It's hard to find good news in the middle of a pandemic as devastating as the one we're facing now. But not only does good news exist, it's critical that we share it. So we've set out to highlight some of the good things about global confinement. For a little while, let's try to put the anxiety aside and look at the glass half-full.
1. A decrease in pollution
It's been a long, long time since the air in Madrid was as clean as it is right now. By considerably decreasing the amount of street traffic (the primary cause of pollution in the Spanish capital), the city has freed itself of much of its usual exhaust fumes. During the first three weeks of quarantine, the contamination in Madrid's metropolitan area was reduced by 50 percent according to data from Greenpeace and Ecologists in Action – similar to what we've also seen happen in China and Italy.
2. Mutual support among neighbours
It's a fact: these days many of us are getting to know our neighbours better than we ever have. People with whom we previously might have exchanged only a cordial nod are now critical parts of our virtual networks. With country-wide confinement, neighbourly support efforts have emerged. Younger members of the community are concerned about the health of elderly neighbours and are looking after them by doing their shopping or taking out their rubbish. Offers of babysitting have come up for parents with essential jobs, neighbours are playing bingo across balconies, and communities are even enjoying an improvised happy hour from their windows. Once the state of alarm is over, it's comforting to know that these new connections are there, and our city can emerge as a more human, loving place.
3. The silence
We are so accustomed to living in noisy cities that we aren't aware of the damages noise pollution can cause to our health. Open the window in Madrid these days, and you'll find – just like in other cities across Spain – that the usually cacophonous streets now sound more like those in a quaint countryside village than the capital city. Sounds that were previously buried under layers of our daily lives now serve as the soundtrack of our city: birds, cats, leaves on trees and the faraway laugh of a neighbour. Silence is indeed golden.
4. Reconnecting with old friends
Wondering about that friend from school you see on social media but haven't actually chatted with in years? What about that lovely woman you met while studying abroad in university? These days, during a time when we're spending so much time online, it's easier than usual to find time to connect with people from past lives. What might start as commiseration about the lockdown could turn into long conversations about funny memories and result in promises to reconnect in person on the other side of all this.
It certainly isn't the same to spend three weeks of confinement in a mansion with a sprawling garden as it is to pass the time in a tiny interior flat. But if this health crisis is doing anything, it's equalizing all of us a bit more than usual. After all, we're all in the same situation: stuck in our homes as we deal with this global circumstance. Perhaps this will help us place ourselves in the shoes of others for whom this is a daily reality – whether it's the sick or homeless, those with reduced mobility or limited freedom, or elderly folks who live in solitude.
6. Rethinking our spending habits
These days we aren't splurging on clothes or glasses of wine, we're not booking holidays or pursuing other leisure activities. While this can cause sadness or boredom for some, maybe it's a chance to reevaluate our consumption and be a bit more intentional about the ways we spend what we bring in. Why not support that local bookshop where you're always greeted so warmly? How about picking your produce up from the corner shop? We must not forget our power as consumers: we decide who benefits from our patronage, and nowadays it's even more critical that we keep in mind small, locally owned businesses.
7. Less crime
Another obvious effect of the situation we find ourselves in is that crime is also quarantined. According to information from Spain's Ministry of the Interior, crime across the country has fallen by 50 percent, while the number of detainees has fallen by 60 percent. It's easy to understand why: it's that much harder for pickpockets and burglars to operate when everyone's at home. That said, there have been plenty of arrests for failure to comply with government decrees. Up to this point, there have been around 500.
8. More culture for all
We're not going to argue that there's anything better than seeing your favourite band live or going to an enriching exhibition or a stellar theatre production. But we've got to hand it to the culture industry for acting so fast and doing their best to keep us plugged in during this time. Online concerts and festivals, virtual tours of museums, stellar city views, and free content has exploded, giving us the chance to embrace culture in a totally new and exciting way – and all in a single click.
9. Learning to care for ourselves... without leaving home
Many of us have turned our living spaces into improvised gyms. Screens have become our coaches and trainers, and there is a seemingly bottomless pool of exercise videos to choose from. Sure, we're stuck at home, but we're learning that it's possible to stay fit and healthy in the comfort of our own living rooms.
In these difficult days, humour is more important than ever. It seems that whenever extraordinary situations occur, meme-makers sharpen their wits and produce images that coax a smile out of even the most mopey among us. Much of the content brought to us through social media is funny, but there are also memes praising the health workers fighting this pandemic and others promoting campaigns to stay home.
11. Time to read (or reread) books
Here's a question for you: how many books do you have on your shelves that you've never read? For a lot of us compulsive book-buyers, it's a fairly large number. This is the perfect time to head over to your own personal library and browse through those novels, memoirs and essay collections that you've always promised yourself you'd read next month... or next year.
12. More time to cook
Whether it's because we can't go out to our favourite restaurants or because we're experimenting with ways to extend those last wilted vegetables in our fridge, there's no doubt we're all being a bit more active (and adventurous!) in the kitchen these days. Websites and social media accounts dedicated to cooking are experiencing a boom of increased attention during quarantine. We've all got different reasons for cooking more, but it doesn't matter if you're baking to cure boredom or inventing new dishes to feed a fuller-than-usual house. The fact is that Spaniards are cooking more than ever.
13. Loving and looking after each other
We're all talking a lot more to our loved ones lately. We talk daily with parents, children and friends, and we want to be in the loop about everyone's health and emotional well-being. Faced with this complicated situation when anxiety pervades everyone's mind, we find we're relying on each other more than usual. Even if we can't be with each other face to face, it's time to share the love and look after one another.