- Samantha Fogel, Student Therapist
Goodbye, 2020, With Gratitude
“2020 was the worst year ever.” “I hate 2020.” “2020 ruined everything.” “2020 was a disaster.” We have all probably said or thought of similar statements dozens of times throughout this past year. Sometimes we don’t realize how automatically these thoughts come to us, and don’t think to challenge them or consider how they may be impacting us.
Yes, there is no question that 2020 was the hardest year for many people all over the world. It was a year characterized by constant anxiety, fear, unrest, upheaval, loss, grief, uncertainty, and isolation. However, even if we may not be able to fully see or acknowledge it, 2020 was also a year of significant growth, strength, resilience, reflection, love, and of people coming together during trying times.
There is no doubt that we are all excited and more hopeful now that 2020 is in the past, but with such a difficult year, we need to be able to process what this all meant as we try and move forward into 2021.
Let’s think about the word “gratitude” for a moment. Gratitude is a term used in positive psychology to represent feelings of profound appreciation and thankfulness for things, people, or events taking place in our lives, and helps us to create meaning. Gratitude allows us to acknowledge that no matter what we may be going through, there can always be some good in our lives. Actively acknowledging what we are grateful for on a daily basis has been shown to have benefits for not only physical health and wellbeing, but also has significant benefits for mental and spiritual wellbeing.
Now, developing the skill of gratitude takes time and practice, and involves a great deal of self-awareness, self-reflection, and a willingness to be honest with ourselves. Despite this, there are some easy things we can do on a day-to-day basis that can help us to infuse some gratitude into our lives.
As we reflect on this past year, try to think back to a time when something made you laugh really hard, or made you really happy. You can even think back to a time during this year when something particularly challenging helped you to evolve, grow, or teach you an important lesson. Now, when you have these memories in mind, write them down! Some people enjoy keeping gratitude journals, where at the start and end of each day, they write down what they are grateful for on that day. Some bookstores even have specific gratitude journals that provide daily prompts if you feel that you may struggle to come up with ideas on your own. Alternatively, practicing gratitude can be as simple as writing something down on a post-it note and putting it up on your bathroom mirror to look at as you get ready for the day. Practicing gratitude doesn’t need to be hard, or time consuming, and with time, it can really change one’s outlook on life.
For me personally, when I reflect on 2020, I feel grateful for all the time I got to spend with my family, for the good books I had the chance to read, for the good music that came out this year, for surprise socially distanced get-togethers or Facetimes with friends and loved ones.
I am not saying that it is always easy to be grateful. It is certainly valid, important, and necessary to allow ourselves to feel the existential weight that came along with 2020, and be compassionate toward ourselves in these moments. However, taking a minute each day to reflect on this past year with gratitude may provide a crucial perspective shift as we move forward into the New Year.
As such, I invite you to reflect on this question: what were you grateful for this past year?