The pandemic restrictions — lockdown — have been hard on workers and businesses, isolating for those living alone, and stressful for parents and families. For some, the COVID lockdowns have had a silver lining. Living within restrictions not only gave a boost to family relationships, it offered opportunities for personal growth, a British study found.

The findings come from the responses caregivers gave when surveyed by researchers from the University of Bath and the University of Lisbon during the peak of the first wave of the lockdowns associated with the COVID pandemic in Portugal and the United Kingdom, between May 1 and June 27, 2020. All the respondents were caregivers of children between the ages of 6 and 16.

Nearly half reported lockdown enabled them to spend more time together, enjoy more involvement with their kids’ lives, and resulted in a feeling of increased intimacy within the family.

Not surprisingly, most of the 358 British and Portuguese caregivers reported finding the experience of lockdown challenging. Almost all were experiencing a reduction in income; 70 percent were working from home; and 93 percent had children who were being schooled at home.

But there were some happier results, too. When the respondents were asked, “Do you think there are any positives to come out of this pandemic and of the social distancing restrictions?” 88 percent said “yes.” This “post-traumatic growth”, as the researchers called it, fell into four basic areas:

  • 48 percent reported growth in their family relationships that included spending more time together, more involvement with their kids’ lives, better conversations, and an overall feeling of increased intimacy within the family.
  • Even with these positive results, researchers were quick to point out that the pandemic has taken its toll, especially when it comes to overall mental health.

  • 22 percent reported feeling staying at home made them better appreciate their lives, including feeling grateful for the opportunity to re-evaluate and set priorities for “what’s really important in life.”
  • 16 percent reported a stronger sense of community and an increased compassion for others, which researchers described as “acknowledgement of inequalities.” Spiritual involvement also increased, the survey found.
  • 11 percent reported lockdown had helped stimulate a sense of curiosity and willingness to discover a new way of finding a balance between working at home and family life, as well as giving them a chance to acquire “new technology-related competencies,” particularly when it came to the kinds of skills needed to educate their children at home.
  • Even with these positive results, researchers were quick to point out that the pandemic has taken its toll, especially when it comes to mental health. “But that’s not the whole story,” said lead researcher, Paul Stallard, of the University of Bath’s Department of Health, “Many respondents in our study emphasized what we had heard anecdotally about some of the positive effects people have derived from leading their lives in quieter, slower ways because of lockdowns.”

    It’s not the first time that a positive attitude has proved beneficial. Several studies over the years have shown that staying optimistic, even when circumstances may be difficult, has far-reaching benefits, from reducing stress and lowering blood pressure, to boosting longevity. So, even during this tough time, try to remember that old adage about turning lemons into lemonade. What have we got to lose?

    The study is published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.