Relax and Restore
Yes lockdown poses its own mental health challenges. But can we please stop pretending our former world of long working hours, stressful commutes, hectic crowds, shopping centres, infinite choice, mass consumerism, air pollution and 24/7 everything was a mental health utopia.
Matt Haig on Twitter, 3 May 2020
Will we one day look back on the Covid-19 quarantine with gratitude?
Of course, I'm not suggesting we'd be thankful for illness and death, or economic hardship. But might we appreciate
- more time at home with our families?
- less commuting and more telecommuting?
- less indulgent and exotic travel and more learning to appreciate our local and regional attractions?
- less fear of missing out, because there's little to miss out on?
- fewer frivolous connections, while strengthening meaningful ones with phone calls, video chats, even handwritten cards and letters?
- fewer appointments and less hurry?
- more walking and biking?
- for schools, less emphasis on test scores (standardized tests being cancelled) and more emphasis on what students are reading, writing, and creating at home?
With so much more time on our hands, might we finally discover that we are unsatisfied with excessive scrolling, TV, or video games? Once those dull, even depressing, time wasters are exposed, might we see a revival of activities that challenge and refresh us?
Our society is overly complex and in need of the streamlining that quarantine has allowed us. And we have become too prone to alternate between overwork and hyper-busyness on one side and aimless bingeing on the other: on TV, on food, on social media, on video games, on shopping, on lying around being bored. Life requires balance, not swinging from one extreme to the next.
And real leisure isn't merely lounging around, doing nothing except consuming. As philosopher Ryan Holiday, author of Stillness is the Key, informs us, the original Greek word for leisure is related to the word for school.
Leisure historically meant simply freedom from the work needed to survive, freedom for intellectual or creative pursuits.... Leisure is not the absence of activity, it is activity. It's a physical action that somehow replenishes and strengthens the soul.
Since some experts think that social distancing might need to last for quite a long time, or at least be intermittently necessary, our new normal may require us to choose between despair and thoughtful, intentional simplification, which can include true leisure.
If you're already using your time to revive or discover interests in cooking, gardening, music, woodworking, hiking, drawing, reading, or knitting, fantastic! Keep it up, and teach your kids. If you've always wanted to learn another language, train for a marathon, or write poetry, now's your chance. Teach yourself to code, to sew, or to roll out a perfect pie crust.
True leisure is the antidote to boredom, despondency, and consumerism. Don't just escape – relax and restore.