Social isolation: it wasn’t natural, and it wasn’t always fun. I really feel for the state of Victoria as they go back into lockdown, but I am reminded of the lessons that we learned from our own social isolation experiences here in Sydney. I find it very interesting that it took a global pandemic for us to slow down a little and reflect on some pretty important things:

A good rest from the drains of the world

Up first, it was a good rest from the usual chaos of life. I was in the first trimester of my current pregnancy so slowing down particularly helpful, but other friends and family echoed the same sentiment. Whether people were finally getting the eight hours sleep they yearned for, or a little more time for exercise or hobbies when they would normally be commuting, I think that most people felt refreshed in some small way.

Happier family life

Social isolation forced us to focus inwards on the family; the people that we probably tend to take for granted in the hustle and bustle of normal life. It certainly was hard to go from packed weekends to having nothing on, but once I had settled into it, I found it was a wonderful opportunity. I took walks or did preschool activities with my older daughter while my younger one napped, and got a chance to see more of what was going on in her little head. I was more aware of being present with the girls and enjoying playing together without my mind always on the next thing to do or place to be.

With my husband working from home, he got to enjoy parts of the kids’ day that he usually would forgo; and my common complaint of missing him while he was out at his various extracurricular activities just wasn’t an issue. We had more parenting conversations than usual too, and saw some good growth in our girls as they began new routines (like cleaning up their toy room before bed) and learnt to play more independently than before.

More appreciative of social interactions

Being away from our families and friends made me appreciate them more and look forward to spending time with them again. But it also made me value smaller things like shaking the hand of a new acquaintance, hugging an old friend when you bump into them, or just doing the shopping minus hand sanitizer and face masks. We are social beings by nature, after all! We live in a technological world where really, we could operate without leaving home – but this just goes to show that we wouldn’t be fulfilled that way.

Better recreation

In busy times, a five-minute scroll through social media can seem like a quick unwind. With all the extra time of social isolation, continuous scrolling just became numbing and unfulfilling. I’m ashamed to admit that I ever spend my time that way, but it’s true. However this did remind me of how unsatisfactory social media, and endless Netflix, or any other screen-time activity becomes.

I learned to put away my phone and pick up a book, or go for a walk, or get to that cupboard in the house that I had been meaning to rearrange for ages. I decided to go and sit with my kids and drink imaginary cups of tea rather than waste another hour on my phone; or use my phone to actually call a friend and have a good chat. I may not be perfect at it yet, but social isolation definitely reminded me to make much better use of my time than the habits I had fallen into.

Taking these lessons into a broader plane

These might all seem like small things – small adjustments to family life. But isn’t it interesting that all of these, when taken to a more global level, can be the types of things that help the world in a global pandemic? After all, happier families made up of individuals spending their time more productively means more good people to be responsible citizens of the world, who look out for one another, and who can work together when times are tough.

Tamara El-Rahi is an associate editor of MercatorNet. A Journalism graduate from the University of Technology Sydney, she lives in Australia with her husband and two daughters.