With the data about COVID isolation and its negative effects polluting our senses, it is reassuring that researchers are turning their attention to interventions to assist people sheltering at home.
Bringing the outside world into our homes is one strategy. Stress is reduced in indoor environments enriched with plants compared with indoor spaces without vegetation. In addition, the presence of indoor plants is associated with a decrease in perceptions of pain, fear, unhappiness, and aggressiveness. Not to mention the increased oxygenation photosynthesizing plants provide.
Pets also have a positive effect on the psyche, but they can have problems with enforced quarantining too. Whilst owners value having more time than usual with their pets, it may not always be in the pet’s best interests. Research has shown that very few owners provide alone time for their dogs during lockdown. Spending extra time with a pet dog may negatively affect the dog’s future ability to cope when left alone when owners go back to out-of-home working. Stay-home pets are used to time alone, which might be difficult to provide in environments crowded with people 24/7. In addition, under some lockdown rules, the limited outdoor time for walking dogs may not provide sufficient opportunities for interaction with other dogs. Owners have started reporting new undesirable behaviours in their dogs during the lockdown, including barking, clinginess and whining when left alone. Might we start to see these negative behaviours in people once we return to more frequent interaction?
So, give your pet some space.
Pets are not the only ones suffering from social isolation. Having no face-to-face contact is common in older adults. Nearly 50% of people aged 60 above report no contact at all. The figure is even higher for women and minority groups.
There is a bright side. Mammals of the human variety are starting to report a range of positive effects of staying home. Examples include discovering new pastimes, improving time management skills, embracing self-awareness and coping strategies and even a renewed vigour for cleaning. The favourite activities of people in home bubbles range from music, games, technology, socializing, interests requiring art and talent, scientific and cultural activities, hobbying to indoor sports.
As vaccination starts to get COVID anxiety under control and movement restrictions ease, researchers are exploring what caged humans are planning for escapades. The top five activities participants have mentioned, in no particular order, are: healthcare, education, religious activity, music and socializing. Conspicuously absent was exercise and travel.
Another fallout from lockdown has been fitness. One in four people in quarantine report no exercise at all. The numbers are even higher for people diagnosed with mental health conditions and/or physical disability.
Time to plan your rejuvenation. Get a check-up. Buy a plant. Rehabilitate your pet. Turn a COVID hobby into a lifestyle change. Take your neighbours’ dogs for a outings with yours.