How to find positives during a global health crisis


Coronavirus sucks. People die. Others get sick. The affected ones lose time, health, and money. The rest are stuck, bored, and trying hard not to make it worse for others.

But it also sucks to constantly wallow in how much all this sucks. After you’ve taken your precautions, what good is lamenting the hourly news updates? If it takes six months for this to pass, will you throw yourself 180 pity parties? Or will you make the best of a bad situation?

I’m scared for my grandparents. I had to cancel some trips. My city is a ghost town, and my girlfriend lives 700 miles away. This isn’t fun for me either, but I refuse to let anything colour my blue-tinted glasses grey. Tomorrow can be a good day. That’s who I am. An optimist. I encourage you to be one too.

If you look past the grim veil of this episode of “Nature Strikes Back,” you’ll see that some of the consequences of this crisis are actually — oddly — beautiful. It’s a bit like Confucius said: “Everything has beauty, but not everyone can see it.” Said beauty lies, as always, in the eye of the beholder.

If you’re sick or know someone who’s sick, get them or yourself taken care of. If you’re healthy and can keep your loved ones close, start looking. Look for the beauty in the pandemic.

1. Quiet Streets

There’s something magical about near-post-apocalyptic, deserted city streets. You don’t have to stroll through them to enjoy them, although, sometimes, that’s what you might do.

You can enjoy them from your window. Listen to the lack of noise. Where’s the Friday afternoon traffic? Where’s the noise outside my house? I don’t miss it. I enjoy Sunday vibes.

Everything is so…peaceful. Quiet. A lot of this quiet might be inspired by fear, but then, eventually, this feeling transforms into an aura of calm. It transfers to small gatherings inside. There’s less shouting, more talking. Fewer arguments, more connection. And that’s a beautiful thing.

2. Resting Giants

Like the Ents returning home after their march in Lord of the Rings, man-made giants have gone to sleep due to the virus. Aeroplanes. Governments. Companies. Their slumber is an act of purification; for themselves, the people who work for them, and, of course, the planet.

Air pollution has dropped up to a third in various places in China. Italy notes significant emission reductions. Retail shopping takes a hit, but the earth can literally take a breath.

Who cares if Mercedes sells two million cars less (other than Mercedes)? If no one goes to work, who needs a car? Maybe, a change in strategy is long overdue. Now, they’ll have all the time they need to think about it.

Finally, when everyone wakes back up, growth is easy, fast, and natural. Everyone will celebrate rising numbers. Maybe, they’ll even go a little more carefully about how they achieve them.

3. More Humanity

A time of crisis is a time of genuine “How are you?” Where there’s less running about, there’s more room for real concern, for honest care and empathy.

Forced to make some changes we otherwise wouldn’t have, we might find they’re actually for the better. Might we be equally as productive working from home? Maybe, we’ll keep that change in place. Maybe, people will feel even better. It’s nice to keep your autonomy. To manage your day by yourself.

Whether it’s deliberate or dictated, some of the extra space for human fragility might stay. “It’s okay, John. Go pick up your kids.” “Did you also watch that new show?” More time, more leisure, it all means more room for connection.

4. Time For Contemplation

If you asked the ancient philosophers what was really important, most of them would tell you, “To think.” It’s easy for contemplation to get lost in everyday life. There are meetings to attend, clients to tend to, events to participate in, and oh, the notifications!

But if it all goes silent for a bit, suddenly, ideas emerge. “I should finish this book.” “I need to prepare for meetings more.” Your subconscious needs downtime to process. Only then can it send insights back up.

Did you really need new shoes to begin with? So what if you can’t try them on in the store? No, you can’t go to France, but a staycation is a chance to realize you have a beautiful home.

Reading. Contemplating. Thinking. By sweeping many of our everyday to-do’s off the table, a crisis can gift us with time for what truly matters.

5. Acceptance

Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl once said: “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

In the depth of his worst nightmare, much worse than any infection, he found peace in acceptance. He refused to let the world rob him of meaning. He chose to create it himself. That’s an option for all of us, and it’s always available.

Nature can be vicious. Disasters, accidents, and, yes, diseases, are all part of the deal. Sometimes, we can’t do much about them, but we can take comfort in being part of it all. It’s the circle of life, and we’re in the midst of it.

What a privilege to have lived, to have defied the odds to begin with, what a time to be alive.

Niklas Göke is also the owner of Four Minute Books, where he’s published over 500 non-fiction book summaries to date.