Welcome to the Great Reimagination! From small improvements to life-altering decisions, the country is in a profound period of change. You may have heard of the Great Resignation, but we prefer to look at this new era as an opportunity to truly choose your own future. As you explore our Great Reimagination series, get inspired to let 2022 be the year you dream big.
When COVID-19 hit the United States in March 2020, many of us were forced to smack the pause button. Schools and office jobs went remote, nonessential travel ground to a halt and those of us not deemed essential workers hunkered down for what we hoped would be a few scary and uncertain weeks. Over two years later, the pandemic still isn’t over. Schools are back in session, and most offices have called workers back to their cubicles at least part-time. But the lives we’ve returned to aren’t the ones we left in early 2020, after our society got a rare chance to step back, take stock of our priorities and make tough decisions into a post-pandemic world.
Good Housekeeping wanted to know what that looks like, so we surveyed over 2,600 readers to find out. The results revealed that across all ages, income levels, employment statuses and family compositions, people are making changes — lots of them. The vast majority of respondents (84%) are currently taking stock of their lives and considering making changes to improve health, career, spirituality or relationships. As one reader put it, “I’m decluttering my life to focus on what is really important.”
Our Finances Shifted
Many readers commented that things like grocery bills, filling up the car and other household expenses have gone up, but they’re not seeing increases in salaries at the same rate. The “Great Resignation” bears out among GH readers too, with many changing jobs, scaling back to part-time work or finding new careers during the last couple of years. “I wanted a better work-life balance and I also felt motivated to do work that mattered and made a difference,” said one respondent. “I decided to choose projects based on passion not paychecks.” Older respondents were less likely to save more, especially those in retirement.
While almost 50% of respondents said they spend or save about the same as they did pre-pandemic, 36% are saving more than they were before. Retirees have seen the fewest changes in their saving habits, likely because their income is less flexible. And readers are taking part in the workforce shift, too: 35% of readers got a new job over the last two years.
We’re Focusing on Our Health
From trying out meditation to cooking more at home and starting a new workout regimen, lots of us put renewed attention into our bodies and minds.
- 15% started and stuck with meditating and 21% found themselves more spiritual than before the pandemic began. Some readers reflected that the slower pace of the shutdown gave them time to think about their lives more intentionally, while others found comfort and solace in religious practices.
- 40% kicked off (and stuck with!) a new workout regimen. When gyms and workout classes shuttered, a lot of people took up home exercise regimens, including online workout classes, and some took the opportunity to try out new fitness options (like roller skating!).
- 58% started cooking more and 44% made a change in diet. Most people who started cooking more also said they made time to eat together as a family, or tried to focus more on healthy habits.
And some took a holistic approach. As one reader observed, “I have decided to focus on myself and making sure that I am as happy and healthy as I can be. I think the feeling of not being as in control during the pandemic probably led me to seek out the things I can control in my own life.”
Family Dynamics Shifted, Too
With fewer places to be, lots of us got closer with our loved ones during the last two years — physically, at the very least.
- 61% of families spent more time together during the first two years of the pandemic. Many reported that college-aged kids came back home when schools shuttered or young adult offspring returned briefly to the nest, making for unexpected family time with those members. And 16% of people adopted a new furry friend, because family doesn’t have to be the same species.
- With school via remote learning for some period of time and lots of parents working from home, 47% said their kids had more screen time, at least during the first phase of the pandemic.
- But the increased time at home together didn’t necessarily mean kids relied more on mom and dad: 32% said their kids got more independent, learning new ways of entertaining themselves and leaning in to opportunities for creativity when the playground at recess wasn’t an option.
And some parents noted a new appreciation for the village it takes to raise a child. “I was able to get a firsthand experience of just how hard it is to teach my kids and that made me appreciate their teachers that much more,” one pointed out.
Relationships Evolved, for Better and for Worse
Lots of couples, in particular, found their marriages or relationships strengthened by the increased time together, including 25% who found their friendships grew stronger, even if more than a few reported wishing for more alone time during early lockdowns. Many people found their families growing closer, but the pandemic stressed some bonds too.
Many people began to re-evaluate their relationships with friends and support networks when they were forced to physically distance, with a lot of readers noting that they started thinking more intentionally about who they stayed in touch with and who fell by the wayside. That may account for 21% of respondents saying friends grew apart over the past two years. “Some of my friendships disappeared because I realized I wanted real and meaningful relationships, so those were the ones I chose to foster once quarantines were lifted. I found out who true friends were,” one reader explained.
Lizz Schumer covers pets, culture, lifestyle, books, entertainment and more as Good Housekeeping‘s senior editor; she also contributes to Woman’s Day and Prevention. She has also written food and lifestyle content for The New York Times, HuffPost, VinePair and many others. When she’s not writing, you can find Lizz instagramming her food or playing with her dog, Jerry.