NOTE: This article was originally published in our Spring Mark magazine and has since been updated.
The United States has over 5.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases, accounting for almost one-fourth of the 24 million confirmed cases worldwide.
The Class of 2020 graduated online. People have lost jobs, taken pay cuts, or continue to endanger their own lives to help others, whether they be janitors, healthcare professionals, or store clerks.
It’s easy to fall into an endless cycle of waking up, checking the news, refreshing the news, and going to sleep.
There are some people who believe everybody must react to crises in the same way—with shock, fear, and all-encompassing pessimism.
You or people around you may be experiencing fear, anxiety, or restlessness. Some may be smiling while others cry. Remember, seeing the light during difficult situations is not the same as making light of or making fun of them. This is not a productivity competition, this is a global pandemic. Give yourself and others space and freedom to grieve, celebrate, be anxious, or have fun. People are entitled to their emotions.
We deserve to be happy, starting by appreciating what we can, when we can.
There is a new level of awareness and empathy, recognition of underserved and underrecognized voices and communities. Essential workers are being recognized and celebrated as being the many supporting figures in society.
Good news outlets such as John Krasinski’s Some Good News on Youtube or Tank’s Good News on Instagram offer a break from the bleak news cycle. At-home late-night talk shows provide a humanizing and refreshing view of some of our favorite entertainers.
If you’re working, do your best to stay safe and know you are doing an invaluable service to society.
If you’re staying home, try to take a break from obsessively refreshing infection statistics, put on a clean pair of jeans, and take a walk around the block. Reach out to a friend or a family member you haven’t talked to in a while, start a new book series, pick up a new hobby, or follow an M-A related Instagram account to stay connected with your classmates. Appreciate the ability to stay home when others cannot.
But most of all, take a moment to reflect. How can we continue the good work, the spirit of global unity and empathy, and positive lifestyle changes we’ve made so far? In other words, how can we increase “positivity sustainability?” The positives right now shouldn’t be limited to times of global crises.
Global air emissions have reduced dramatically. CNN reports, “Major cities that suffer from the world’s worst air pollution have seen reductions of deadly particulate matter by up to 60% from the previous year, during a three-week lockdowns period.”
The reduction in global pollution is amazing, but it’s a temporary fix. Banning cars and shutting down major factories and production plants is unsustainable; these sunny blue skies are at the expense of jobs, transportation, and lives. This dramatic environmental change highlights the lack of legislature to reduce pollution and global warming. Although temporary, fewer emissions are a positive side effect of quarantining, and we’re allowed to recognize the positive things that are happening around us. However, if we want to emerge from quarantine into smog-free air, we also should take this time to examine specific ecological benefits and re-evaluate our lifestyles and global conservation efforts in order to maintain these positive changes.
Well-placed optimism and positivity go a long way to making this time bearable. But happiness is not an excuse to ignore the seriousness of the situation, be racist, or risk the health of yourself and others. Happiness is not an excuse to stop washing your hands or break social distancing protocols to blow off cabin-fever. Happiness during the coronavirus pandemic means appreciating the small details and celebrating the things you can control.
Since we are limited in our ability to socialize, we can learn to appreciate our interactions with our friends and family even more and continue that appreciation after the pandemic is over.
It’s okay to see the good in society right now. We should approach life during this time with cautious optimism and meaningful positivity. We must grab onto these glimmers of hope as motivation for improvement. The light in the shadows of these times is an opportunity to learn, grow, and sustain positive changes.
After your next impromptu bedroom dance party, shift at the grocery store, or video game level, think about how we can continue these changes beyond lockdown.