Many of us have been touched by COVID-19 in deeply personal ways, whether we’ve fought the virus ourselves or suffered the loss of someone we love, a job we value and/or the lifestyle we once enjoyed. This is a cascade of change, for all of us, and it’s going to take time to adjust.
One big change you may not have expected is actually pretty positive: the pandemic is shifting our values in ways that make life healthier and more meaningful, foster deeper connections, and can even help our pocketbooks and the planet. Let’s take a look at what this means.
A New Communal Spirit
As our pandemic days wear on, people are supporting and taking care of each other in wonderful ways. It feels more important than ever to share what we have and help those close to us. Social scientists call this “prosocial” (as opposed to antisocial) behavior. It includes all the things we do voluntarily to benefit others.
In a recent OnePoll survey of 2,000 adult Americans, 55% said they were “a bit embarrassed” by some of the things they valued pre-quarantine. Two-thirds believe that self-isolation and quarantine has “made them a better person.” (People)
For example, people are creating mutual aid societies, free community refrigerators, and other initiatives that are being enabled by digital tools like Google spreadsheets and Zoom calls just like businesses. New research published by the American Psychological Association showed that random acts of kindness were more strongly associated with overall well-being than formal prosocial behavior, like a scheduled volunteer time.
Helping a neighbor really does make people feel better. The same research found that younger givers reported positive effects in terms of well-being and psychological functioning—but for older givers, the primary reported benefit was improved physical health!
“...We have seen remarkable evidence of people tapping into the better angels of their nature with inspiring acts of kindness, generosity, compassion, and assistance to others...It is not only inspiring to witness these acts of kindness and compassion but, according to social contagion theory, it is also catchy too. It models how we all could act if so desired.” Psychology Today
Shifting to Frugality
According to Vox.com, Americans are moving away from our “culture of waste” and rediscovering frugal habits like washing plastic bags and foil for reuse, saving vegetable scraps for making soup, etc. It’s good for the planet, and it keeps more money in our pockets. We’re also being more careful with our spending. In August, McKinsey & Company reported that net spending intent in most discretionary categories remained at negative 20-40% compared with pre-COVID—indicating that most people intended to spend less. Roughly 40% are looking to save money with shopping and the same percentage reported becoming more mindful of where they spend money.
The new emphasis on frugality has also sparked a notable swell in the activity of Buy Nothing groups across the country. Formally, this movement began with the Buy Nothing Project, an initiative designed to encourage hyperlocal giving and sharing—a “gift economy.” Often run via Facebook Groups, Buy Nothing groups have blossomed in the pandemic, enabling neighbors to ask for what they might want or need, and receive gifts freely (and vice versa). Whether it’s a new-to-you perfume to scratch someone’s acquisitive shopping itch or a spare printer offered up and gratefully claimed by a young teacher, Buy Nothing groups help people avoid unnecessary spending and foster a strong sense of community, turning nearby strangers into friendly neighbors, one gift at a time.
A New Appreciation for Classic Pastimes
70% of respondents to the OnePoll survey said that “social distancing has given them a chance to learn more about themselves.” Some found themselves engaged in new hobbies and finding new passions, and 35% planned to keep them up even after the pandemic improves.
Many are rediscovering the habits and pastimes of the Greatest Generation. Sewing machines that haven’t seen the light of day in decades have been put to work making masks. Jigsaw puzzles and other low-tech, low-cost entertainment are making a comeback. Fishing has reached its highest level of popularity in 12 years, and even sports card trading is having a resurgence.
Will These Positive Values Last Past COVID? We Think So.
Here at Silvernest, we tend to be bright-siders. We’ve seen firsthand how homesharing has helped thousands of Americans live out the values of mutual support, mindfulness with money, and even formerly “old-fashioned” ways of connecting in the real world. As more Americans embrace these values due to the pandemic, we expect to see homesharing spread even further across the country.
The far-reaching, abrupt change created by the pandemic is helping more people wake up to what matters most and let trivial things fall away. As author Ken Budd wrote in The Atlantic, “A desire for growth—not the lingering effects of fear—may ultimately fuel our national and personal recovery.” All of us at Silvernest are working to help make that happen.
Learn more about homesharing and sign up at www.silvernest.com.