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10 Life Lessons From 2020

There is a lot we can learn from the year of the pandemic.

Photo by Immo Wegmann on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Immo Wegmann on Unsplash

The past 12 months have not been easy for any of us. What started as a faraway virus quickly spread to the West with consequences like no other. Life as we knew it was nowhere to be seen and our freedom was stripped to protect the health of humankind. It was unexpected, it was intense, and it was difficult. And it's not over yet.

But, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccines have been developed, healthcare is more prepared than ever, and governments all around the world feel more confident about how to handle this. Things are getting better and will get better, even if they have a few moments of getting worse in between.

Looking back on all this has reminded me of the many life lessons that are so easily forgotten. As I go into the new year, whatever it may bring, I'm taking these lessons with me.

1. We are stronger together. As the healthcare systems around the world kept fighting for the lives of millions, pharmaceutical companies were working harder than ever to develop a vaccine. Grocery shops were keeping their doors open so we could still feed ourselves and delivery companies ensured any essential goods were getting delivered. People worked from home when they could, learned to wear masks in public, and practiced social distance for the safety of those more vulnerable. Everyone played a role in keeping the world on its feet.

2. Appreciate what you have. Your freedom, your health, your ability to see your loved ones, or your ability to even hug your friends. Your access to healthcare, vaccinations, food, and basic amenities. Just because this might be the norm doesn't mean it should be unacknowledged or unappreciated. Choose to appreciate every single thing you have. The sun rising every morning. Waking up with your breath. Being able to see loved ones on a video call. Being able to feed you and your family. You need a lot less to be happy than you think and if you learn to appreciate everything you have, that is all you need.

3. Tell your loved ones you love them. Sometimes we forget to tell the people we love how much they mean to us. Just because they are there doesn't mean they know it. Tell them, explicitly. Call them, send them a thank you message, or even write them a love letter. You never know how much they might be needing your encouragement.

4. Learn to savor the simple things. It's so easy to rush through our days whilst forgetting to pay attention to the simplest of pleasures. This year forced many of us to focus on those exactly as we were locked into our homes. Perhaps this was a blessing in disguise, reminding us how pleasurable the simplest things can be. Take a moment to sit in the sunshine and simply embrace the rays of light with your full being. Drink a hot cup of coffee or herbal tea and savor every sip with every one of your tastebuds. Enjoy the feeling of soft cashmere or a cotton T-shirt on your skin. Savor the simple pleasures of daily life.

5. You are stronger than you think. This year has shown that the unexpected comes in all kinds of shapes and forms. It's also shown that you are stronger than you think. You survived the year of the pandemic with your health and mental sanity. You kept going even though it might have been easy not to. You faced the year and its challenges with courage and determination. Give yourself some credit. You're still here and you're still stronger than you think.

6. Perspective is everything. You can't control what happens to you but you can control how you choose to react to it. This is where your perspective comes in. When lockdowns were announced in cities and countries around the world, people responded differently. Some panicked about what they would be limited from doing. Others saw this as an opportunity to reflect on what they could do. Many spent more time than ever with their children, building a stronger bond through homeschooling. Others discovered new hobbies, like gardening, DIY, or sketching. You can choose which boat you want to be on. The one that sees everything as a problem — or the opportunist that tries to find the good in every situation.

7. Take care of yourself. When you take good care of yourself, you are physically, mentally, and spiritually better equipped to deal with whatever comes your way. You're less susceptible to illnesses or viruses as your immune system is stronger and more resilient to fight whatever might come your way. Eat nutritiously, hydrate yourself with water, get enough sleep and rest, and move at least daily. When you take good care of your body, your body will take good care of you.

8. Kindness is the best currency. Maybe this is the silver lining in all of this. Kindness became the norm. People checked in on their neighbors from afar, even if they had never spoken to them before. Colleagues called each other asking how they could help each other. People stepped out of their houses to clap in unison for the healthcare workers of the world and for everyone who was keeping the world going. People became kinder to each other online. Let's keep it this way.

9. Making more sustainable choices makes a difference. As country borders shut and national lockdowns were put in place, we moved a lot less. We wasted a lot less. We polluted a lot less. The result? Nature came back to show off its true colors. Waters often dirty from nonstop boat traffic turned a crystalline blue. Cities often suffocated in a cloud of grey smoke experienced blue skies. Wildlife returned to the green corners of suburbs and birds in cities started singing more than ever. Wouldn't it be nice if we could keep more of that in the future, even without a pandemic?

10. Remind yourself that this too shall pass. Every storm has an end. So does every pandemic. We might not know when or how but it will come. And when it does, we will be so ready for it we will appreciate life more than ever.

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