2020 was an understatedly difficult year, and many of us were not sorry to see it go. The pandemic changed the way we work, the way we spend our leisure time, the way we connect with our loved ones and much more. While the majority will likely be happy to leave those changes behind, there are at least a handful of new habits worth holding on to.
1) Spending more time with family
The pandemic created a new era of "family togetherness" thanks to a variety of social distancing and COVID-19 prevention efforts including schools shutting down and parents working from home. While it is unfortunate that social activities, in school attendance, sporting events, and other activities often had to be postponed, one silver lining has been the dramatic uptick in time spent together, spouse to spouse, parent to child.
A wealth of fun ideas ranged from outdoor options to reading list to a variety of games; however, one of the most interesting and modern offers was virtual tours and trips. Anyone with internet access was all it took to enjoy a wide variety of virtual experiences from the comfort of one's couch, including touring national parks, world-famous museums, underwater dives, and much more. As things hopefully begin to return to "normal" this year, consider resisting the temptation to refill your schedule. Instead, continue 2020's family time trend, and hopefully soon, visit in person some of the places you have explored virtually.
2) Valuing extended family & friends
Without question, one of the hardest parts of the pandemic has been being unable to spend time with all of our loved ones, particularly extended and elderly family members. Before the pandemic, how many of us took for granted that we could visit our loved ones whenever we wished? Suddenly, elderly relatives were quarantined in their homes or in nursing homes, unable to see visitors except across windowpanes. For those who faithfully visit family, this has been a painful adjustment. Sadly, the old adage, You never know what you have until it is gone, has seldom been more deeply felt. Hopefully, this time apart has given many of us a new appreciation for spending time with our extended and elderly family members and will visit them often when it is safe to do so.
3) More time in the great outdoors
As many avenues of recreation closed or became very limited, people found themselves heading outdoors. One of the only places that didn't close were nature areas. Parks were usually open for hiking, recording a definite increase in visitors. Thankfully, the Genesee River Valley is blessed with several parks, trails, forests, wilderness areas, campgrounds, lakes, rivers, and creeks, making it perfect for outdoor recreation.
Aside from the obvious health benefits during a pandemic, spending time outside in nature has a variety of everyday health benefits. Researchers have linked exposure to greenspace with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure. Additionally, time spent in nature can improve mood; increase one's ability to focus, even among children diagnosed with ADHD; accelerate recovery from injury or illness, and improve sleep. With such holistic benefits, this is one habit that should definitely continue.
4) Continued hand washing and sanitizing
Incredibly simple, it is surprising how much the pandemic increased awareness and mindfulness regarding these simple habits. While sanitizing is a convenience many of us enjoy, handwashing is the real hero. In fact, the CDC notes that it is one of the best ways people can protect themselves and their families from getting sick.
Interestingly, the CDC suggests that it is not particularly important whether the water is hot or cold or whether the soap is antibacterial or not (outside of professional health care settings). What is important is lather. Soap and water worked into a lather trap and remove germs and chemicals.
When applied to hands before soap, water helps develop a better lather. A good lather forms pockets known as micelles that trap and remove germs, and scrubbing for at least 20 seconds helps ensure that no germs are left behind. Even as vaccinations fuel hopes of quelling this pandemic, more mindful handwashing habits, the proverbial ounce of prevention, are worth carrying forward.
5) Positive community connections
With some sad exceptions, many inspiring people reached out and joined together to support their neighbors, local businesses, and communities. Even while social distancing, working from home, and remaining physically apart, communities came together. They created online pages and websites to continue to order from local restaurants. They shared which businesses were open, had curbside pick-up available and more. They purchased gift cards for future use at independent businesses they love just to ensure they remained open.
They also looked after each other. They went shopping for elderly neighbors. They reached out with food and free and low-cost meals for those in need, out of work, or faced with fewer hours. They connected on social media networks to encourage one another to be strong, made signs to encourage their communities, raised money for backpack programs, holiday programs, and simply let others know they were available if needed, showing incredible solidarity. This unity, support, and a resurgence of respect for teachers, medical professionals, and other service professionals should by all means continue into the new year and beyond.