I’m sure no one would claim 2020 was the best year ever. There’s talk of turning it into a swear word in the future, as it’s felt like one disaster after another.

But I saw a post on social media the other day that struck me:

“Instead of 2020 being the year you got everything you ever wanted, it was the year to appreciate what you have.”

Everyone has faced challenges this year, some more than others. Many people have lost loved ones to the COVID-19 virus — or to other medical conditions or tragic circumstances. Others have faced economic hardships, with job losses or the difficulty of balancing working from home and virtual schooling the kids. And many have struggled with stress and depression related to the ongoing health crisis and concerns about large gatherings.

When this whole thing started back in the spring, I tried to find the silver lining. 

I had fewer meetings to attend. I was able to take afternoon walks because I wasn’t at so many meetings. I got to wave to neighbors and yell good wishes across the road to people I hadn’t seen in a while.

But as April turned to May and then June, July and August, it became harder and harder to keep looking for that upside. 

I felt like I was drowning at work, and was consistently bringing my work home with me. And it always felt like we didn’t have enough people to do all the things we wanted to do to serve our readers.

My attitude soured. I stopped looking for the good. And when I stopped looking, it became even harder to see the many good things that surrounded me.

But a few weeks ago, I stepped back and thought about how there are still many good things to appreciate in this 2020 horror story.

I’m ashamed that I lost sight of the many blessings I have in my life every day. 

I have a roof over my head. I have food in the cupboard. I have gas in my car — and I have a car that gets me where I need to be.

I even have a small stockpile of toilet paper, should there be another run on this supply. 

Hands-down that’s a lot to be thankful for. As I started to look around, I knew I had a lot of things to be thankful for and that I don’t want to take for granted.

Yes, there were things I missed out on this year. I had some goals that were put on the shelf. Maybe next year will be the year all my dreams come true. 

But right now, I’m going to stop and give thanks for the things I have that make my life better.

This year, I’m going to take some comfort in holding things together — barely, at times — and making it through to 2021.

Remembering to be thankful and to focus on gratitude can help dispel those dark clouds. It can shift our focus from what is wrong to what is right. 

Some people like to journal about what they are grateful for or the daily blessings they encounter. Some may take a few minutes of purposeful mindfulness. Others may keep a running list of what they are thankful for or those moments in the day that bring them a smile.

In 2017, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley shared how gratitude can change your brain. People who wrote one letter of gratitude each week for three weeks reported better mental health for weeks after their writing exercise concluded than people who just received counseling or were asked to write about negative experiences.

It’s a simple thing to do, and it can perhaps help us all see 2020 in a more positive light by taking stock of the things, people and experiences that we are thankful for.

 

 

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