12 things to cheer you up during the coronavirus outbreak

The drop in air pollution, phone calls making a comeback and people coming to one another’s aid – these are some of the things keeping us upbeat.

There’s no disputing that the coronavirus sucks. Really sucks. But on our search for good news to see you through these long days of social distancing and self-isolation we’ve come across quite a few bright spots that could make you smile.

So put your feet up, take a few relaxing breaths and check out the cheerful things taking place in the world.

  1. Air pollution is falling over the world

The less we travel, fly and drive the more air pollution levels drop. And with large chunks of humanity now stuck at home, our planet is getting a bit of a breather.

In Israel, for example, pollution levels have dropped by 30 percent over the past few weeks. Between January 1 and March 11, the average concentration of harmful nitrogen dioxide was 35.5 Mcg/m3, and between March 12 and March 16 it dropped to an average concentration of 25 Mcg/m3.

NASA recently released stunning satellite images of pollution in China, showing how large areas of the country are now much clearer of nitrogen dioxide.

In Milan, which is under corona lockdown, the average NO2 concentration these past four weeks was 24% lower than four weeks earlier. Shuttered Barcelona saw NO2 levels drop by 40% from one week to the next.

2. You can see the stars more clearly

Less air pollution means fabulous stargazing — no trips to clear but distant desert spots required. Which is just as well, considering that we can’t actually travel anywhere at the moment.

As well as enjoying the night sky with the naked eye, thousands recently joined the Israel Space Agency’s live stargazing session on Facebook. Check out your local observatories for similar ventures – a great night is guaranteed.

3. People are getting very, very creative

Being cooped up at home all day sure brings out our creative side. With plenty of time to spare and kids and adults to entertain, arts and crafts are enjoying a massive revival.

Perhaps COVID-19 has inspired you to make your own organic soaps. Or maybe you’re wondering what to do with the corks from all that extra wine you’ve been drinking. In any case, the Internet has got you covered.

4. Start-Up Nation is slaying it

There’s nothing like immense pressure to push us to deliver amazing results. Israel’s high-tech community is outdoing itself, working round the clock to find ways to battle COVID-19. Whether by developing rapid diagnostic kits, improving handwashing practices or making facemasks more effective, local scientists are in full-power mode.

Startups and big corporations alike are also looking out for their workers and the general public. Just ask all the employees receiving flexible working hours at home and pizza deliveries for the entire family. And with no one to munch away on delicacies in the office, some companies are now delivering their lunches to those in greater need, showing that along with big brains come big hearts.

5. Life is slowing down

Being stuck at home all day sure makes life slow down, and we mean this in the most positive way. With no running around to do, we can sit back and do all the things we always wanted to get to but never had the chance.

Now, for instance, it would be a great time to pick up a good book – just check out our Israeli recommendations here. Or, if you’re looking to tear your kids away from the screens, consider reading these classics together with them.

Another great upside to having all this spare time is that we can really get cooking. Shakshuka, hummus, burekas and cheesecake – check out our recipes here and treat yourselves and your loved ones to some delicious home cooking.

 

6. Nature is returning to the spaces we have evacuated

Social media has been ablaze in recent weeks with amazing images of nature reclaiming its rightful place in the world in the absence of human intervention.

While we’re sorry to be the ones to tell you that the posts about dolphins swimming in Venice are fake, the city’s deserted canals are indeed enjoying this quiet moment, as can be gathered from photos showing the usually muddy water turned crystal clear.

Or there’s the town of Llandudno, in North Wales, which has been invaded by a herd of Great Orme goats who are running riot in the deserted streets.

Over here in Israel nature is also having a bit of a moment. Just ask this little duckling family enjoying a stroll along the now-empty tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport.7. People are singing to one another

Despite not being allowed to come anywhere near one another, many people are doing their very best to keep everyone’s spirits up. And what better way than a concert, singalong or party?

Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, for example, treated audiences worldwide to an interactive concert from his living room, as have Israeli superstar Idan Raichel and the very fabulous Jerusalem Street Orchestra.

Offline, Israelis have taken to conducting parties and singalongs from their balconies, like this awesome video shows.

8. History and art are free for all

From “The Holy City.” Image courtesy of the Tower of David Museum

The Met, the British Museum and the Israel Museum are some of the world’s finest museums. And now they’re also completely free – just check out their websites for virtual tours that provide hours of fun and engagement for the whole family.

Experience Passover, Easter, and Ramadan in Jerusalem, virtually, through the Tower of David’s virtual reality show “The Holy City.” Or have fun filling in coloring pages of the Israel Museum’s finest masterpieces. Remember, there’s more to life than Netflix.

9. The Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) is almost full

This piece of good news is so good it can cheer up Israelis on the darkest of days. While you may wonder why we get so excited about every inch our national lake gains or loses, take it from us – it’s an integral part of the local psyche.

As well as coronavirus, this winter brought us plenty of rain that saw the Kinneret rise profoundly. We are now only 17 inches away from a full lake, and we are dreaming that soon we’ll be able to enjoy a corona-free, water-laden time up north.

10. People are coming together to help each other

It’s during difficult times that humanity really shows its better sides, and this coronavirus crisis is no different. Kind deeds are happening across the world.

In Israel, people are helping each other in the most magnificent ways, whether by running errands for those confined at home, volunteering to test blood samples for the virus or sending food over to exhausted hospital staff. Medical staff, in particular, are being lauded across the country for their hard and courageous work in keeping us safe and sound.

11. Phone calls are back in fashion

Do the effects of technology on our interpersonal communication leave you feeling desolate? Well, you must be thrilled at the return of the simple phone call.

With time to spare and worries abounding, people are now actually picking up the phone and holding real conversations with their loved ones.

Sure, text messages and chats are still as convenient as ever, but in these troubling times, there’s nothing better than hearing a real voice on the other end of the line. For a limited amount of time, that is – we still hate the way the phone makes our ear warm up.

12. Silence is the new normal

The empty and silent Jaffa street in downtown Jerusalem on March 28, 2020. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90

Have you noticed it? In cities, towns, and villages all over the world, things have got really quiet. There are no planes, no cars, sometimes no buses or public transport, and definitely no rush hour. There are also very few people on the street, and no cafes or restaurants buzzing with life. The impact of all this is a new sense of quiet, even in the busiest cities – that constant hum of noise has just disappeared. We can hear the birds sing, crickets chirp, and our neighbors play with their kids.

Studies show that noise pollution is associated with several health conditions, including cardiovascular disorders, hypertension, high-stress levels, tinnitus, hearing loss, sleep disturbances, and other harmful and disturbing effects. So just think how this new silence is helping improve our health.

About the Author

Naama Barak is a writer at ISRAEL21c. A Ph.D. student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, she loves all things history and politics. Food and fashion come a close second. Prior to joining ISRAEL21c, Naama worked for Israel’s leading English-language dailies and cutting-edge startups.

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