There is a centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery called Kintsugi. Rather than trying to conceal the cracks when putting the pieces back together, the technique uses an epoxy mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum to emphasize and draw attention to them. The uniquely restored piece, with shimmering veins running throughout, turns its broken history into a beautiful, new second life.
Right about now, many of us are probably trying to picture our own post-pandemic life, and how all the pieces might fit back together. About half of Americans say their lives will be changed “in major ways” when the pandemic is over. What new precious elements will we weave in?
Very possibly, many of us will have discovered a newfound sense of personal strength, according to psychologists Richard Tedeschi, PhD, and Lawrence Calhoun, PhD, who coined the term post-traumatic growth (PTG) to explain a kind of transformation that can happen following a life-altering event.
"People develop new understandings of themselves, the world they live in, how to relate to other people, the kind of future they might have, and a better understanding of how [they want] to live life," Tedeschi said.
These are the areas of growth research shows are affected by challenging circumstances:
- Appreciation of life
- Relationships with others
- New possibilities in life
- Personal strength
- Spiritual growth or change
Creative growth and increased compassion and altruism are also sometimes mentioned.
To be clear, the researchers aren’t suggesting that distressing events are good; just that when they are beyond our control, or inevitable, that positive change can occur. Tedeschi estimates that about one-half to two-thirds of people who weather terrible times experience post-traumatic growth.
You, only better
Maybe you surprised yourself at how well you handled the ups and downs of the past year. Your newfound inner strength makes you feel better equipped—more confident, knowledgeable, resilient—to handle whatever life throws your way.
Or … after deeply missing those closest to you, perhaps you’ve realized you have to make time in your busy life to nurture those connections. Maybe that means working remote a day or two a week, and using the saved commute time to stay in better touch with family and friends. Or setting better boundaries and not responding to work emails after 7 pm.
Perhaps you’ve felt the impact of missed opportunities, and you want to stretch yourself a little more: try new things, travel to new places. Be a little less cautious. For many aged 60+, the pandemic focused their thoughts about how they want to live the rest of their lives, often in intentional community.
Platinum, gold, and silver linings
If there was a silver lining to COVID, perhaps it’s that it raised awareness about making health and wellbeing a priority, especially the importance of physical activity, good nutrition, and stress management. Connected fitness companies (like us!) have made it easy (and fun) to work out at home, at any time of day and for however long you have. Hopefully the ease of fitting exercise into your day, and the variety of workouts offered, will continue to inspire you, and everyone, to take good care of their health.
For many people, the pandemic opened a window onto new possibilities of what could be, encouraging us to make changes based on how we want to live our “beautiful second life.” Precious insight that’s worth its weight in gold.