Anyone who has read Yuval Harari’s book ‘Sapiens’ will be acquainted with the idea of humans as hunter-gatherers. It was when we were our most prolific and when we were at our most intense state of happiness. Since then, global satisfaction has been on the decline. But why? Surely with all our new inventions we should be lazier, happier and more content than ever? But somehow, through our connection with the digital age and our ever growing relationship with the iPhone, we have lost the most important link in the happiness chain. The connection humans should have with nature.
Although the global pandemic has had more negative airtime than most celebrities, there is at least a silver lining to the virus’s dark cloud. Months of lockdown, staycations, reduced travel and ever-growing social restrictions might seem like something out of a dystopian novel. But what many people have overlooked is what the virus has done to our minds. Pre-lockdown, the world was constantly sipping red bull, without a moment to sit down, headphones in the ears, with music, podcasts or phone calls. Anxiety had never been more prevalent, and with FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) being heightened by the small multi-coloured rings that pop up on Instagram, people cannot escape the feeling they need to be doing something.
Lockdown may not have benefitted the government, or anything man-made for that matter, but what the months at home have taught us it to slow down.
It was after seeing an advert for a new Francis Bacon exhibition at the Royal Academy that the epiphany hit. Bacon is famously known for his figurative paintings and disfigurement of the human body. The exhibition explores how many of Bacon’s inspirations came from his travels to South Africa and his study of the animals there. Bacon connects the human form to nature, reminding us of the part we play in the animal kingdom. In many ways, the coronavirus has highlighted the same thing. Not only has the planet shown us what it can do once we slow down, but there are so many areas where many have realised that they were living in brutal excess.
Without air miles, road miles and general human movement nature has been able to blossom, murky seas have become crystal clear. Lesser spotted wildlife has finally been spotted, and often by local inhabitants, not wildlife journalists on the prowl. Though, with this change people have begun to appreciate the intricate details of the places we live. We have Covid-19 to thank for this, one of the small benefits of the otherwise brutal global pandemic.
The virus has not only helped out the environment but, in many ways, it has helped humans as a race; childbirth and pregnancy. Usually, pregnancy is not a hinderance to the modern woman. She might have a bump, but she is still going to work, taking yoga classes and also finding time to walk the dog. Incredible. But many pregnant women have found being forced to sit down and relax has done wonders for their pregnancy, as well as their post-natal health. Having time to bond with their child has allowed women to feel more connected to their child, rather than returning to work.
Then there is the cessation of the social affair. Well, there is, of course, two sides to every story and while there are elements of the pandemic which have caused stress, many have found comfort in being able to switch off. Humans do not like change, we are built to enjoy routine and when stripped of that routine then we find ourselves in a scary position. However, the lack of social pressure has perhaps helped people in ways they may not have noticed.
Three months of not socialising. No coffee dates, spontaneous lunches or pints after work. It sounds horrendous, but do we socialise too much?
Before the age of social media, three months without face to face contact was very normal, and social gatherings were often arranged months in advance, by that old chestnut, the post box. Today, however, we pack out weeks filled with as much as possible. Bailing last minute as you may have oversubscribed because contact is easy, and life is hectic. But when you remove the constant struggle to feel validated for socialising and having something to do, people have been able to relish their evenings, and appreciate their surroundings. As a result, people realise they do not need to always be on the move. Friends are not going anywhere. They also realised constant interaction leads to less fulfilling conversation. Socialising became a luxury which people began to respect. Nobody like us – the consumerist nation we have become – knows how to trim the excess out of our life. As Socrates famously pointed out all the way back in the BC years, ‘the secret to happiness is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.’
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