Written by Cecilia Rivera
We are living amid complicated, difficult and disturbing moments… overshadowed by a global historical event that has shaken the very fiber of our existence. It has forced us to reassess the most precious values of humanity—health, connection, and freedom. Despite such difficulty and misfortune, though, we can smile knowing that our COVID-era confinement is helping us reconnect to that which makes us human.
Pandemic life can be an opportunity to reframe the effects and defects of our accelerated life, the perks and disadvantages of always living on the move. We are testing our “agile thinking” to adapt quickly, not only as companies delivering products, services or experiences, but also as people coping with uncertainty.
Individuals and groups have been able to question, adapt, and reform our priorities… to restructure our everyday habits and rethink the principles of consumerism. What is the value we get from everything we buy? How important are comfort, security, and companionship? How malleable are our needs and desires? What is the new perception of home?
We are humans reconnecting with the simpler things in life, focusing on small details that we’d previously set aside. We’ve adapted our daily routines, transportation, budgets, diets, exercise programs, reliance on digital spaces, and methods of working, learning, socializing, and even home decoration…. The lockdowns have sparked new global consumer trends and behavior patterns that show—even though we may be isolated—we still connect at the most essential levels.
Rethinking vacation values
Being with the people we love the most has taken on a new relevance, and sharing safe and clean physical spaces with those people is a sudden and critical priority. For instance, Airbnb—while COVID presented the biggest challenge in their 12-year company journey—went from impending bankruptcy at the pandemic’s beginning to an increase in bookings during May and June in the US (than over the same period in 2019). Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s co-founder, said, “It has exceeded everything we expected.” Surprisingly, local tourism to drivable and affordable domestic destinations began to rise, indicating that getaway travel may be shifting to simple, home-like retreats that provide surroundings perfect for human connections while supporting nearby communities.
Embracing animal companionship
Another curious global behavior to deal with the isolation stress during the corona lockdown, is the massive increase in fostering and adopting animals. Having a furry companion has turned into an emotional necessity for many. People are opening their homes to new pets that can bring daily cheerfulness, physical contact, distraction, structure, and even outdoor exercising.
With the support of social media campaigns and new online booking systems, animal shelters worldwide are experiencing surprising adoption figures. Across the USA, shelters are overwhelmed by the community support to place animals into adoptive homes. One facility in Chicago said they ran out of adoptable animals for the first time ever (Chicago Animal Care and Control, April 2020), and this has been happening around the globe. In countries like Belgium, the pet adoption has grown to 200% [link is in Spanish] over the last two months, and a South Australian shelter hit their new adoption record in May. Perhaps these trends reaffirm that caring and sharing is part of our human nature.
Bringing the outside in
A hobby that seems to be on the upswing is growing decorative and edible plants at home. Many nurseries are having unprecedented volume sales, which has led them to take e-commerce measures quickly to accommodate demand and address shortages. For example, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Missouri had over 10,000 orders in March, about 10 times their normal demand. “It was totally overwhelming. The whole seed industry hasn’t seen anything like this since the Great Depression,” said owner Jere Gettle. And at Sunset Boulevard Nursery, East Hollywood in Southern California, in June went from getting 500 orders a weekend to receiving 200 orders a day. That same month in the UK, the Seed Co-operative plant nursery experienced orders as much as six times higher than a year ago. “We’re running on multi-annual production schedules, so it could become a real issue in a few years, when seed supply hasn’t had time to replenish,” said David Price, managing director.
How does this add up? People during lockdown have great interest in decorating with living elements—symbolizing vitality, caring and freshness—and focusing on simple hobbies that strengthen their roots, leaning on gardening to appreciate nature blooming within their own homes.
Nurturing with comfort food
The sweetest COVID-19 trend? Quite arguably home-baked banana bread, the official snack of the 2020 quarantine. The easy-to-make soft loaf has been the most searched recipe in the world since March 2020 (Google Trends). It even has its own pandemic song! Why the hype? Because cooking the delicious treat has become a simple, therapeutic experience. It’s a universal, affordable and tasteful recipe that is familiar and breeds peace of mind. According to licensed master social worker Julie Ohana, the psychological cadence of cooking “creates stability and feelings of comfort… it soothes our minds and our bodies.” The stress of the global pandemic leads us to a collective craving for comfort food, because people want to return to the basics. The ordinary, easy experience of baking banana bread allows us to forget the outside world for a while, rewarding us with an aromatic and tasty quick win. (I confess I’m guilty… I’ve made two so far!)
At the end of the day—whether we are shifting our getaways, companion choices, or hobby options—the bottom line is that we are adaptable human beings willing to reconnect with ourselves, while hustling collectively within a complex situation. We are reframing our needs, understanding the new normal, relearning by doing. Let’s stay open to reshape our habits, discover new patterns and enjoy the simplest moments… Because, let’s face it, who could refuse a delicious slice of banana bread?
Author Cecilia Rivera, owner of a strategic branding studio in Mexico City, has 10 years of experience in the creative and advertising fields, working with global corporate brands, healthcare foundations, innovation consultancies and several startups. She holds a Master’s Degree in Research for Design & Innovation.