Happier in the COVID-19 Lockdown?

A surprising number of people are.

Posted May 24, 2020

Mothers Working from Home, Flickr, CC 2.0
Source: Mothers Working from Home, Flickr, CC 2.0

Of course, there are reasons for the coronavirus pandemic to make you sad. Maybe you’ve been laid off or precluded from working because your job is at, for example, a mall, hotel, or restaurant. Or the closing of schools has made you responsible for childcare 24/7. Or you might have been okay with stay-at-home orders for a while, but cabin fever has hit. Or you contracted the coronavirus, and even if your case is mild, it isn’t fun having a flu-like disease nor being quarantined. And merely hearing of the pandemic-sized death toll sobers even a Pollyanna.

But among the not-so-vulnerable people who will, at some point, have the option to resume life sort of as we knew it, many—surprising to me—people I’ve spoken with say they're, net, happier now.

It’s been said that we’re social animals and that we crave freedom. So how can anyone be happy with less human interaction and less freedom? We can’t go to work, restaurants, concerts, ballgames, bars, nor nightclubs. In certain jurisdictions, we can’t even invite friends to a picnic in the park, and no matter how wild our hair, we can’t get it cut.

Sure, there are reasons people might be happier. Now, many people needn’t, every morning, race to get dressed up and sit in strait-jacket commute traffic or stand in sardined mass transit. They may have more flexible work schedules—get the work done and the boss mightn't care whether you start at 7 or at 10 or whether you take a two-hour break during the day and make it up at night. Plus, many people are filling the time gained from not having to dress up nor commute, nor unwanted chatting with coworkers, with being more productive or more pleasurable activities, maybe creative pursuits or talking (per COVID-19 rules) with friends, neighbors, and loved ones.

Perhaps less obvious is that COVID-19 has, ironically, provided new reasons to be grateful. If a person doesn’t have the disease, they’re grateful. Even if they have a cough and fever, most people test negative and, even if positive, likely experience relatively mild symptoms and recover. They may be grateful that the feared supply-chain shortages—from medication to toilet paper—have, to date, not materialized, making them grateful when taking every dose and with every use of TP. While many people feel Zoomed out, they see that the secular miracle of video conferencing enables them, for free or near-free, to see and hear people anywhere in the world. People are—or at least should be—grateful to the geniuses and hard workers who made such technology available. My favorite is FaceTime. In my pocket phone, I can see and hear people while not stuck in a chair, using the same device that enables me to text, check email, take and instantly send photos and videos, and find so much on the internet. COVID-19 may be helping many people to savor such everyday miracles.

Even some employers are grateful. They’re realizing that more employees can get the work done without the boss hovering. And with the COVID-19 recession likely to continue at least for a while, many employers appreciate that they may be able to reduce the great cost of renting and furnishing lavish corporate headquarters. Some employers are envisioning a day in which most employees, instead of letting their convenient homes sit vacant all day, make their home their worklife's hub, and as desired, gather virtually or at a hotel or restaurant for a meeting or just for lunch.

Per a previous post, amid the lockdown, many people are finding themselves glad to be living a simpler life. Shopping restrictions remind us that excess materialism often yields insufficient enduring pleasure to compensate for the cost, hassle of shopping, complexifying of life, and perhaps decline in economic security. Many people are taking a little more time to enjoy life’s simpler pleasures: from conversation to creative outlet to watching good TV. In short, many people seem willing to trade some freedom for a less crammed life.

I read this aloud on YouTube.