For so many of us, the pandemic has unleashed this beautiful facet of the human experience.

6. Appreciating science.

The vaccines were developed to completion within about a year. Think about that. For this kind of highly technical work, one year truly is record-speed. During the pandemic, scientists across the world have raced to enhance our understanding of all facets of the virus and the nature of its spread. If ever there were a time to pause and appreciate science, that time is now.

Photo by Glenn Geher
Zuko, our little pandemic prince
Source: Photo by Glenn Geher

7. Pandemic pets.

I don't know about you, but I will say that our family got a pandemic pet. He is Zuko the cat, and we just love him. So many people have adopted pets during the pandemic. And while pets are a lot of work, pet ownership famously has all kinds of positive psychological and health-related benefits (see McConnell et al., 2011). Got a Labrador pup during the pandemic? Congratulations, and enjoy.

8. Appreciating what we have.

The pandemic has quite literally given us pause. All 8 billion of us . Many of us, such as myself, had life-threatening bouts with COVID. Many of us have lost loved ones as a result of the pandemic. Many of us have lost jobs or have otherwise been affected fiscally in adverse ways. Often, it is the difficult times that allow us to see the bright sides of our lives. When we step back and look not at what we lost but, rather, at what we have, there is room for a lot of grace and appreciation for all the good that still exists in the world.

9. Developing resourceful solutions.

In nearly every industry across the globe, resourceful solutions to novel problems needed to be created. For me, as a professor, I needed to figure out how to deliver complex courses such as Statistics in a fully remote fashion. Kindergarten teachers needed to figure out how to, for hours on end, capture the minds and imaginations of 5-year-old kids who had never stepped foot in a classroom. People in all kinds of businesses needed to figure out how to hold meetings fully virtually. And while this has all been quite a hassle, to say the least, it goes without saying that we all developed skills that will transfer in important ways in a post-pandemic world.

10. Realizing that we are one people.

As an evolutionist, I am regularly awe-stricken by the fact that we all share a common ancestor. We are all one people . And, in fact, the entirety of life is ultimately interrelated. The pandemic has put all of us on the same footing. We are one people in so many ways. And the pandemic has underscored this fact in a way that is nothing short of profound.

Bottom Line

The pandemic has been a worldwide catastrophe, leading to millions of deaths in all corners of the globe. Adverse consequences have rippled into every single industry on the planet. In short, the pandemic is, in nearly every respect, a genuine disaster.

But you know, humans have a natural resilience and we are resourceful when we have to be. In so many ways, the pandemic has led to outcomes that will leave a positive mark on the human experience moving forward.

As we continue to work through this worldwide crisis together, let's keep our eyes looking forward, and let's not forget the silver linings.

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Post-script

And to my readers and my editors, please know that I am so deeply grateful for your support over these past 400 posts and eight years of blogging. It has been a truly rewarding experience and I am genuinely appreciative for this opportunity to try to spread some optimism and wisdom in a sometimes-dark world.

References

Geher, G. (2014). Evolutionary Psychology 101. New York: Springer.

McConnell, A. R., Brown, C. M., Shoda, T. M., Stayton, L. E., & Martin, C. E. (2011). Friends with benefits: On the positive consequences of pet ownership. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(6), 1239–1252.

Wilson, Edward O. (1984). Biophilia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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