There seems to be a new spirit in the air. Something to do with time and our reallocation of it – a reappreciation of it, perhaps – which is flowing out into the way we are looking to the future.
Bizarrely, since lockdown began, it seems that the nation’s levels of anxiety and happiness have actually improved! Despite many of us being confined to our homes, swapping office for living-room, nights out for nights in, The Office for National Statistics claims that average happiness is in fact 11% higher than it was in the first week of lockdown.
Numerous surveys have shown that with the technology holding up, working from home is by and large, working. People cite that they are more productive and enjoying the flexibility of not having to commute or travel to meetings. What has often been cited as the most difficult commodity to hold on to – time – has become suddenly available in abundance.
The clue might lie in the detail of how we have spent our time the past few months. Open any weekend magazine and they are chock-full of articles about tending our houseplants, growing a bumper crop in an allotment or the latest mindful creative activity. Social media is packed with first-time sour dough bakers, window-sill tomato-growers and those finally discovering their inner chi.
It is no coincidence, then, that people have been picking up pitchforks, paintbrushes and jigsaw pieces for the first time in years. Being a little bit bored combined with looking closer to home for distractions, might just be leading to a revolution in appreciation.
This appreciation, this sense of things needing to matter more, of time better spent, appears to be happening not only inside our homes but also our businesses, with some surprising outcomes.
A YouGov poll commissioned by Cycling UK found that thirty six percent of people questioned agreed they could rethink their travel habits in the future to use cars and motor vehicles less. ‘This could well fuel exponential growth of cycle sales and make us all fitter into the bargain,’ says Richard Wevill of Cycling UK. A brand of ecologically-sound cleaning products has recently announced funding for businesses with nature-based solutions; sharing their recent profits to ‘fertilise the future’ by investing in innovation.
New trends are already reflecting this new spirit. In demand are luxury, off-road campers (featuring a king-sized bed, a full bathroom, outdoor kitchen, and entertainment system) and mobile robotic bars (yes, seriously!). Italian architect Carlo Ratti suggested the concept of a robotic driverless bar serving up cocktails on demand.
Perhaps, it suggests, some of this ‘extra’ time we have found ourselves with has been spent on thinking, and this new appreciation sees us seeking more meaning from our time. The new spirit in the air might come from us dwelling a little longer on things. “Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them”, said Marcus Aurelius in his book, Meditations. If we want to catch on to this new spirit, then, perhaps we simply need to appreciate the beauty of what is around us.