The pandemic helped some millennials finally grow up

millennial
Economic forces have made adulthood seem long out of reach for many millennials.

  • For some millennials, a sense of adulthood has become more attainable during the pandemic.
  • Economic forces have long kept millennials from doing the things that used to define growing up.
  • Some took on more responsibilities in 2020, from buying houses to nesting to dealing with adult-sized stress.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

It wasn’t until the pandemic that I started making my bed every day.

It seemed like a counterintuitive act before 2020. My bed was trapped by three walls in the tiny bedroom of my rented apartment, which meant I had to climb onto it to smooth out the sheets and duvet, creating as many new wrinkles as I erased. It was too much of a hassle in a world where getting ready for and commuting to work was still a thing. And what was the point, anyway, when I would just climb back into it at the end of the day?

But when my bedroom turned into my office and all my meetings moved to Zoom, I couldn’t bear the sight of unprofessional disarray, one more stressful stimulus that would crowd my already cluttered brain.

It was a new beginning.

I also created a Sunday cleaning schedule, traded in box mac-n-cheese for chicken marsala recipes, and began purging my stuff in hopes of a more minimalist space.

“We’re all thrown out of our normal way of doing things,” psychologist Jeffrey Arnett, who coined the term “emerging adulthood,” told me. He explained that some people could benefit from the creation of a routine that helps them feel that not everything is in chaos.

My effort to exert some semblance of control in an unraveling world also elicited, I came to realize, my first real taste of feeling like an “adult.”

Millennials’ struggles with “adulting” have been long documented, but their journey into adulthood has been a challenging one thanks to a relentless affordability crisis – a macroeconomic trend more compelling than one person’s laziness when it comes to bed-making. (Or maybe not – exhaustion with such domestic tasks is at least partially symptomatic of burnout, another issue afflicting the millennial generation).

The definition for adulthood is subjective, especially for such a diverse group that spans the ages of 25 to 40. But the pandemic has, ironically, brought the traditional view of adulthood – think independence and responsibility – within sight for some millennials, particularly the smaller cohort on the wealthier side of the millennial wealth gap.

Many have taken the next step in their living situation, whether as first-time homeowners or venturing into living on their own. Like me, some have turned to “nesting” activities like organizing and cooking for the first time. And most are grappling with adult-level stress that ages them both mentally and physically.

The pandemic created a new world and a new economy, and maybe also a newly “adult” generation.

Suburban and solo living scream independence

Some millennials who weren’t hit by job losses or salary cuts in 2020 were able to play catch-up by tucking away disposable income during the pandemic.

For this group of well-off millennials, adulthood has become more attainable, said Clare Mehta, an associate professor of psychology at Emmanuel College who has been studying established adults ages 30 to 45 during the pandemic. “If you have a partner and you’re thinking about having a family, now there’s a real impetus to move out of the city,” she told Insider.

Many have fled big cities for the suburbs, as historically low interest rates and the option to work remotely made more types of homes viable for the generation. Mehta cited one 30-something married father in her study who had previously told her he wouldn’t feel like an adult until he owned property – he just bought his first house.

House for sale, Texas
The pandemic pushed homeownership within reach of some millennials.

Millennials led all generations in homebuying last year, according to Apartment List’s Homeownership report, accelerating a five-year trend in millennial homeownership rates rising the fastest. And 30% of millennials said in a recent survey by Clever Real Estate that the pandemic pushed them to house-hunting earlier than planned.

US Census Data found that homeownership rates increased by 4 percentage points from the second quarters of 2019 to 2020, and younger generations saw the greatest the leaps. Those under age 35 saw a 4.2 percentage point increase and those ages 35 to 44 saw a 4.9 percentage point increase, compared to older age groups who all hovered around an increase of 2 percentage points.

Even for urban renters, those who stayed in cities are embarking on solo living for the first time amid rent drops, finding new lifestyles and a new sense of independence. These urban and suburban upgrades are both a sign of financial independence, which many young adults deem a marker of true adulthood.

The turn to nesting

The onset of social distancing sidelined the experience economy and birthed the solitary leisure economy, in which Americans spent more time entertaining themselves, well, alone. Among other things, it has pushed many Americans into a nesting mindset.

That would explain my sudden desire to organize and clean, and I may be solitary in doing this, but I’m not alone. A life relegated indoors and Netflix organizing shows like “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” and “The Home Edit” have provided a foundation for a decluttering boom in America.

“People are feeling their spaces right now,” Gretchen Rubin, author of “Outer Order, Inner Calm” told Jura Koncius of The Washington Post. “Some people feel like nesting and just want to paint everything. Others feel claustrophobic. Many have figured out they need more elbow room.”

For many millennials, such nesting activities are new. Consider cooking. Many Americans began cooking at home more as restaurants temporarily shuttered, but it was the first time doing so for many millennials, Krishnakumar Davey, president of strategic analytics at IRI, told CNBC.

millennial cooking
Some millennials turned to nesting activities like cooking for the first time in quarantine.

Millennials also happen to be leading the way in some nesting activities, such as home improvement projects. More than 80% of millennials tackled a home renovation during the pandemic, according to a OnePoll survey, more than any other generation. Spending on home improvement overall increased by 7% in the latter half of 2020 and early 2021, per a February Bank of America note.

Many of these DIY renovators are young females trading in travel and dining for at-home experiences, The Atlantic’s Amanda Mull wrote on the rise of nesting among shut-in Americans back in November. These renovations have been both a coping mechanism for the unemployed, a means to control one’s space, and a way to wile away quarantine days.

As Mull wrote, “What else is there to do?”

The toll of stress

There’s also the emotional burden of dealing with an unprecedented crisis. Research shows that abnormally stressful events not only physically age your brain, but make emerging adults feel at least a year older.

Mental health was generally worse for younger generations pre-pandemic, when diagnoses for major depression in the US were rising at a faster rate for millennials and teens than for any other age group. Since 2013, millennials have seen a 47% increase in major-depression diagnoses. A more recent study by Blue Cross Blue Shield finds that the pandemic has further accelerated the decline of millennial health, including a 12% increase in major depression.

Given the wide age range of millennials, the emotional burden is coming in different forms. For millennials living alone, Mehta said, the stress comes in having to manage their own isolation. Meanwhile, women in their 30s are dealing with increased stress as they juggle working from with unusual childcare arrangements.

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The pandemic showed millennials their parents are aging.

Millennials responsible for others and the emotional wellbeing of their family “have a huge emotional burden, trying to keep everything and everyone together,” Mehta said.

The pandemic also showed many millennials how old their parents are. They’ve had to reckon with the fact that their parents are aging and could be considered at-risk individuals, some having adopted the role of adult themselves in an attempt to convince their parents to take precautions early on in the pandemic.

A little bit older

Now, this isn’t all to say millennials are an immature bunch, unable to get their act together until a world crisis hits. Some millennials had achieved typical adult milestones like buying a house and having kids pre-pandemic, and those who didn’t may have felt like adults regardless.

And not every millennial now feels more adult-like. The pandemic is the latest in a series of economic challenges millennials have faced. Arnett said it has really scrambled and delayed things for the younger cohort, the most likely to have lost their jobs. A halted career and no income stream, which makes goals like homebuying seem out of reach, likely pushed any sense of adulthood further away for those affected.

There’s also the 52% of young adults who were quarantining with their parents as of July, which could lead to feelings of regression. “Most people expect to be able to stay on their own,” Arnett said. “They get used to paying their own bills and doing their own laundry and buying their own groceries. And then to come home, it feels like a defeat.”

Much like the growing millennial wealth gap, the pandemic may therefore be exacerbating a millennial adulthood gap, as some move into the trappings of adulthood with all its responsibilities and stresses, and others stand still in extended adolescence or even move backwards. It’s another manifestation of the K-shaped recovery, which has benefited those with means and hurt nearly everyone else.

And, when it comes to nesting, a married woman with kids probably feels a lot differently about picking up chores at home than a single woman like me does, considering it’s setting back gains in gender equality.

Because the pandemic is ongoing, it’s too soon to exactly determine its long-term effects on millennials. But there’s something to be said about the strides made and burdens faced during the pandemic for a generation in the precarious stage that straddles emerging and established adulthood.

Now that the US is readying for a booming “roaring 20s” economy, some millennials are set to come out of the pandemic a little bit older and wiser, both literally and metaphorically.

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A former monk shares a simple mind trick to help you combat negative thoughts and feel calmer in times of stress

Cory Muscara
Cory Muscara.

  • Cory Muscara is a mindfulness teacher, a frequent guest of the “Ten Percent Happier Podcast” with Dan Harris, a professor, and an ordained Buddhist monk.
  • The following is an excerpt from his book, “Stop Missing Your Life: How to be Deeply Present in an Un-Present World.”
  • In it, he describes a workshop where he encouraged hundreds of Fortune 100 executives to sit silently and listen to a bell ring three times. This exercise is meant to help people focus on the present moment.
  • Muscara argues that it’s important to be intentional about our thoughts and where we direct our attention, as this can help us combat worries, fears, and negative thinking.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Within the first 10 minutes of any workshop, I do an exercise to help people connect with the power of focus. I ring a bell and ask the audience to pay attention to the sound, which has a long, deep resonance.

Recently, I was running a workshop for a big Fortune 100 company. There were over 200 executives in the room, all suffering withdrawal from being off of their phones for the last three minutes, and I was going to put them through my meditation exercise whether they wanted to do it or not.

The instructions were simple: I’ll ring the bells three times. If you’d like to close your eyes, you may. All you need to do is bring your full attention to the sound of the bell until it dissolves back into silence.

Everyone looked around at each other like I had just asked them to get naked and hold hands.

“Don’t worry, it will be easy,” I assured them. “And it will only take about a minute.”

They adjusted their posture, as if reviewing the catalog in their mind for how you’re supposed to sit when you do weird hippie stuff like this. Some closed their eyes; some kept them open.

I rang the bells once, and the sound ran for about 15 seconds.

The room got quieter.

I rang the bells again, and everyone continued to listen for the sound to soften into silence.

More people now had their eyes closed. I could feel something shifting.

I rang the bells a third time, letting the sound run its 15 seconds and watched as the group settled into it.

After the last bell faded into silence, you could hear a pin drop. The room was still. And it appeared that everyone had their eyes closed.

In a gentle tone of voice, I invited them to open their eyes again.

They stayed quiet.

“So … how was that?” I asked.

“I liked the quiet,” one woman said. “I think that’s a new experience for all of us … at least at work. I didn’t want it to end.”

“Yeah,” I responded. “So, you get a taste for just how much we’re consumed by the noise of our lives.”

“What else did people notice?” I asked.

A man raised his hand. “In the silence between the bells, I noticed a lot of other sounds in the room, especially the ticking of the clock. I was surprised I was able to hear that.”

“Very cool,” I said. “So, even though we raised awareness around one thing, in this case the bells, it enhanced our awareness of other, more subtle things.”

Anything else?

There was a pause.

Eventually, one last woman chimed in. “I just feel so calm. I’m usually caught in my thoughts and worries, and when I was listening to the bells, most of that fell away.”

The whole room seemed to nod in agreement.

I’ve done this exercise more than 500 times, and there are usually common themes in people’s responses, but the one response that always comes up is an increased sense of calm.

It could be that the bells are very pleasant to listen to, or that the room is quiet, or that they’re not immersed in emails – but it seems that when we make the intention to pay deeper attention to one thing (in this case, the bells), we’re less prone to falling into the dominating stream of thoughts and stimuli that typically consume our attention and create extra agitation.

StopMissingYourLife_HC
“Stop Missing Your Life: How to be Deeply Present in an Un-Present World.”

You know those thoughts, right? The judgments, the worries, the rumination, the thoughts about the future and the past. Not only do they create agitation and stress, these pesky little critters become the filter through which we experience our life.

Some skeptics might think that I’m suggesting we clear our minds of thoughts, never think about the future or the past, and just focus on what is happening right now, all the time, in every moment.

Eh, not quite. If that were the case – or if it was even possible – I’m not sure how we would get anything done. We should spend time thinking about the future – planning our goals and scheduling out our day – and time reflecting on our past – what we need to improve and what went well that we want to remember. Both of those domains, the future and the past, heavily inform how we live our life in the present moment.

However, in my own life, I’ve noticed that my mind can go into the future and the past without me asking it to. And it’s not always helpful. It often leads to extra stress, extra worry, and extra judgment about things that have very little to do with the reality of what is happening right now.

So, this is not about clearing thoughts from our mind; rather, it’s about developing an awareness of what is going on in our minds – Where does our attention go, moment to moment? What does our mind reflect on when we’re not aware of it? – and then being more intentional about where and how we direct our attention.

A thought can be a powerful and positive force in our lives, leading to creativity, planning, and problem solving; a thought can also be meaningless neurotic chatter. We want the ability to leverage the former and not be swept away by the latter.

But, Cory, I don’t want to constantly monitor myself. I want to be free and spontaneous!

The kind of freedom I’m talking about is not being trapped in the unconscious pattern of reactivity. It’s about seeing what our usual impulse is in the moment and then being able to choose to follow it or respond differently.

I believe this sentiment is best captured in this quote: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth, freedom, and happiness.”

The ability to respond in that space between something happening and our response to it is where we find freedom. It’s where we can show ourselves a little more compassion when we’re beating ourselves up. It’s where we can decide to be a little less impulsive when we’re about to say (or text) something we shouldn’t. And when it comes right down to it, it’s where we start to make meaningful changes in our life.

Excerpted from the book “Stop Missing Your Life: How to be Deeply Present in an Un-Present World” by Cory Muscara. Copyright (c) Cory Muscara by Da Capo Lifelong Books. Reprinted with permission of Hachette Book Group, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

This article was first published by Business Insider in December 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Holiday music may be bad for your mental health, according to science

mariah carey santa holiday music
Santa and Mariah Carey.

  • Incessant repetition of holiday music can have a psychological impact.
  • At first, holiday music can be uplifting, but after a certain period of time, it can cause boredom — and even distress.
  • It can remind listeners of the other stressors of the holiday season, like finances and family.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The sights and sounds of the holidays are here – and they’re completely inescapable. No matter where you go, it seems like the same classic songs are played on repeat. 

This perception is spot on: Spotify reports that listening spikes during the last two months of the year. Michael Bublé’s “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” and Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” top the list of most streamed tunes

But the incessant repetition can have a psychological impact. There’s a U-shaped relationship between how often we hear a song and how much we like it, what’s known as the mere exposure effect

At first, holiday music may spark nostalgia and get you in the holiday spirit. But hearing “Jingle Bells” for the millionth time can lead to annoyance, boredom, and even distress, researchers say.

That’s because the brain becomes oversaturated, triggering a negative response. If you’re already worried about moneywork, or seeing family during the holidays, the constant inundation of cheerful tunes may reinforce your stress instead of relieving it. 

It can also be downright distracting, affecting employee productivity and irritating consumers. In fact, a 2011 Consumer Reports survey found that 23% of Americans dread holiday music.

Clinical psychologist Linda Blair says Christmas music can be mentally draining:

“People working in the shops [have to tune out] Christmas music, because if they don’t, it really does stop you from being able to focus on anything else… You’re simply spending all of your energy trying not to hear what you’re hearing.”

How can you strike the right balance of good cheer that doesn’t drive you crazy?

Switch up your music so people’s brains don’t get bored. Playing the same Christmas songs all season long produces cognitive fatigue. Practice good sound management by varying your playlists and keeping the volume in check.

Studies also show that wintry scents like pine and cinnamon help conjure happy emotions, so recruit other senses when celebrating. 

If all else fails, a set of ear plugs makes a nice stocking stuffer.

This Inc story was originally published on Business Insider December 24, 2018.

Read the original article on Business Insider