Christmas 2020 The year we learned to be grateful for what we have

16 December, 2020

This year, I learned a valuable lesson. The things which we took for granted, like our freedom, our liberties, our travel, our time spent with friends, family, and colleagues, were all so easily taken away from us. In such a difficult year, I came to be grateful for every positive thing that happened, every Zoom call with a loved one, every nature walk, and every genuine moment of affection with the people I care for most.

Perhaps you had a similar experience. Maybe… you lost someone who meant a lot to you. You might have spent the whole year in your home getting to know yourself better. Did you start any new hobbies? Did you get closer to some people and drift away from others? How many new apps are you using? Are you quite comfortable wearing pyjamas all day long? Is there anything left to watch on Netflix? Think how different our daily vocabulary has become – tiers, lockdown, quarantine, vaccine, bubbles, shielding and furlough. The world is different, but… it’s not all bad.

Hear me out.

It’s not all bad. In fact, this week I’m going to share with you some of the best positives from 2020, and next week I’ve got a very special New Year’s Eve blog post coming that explores why 2021 can be a beacon of hope for us all.

Let’s get going…

Baking, gardening, and spending time with pets

After the first lockdown, it was found that 86% of people surveyed by The Grocer had tried to bake a cake and 56% had tried to bake biscuits. The entire baking sector got a boost during the lockdown, in fact, a Waitrose survey found that 51% of people spent more time using their ovens for baking. Sales of home baking items soared 49% during the first lockdown.

When it comes to gardening, 42% of people surveyed by the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that they took up gardening to cope with the stress of lockdown. Of course, they share those gardens with their furry friends, and perhaps more furry friends than before. It’s reported by Pet Business World that almost half of existing pet owners in the UK got an additional pet in 2020, mostly from kennels and adoption centres. Lovely!

In some parts of the world, animal shelters literally closed down because they ran out of animals. Remember, a pet is for life, not just for… lockdown.

Nurses, teachers, and carers got the respect they deserve

Beyond a Thursday evening government-encouraged clap, people began to truly appreciate the mental, emotional, and physical challenges that nursing, teaching, and caring present. We all know someone who is either one of these professions, or benefits from them. Imagine a teacher who spends years in a classroom and overnight is thrown on a laptop with no preparation and expected to make things work. The same goes for university lecturers. Nurses, who know their jobs inside out, have never been involved in a pandemic before and they risked their lives to help save others. Carers showed their absolute value as the elderly needed more protection than ever before, so thanks to them, maybe your parents and grandparents are safe, clean, and fed.

Let’s also shout out doctors, supermarket staff, delivery drivers, and childcare professionals. You excelled this year.

Pedestrian-friendly streets

Milan was the first city to do it, then others around the world caught on fast. Whilst people were locked down at home, the Italian city got to work on turning a large portion of the centre into a car-free zone. Soon after that, Athens, Bogota, Mexico City, Quito, Auckland, Rome, Sheffield, Seattle, San Diego, Oakland, Paris, Vilnius, Tel Aviv, and countless others decided to make their cities better for pedestrians and cyclists, in turn, reducing air pollution in the areas where people spend most time outside. When the lockdown ended, people found that their cities looked remarkably different.

The joy of the walk

With gyms closed, the British public took to nature in a particularly warm and dry summer, taking to nature trails and woodland to stretch their legs. At points, the joy of being outdoors was a little too much and quickly began to contribute to the very thing it sought to avoid, such as when packed beaches become Covid hotspots. Thankfully it wasn’t all irresponsible, and the takeup of walks at country parks saw a lot of investment in nature spots.

It wasn’t only us who got a chance to breathe. The environment saw 2020 as a bit of a break from the pressures of industry, transport, and construction on the unsustainable scale it was managing before. I hope that in future years, we will place clean air much higher on our list of priorities.

The evolution of the diet

One of the biggest contributors to global pollution is the food chain, food packaging, and food waste. Fortunately, during the lockdown, we addressed that a little bit. With more time at home to prepare food, to think about what we are eating, and without the temptation to grab food on the go, people made important changes to their diet and food habits. Some people tuned in to foodies on Instagram, like Joe Wicks, whilst others went to YouTube and Netflix to learn more about their diet and its impact on the environment. Many people decided to use the lockdown as a chance to learn to shop locally, try going meat-free and support unique or niche suppliers in their area.

So, this Christmas…

I want to find more things to be grateful for. I’m grateful for my hedgehogs, for my baking tin, for my loved ones, for my clients, for my local nature, and for countless other things. This year, through a lot of thought and reflection, I have come to see that I have gained more than I’ve lost.

We can all live simpler lives and find joy in the simplicity of life, in nature, in appreciating what we have and not trying to get more stuff. We don’t need to run at 100mph all day long, so let’s slow down. Let’s think about how we can make a better future.

I raise a glass to you all this Christmas and hope that you too can be merry and bright.

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