Society

What's been lost and found during the lockdown

Some connections that we miss and some that we have rediscovered, during the past two months

What we have lost...

Human touch

A hug, a pat on the back, close dancing, mock-wrestling, pulling someone’s cheek, making love. There are infinite forms of the human touch that many living alone through this period of lockdown have accepted as a non-possibility, for at least a couple more months in the future. And that has only made us value it more.

“Touch is the earliest sensory modality which develops in human beings and is important for the development of secure attachment and intense bonds,” says psychologist Nupur Dhakephalkar, founder of Center for Mental Health, Pune. It is why new parents are advised skin-to-skin contact.

The reduction of stress response, though seen most in children, is not age-limited. “Touch is related to increased oxytocin (bonding hormone) levels in the brain. When you have anxiety, there is increased activity in the sympathetic nervous system. This reduces on touch response,” she says. So those of us who are living with families, or friends, let us not take them for granted, and maybe at least hug them good night.

The art of ‘timepass’

‘Shooting the breeze’. ‘Hanging out’. ‘Chilling’. The English language has many synonyms for the Indian idea of ‘timepass’. Sitting around with your friends, doing nothing is a cultural phenomenon common all over the world.

Nupur points out the importance of being around company: “Humans are social animals, and they need to have the possibility of contact and communication, even if they aren’t actively engaging with them all the time,” she says.

Digital forms of communication are not a replacement, though it is not for a lack of trying. People have been working together, working out together, cooking together, and even watching movies together, all the while connected via a video call. Not really talking, but basking in the knowledge that someone else is doing exactly what they are, right this moment.

Open fields and skies

Times when we could hop, skip and jump to our parks and beaches or go on long rides to mountaintops seem so far away right now. Not all of us living in cramped cities and towns have the luxury to afford green spaces around our homes; windows of buildings open up to more buildings.

The benefits of being around Nature for our mental health are so widely accepted that it has led to the development of a recent field of applied psychology: ecotherapy. The lockdown has given us greater appreciation and affection for the few trees that we do have in our vicinity, and prompted many to try their hands at kitchen and terrace gardening.

And what we have found...

What's been lost and found during the lockdown

Eating local

It took for all major fast food chains and restaurants to be shut for a while, to force us into buying local, seasonal foods from the nearby store. Cooking our own food has made us take a good look at the ingredients we are using, and what goes into our bodies.

We began to enjoy and appreciate food for its taste, as opposed to treating dinner as an activity that accompanies TV-viewing. It’s not as if we are glad we don’t eat outside anymore, or as if we have given up on junk food for life. It’s just that we now know what goes into it, and at what cost it comes.

Relationships, old and new

At the Center for Mental Health, many calls that Nupur gets are about people living in crowded homes, with no space for themselves. Yet, she acknowledges that this period has been fruitful for relationship building. Not just between family members living together, but also with old friends.

“When there is a state of calamity, it makes us reach out to people that we did not before,” she says. It starts off as a simple message to check in on the situation at the other person’s end, but makes way for actual conversations that you could have been procrastinating for whatever reason. “Constantly reaching out to, and keeping in touch with all the people in our lives is also a coping mechanism for some,” she says.

During the first phase of social distancing, back in early March, apps like QuarantineChat, and dating apps like Bumble, Tinder and OkCupid reported a spike in users, as we collectively hoped to replicate our offline interactions in the online world and meet new people. But now, the emphasis is more on strengthening existing bonds.

The sound of silence

For the first time in many years, we have not been waking up to the sound of traffic blaring outside. This period has taught us how to be okay with silence seeping into most of our days. On a normal basis, “people are constantly surrounded by sound, which leads to cluttering in the mind,” says Nupur.

We would turn to meditation and yoga to give us a break from the noise, but what if a slower, less buzzing routine became a part of our lifestyle? The downtime will help us listen to ourselves, make space for new ideas to emerge, and be more productive when we do work.

If we allow ourselves that, of course, and not fill this vacuum with texting, scrolling and other content consumption. Habits can be formed with some practice and commitment.

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Printable version | Jun 1, 2020 12:53:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/lost-and-found-during-the-lockdown/article31615051.ece

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