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I’m sure we can all agree that being thrust into this new world of social isolation (losing all sense of daily routine and having to suddenly drop or alter all of our upcoming plans) albeit being a stressful time, has been a wake-up call for many of us. Losing access to many of the everyday privileges we normally take for granted, has encouraged us to think more carefully about what we value and to look fondly upon those simple pleasures, appreciating them for how special they truly are.

Although I can’t make any guarantees, once we’re allowed to recommence our usual livelihoods, I’m hoping to take with me some of the lessons I’ve learnt about myself whilst in isolation, as well as a more thoughtful sense of appreciation for the world around me. Fingers crossed, I’ll be able to make some positive changes to my lifestyle ­– being in isolation gives one a lot to think about, so it’s been a useful exercise in figuring out what I want to start doing more (and less) of, once I get back into normal life.

Take more (but also, less) photographs

I am guilty of watching the world pass by through the lens of my phone, like a lot of us are. There are situations where I feel compelled to digitally document everything I see – so much so that I end up missing what’s actually happening around me. Sure, my camera roll is bursting at the seams with saved Snapchat stories of concert mosh pits, but when I go searching for photos with my closest friends – people who I’ve known for many years – I come up empty. Albeit having an extensive collection of triple-chinned selfies, a funny photo of a family member to slap on their birthday card remains ever so elusive.

Experiencing a beachside sunset in the moment – sand clinging to skin, the lingering taste of salty sea breeze as the last rays of light dip beneath the ocean – is a feeling that just can’t quite be captured in an Instagram story. With that being said, there’s something truly special about being able to look back on candids taken whilst getting up to shenanigans with your mates, or cringey ones from that time your cousins all wore matching outfits to a family dinner. It seems that choosing between what to visually document, and what to leave as humble memories, is all about balance. When I get out of isolation, I’d like to start putting the camera down in some circumstances, but picking it up more often in others.

Photographs don’t contain memories, but they do remind you of them, and that’s something I’d like to keep in mind going forward into the post-isolation world.

Ditch the small talk

I went into isolation thinking it would have an adverse effect on my ability to connect with the people around me, but in some ways, it’s actually done the opposite. For all the ways social media makes our communications with one another feel shallower, it can also boost our confidence to open up more to people around us. I’ve had many a conversation, online or through letters (yes, I’ve been writing letters – desperate times call for desperate measures) over the past month that have turned out to be quite deeper than any exchange I’ve had with those people in person. I found that written mediums, whether that’s texting or writing letters, simply don’t cater to small talk. You essentially have no choice but to throw yourself in the deep-end and start a conversation with someone that goes beyond the trivial, everyday niceties we usually revert to when talking, especially with people we aren’t so close with. This willingness to open up more to people is something I’ve noticed both myself and the people around me doing a lot more of recently; this adds value to all of our lives and relationships, and not just during trying times like these.

Say no more often

Now, I know what you’re thinking – “say no more often”, isn’t that a bit of a pessimistic outlook to have? Being in isolation has put a strain on all of us, granted, in different ways and levels of severity. Trying to uplift and maintain our mental wellbeing has been a particular struggle for many of us; and with many of the tools one might usually use to boost their happiness unavailable at the moment, staying motivated and keeping a positive mindset can be really difficult. Something I’ve noticed whilst being in isolation is that when you’re feeling down and uninspired, especially if it’s for reasons unknown or beyond your power, something you can control is altering your lifestyle to accommodate for the difficulties you’re facing. If you’re struggling to meet all your deadlines and keep up with your tasks, there’s no shame in admitting that you’ve got too much on your plate. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need a breather from all the madness around you, then do what you need to do to look after yourself. Ask for those extensions, cut yourself some slack for missing those exercise classes, turn down that extra job you’ve been asked if you can do. As someone who is usually a habitual yes-man, I know all too well how damaging it can be to put too much pressure on yourself. Currently being in a position where I’ve been physically restricted from taking on too many new tasks at once, though, I’ve noticed how freeing it is to have less to do, and to be able to put more focus into the things I am still doing.

Going into social isolation has been a truly strange experience, and one which most of us have never lived through before. One of the positive offerings a situation like this can give us, however, is a fresh perspective. Take it or leave it, it’s undeniable that once we’re out of isolation, it’ll be up to us to use the things we’ve learnt through this experience for the better.