It seems impossible that anything positive could have come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, but a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Bath is seeking to prove just that.
Despite stress levels that are higher than ever, nearly a year of social isolation, and worries about health and job security, the researchers found that the vast majority of their study participants could find something positive about the pandemic. All of this time at home has led many consumers to undergo a period of personal growth in various areas of their lives, which is certainly encouraging during these difficult times.
“Of course, the pandemic has affected all our lives in significant ways, most obviously the understandable and substantial negative impact it has placed on our mental health, which we know has acute for very many,” said researcher Paul Stallard. “But that is not the full story. Many respondents in our study emphasized what we had heard anecdotally about some of the positive effects people have derived from leading their lives in quieter, slow ways because of lockdowns.”
Building back better
The researchers had nearly 400 participants complete a survey at the start of the summer to better understand the benefits associated with pandemic-related lockdowns. All of the participants were caregivers of young kids, and they answered questions about their work situations, their children’s schooling, and their general life experiences during stay-at-home orders.
Though this may be surprising to many consumers, nearly 90 percent of the study participants said that they believed good things have come from the pandemic. This was true despite nearly half of the respondents experiencing pay cuts during the pandemic and the large majority being forced to work from home and facilitate remote learning for their kids.
“These are important findings,” Stallard said. “Not only do we identify what some of these positive experiences have been, but we also show that those people who have been able to find those positives had better mental well-being than those who did not. And it gives us clues about how we might build back better and healthier by embracing aspects of a quieter life and those small, positives that have emerged from this period.”
Closer family bonds
Finding the positives during a traumatic or stressful event is what the researchers refer to as “post-traumatic growth.” In this survey, the biggest source of growth came from closer family bonds because of all of the newfound time at home. Respondents explained that they got closer with their kids and partners because they were able to connect in ways they never did before.
Other important areas of growth included spiritual growth, developing a better balance between work life and home life, and having a deeper gratitude and appreciation for life. The participants reported that they used their time at home to become healthier, both mentally and physically, and many finally had the time to appreciate the little things in their homes, neighborhoods, and families.
One of the biggest takeaways from this study is that many of the participants found ways to make small moments significant, which highlighted the positives around them, rather than the negatives. The researchers hope that consumers can utilize these findings as the pandemic continues on; despite the obvious stressors, being more mindful during day-to-day life at home can make all the difference both in the present and for future wellness.
“It is important, especially in these moments of high adversity, to find meaning and purpose in these experiences,” said researcher Dr. Ana Isabel Pereira. “In each moment, we can find new ways to connect and build stronger connections with our children, partner, or friends; to choose how we can make the best use of this time of confinement and to help others in the community experiencing more adversity or with fewer resources navigate this period.”