Take yourself back to New Year's Eve. A lot of us will have been celebrating the coming year surrounded by friends and family, excited to find out what 2020 had in store for us. Oh, how naive we were.
This year has been far from the way we had planned it to go. From cancelled plans and holidays to being restricted to one exercise per day; toilet roll shortages to sex bans. It's stepped way over the line of a normal year. It seems like the best way forward would just be to forget that 2020 ever happened and move on to a, hopefully, brighter 2021.
At the moment it may feel like the best option to completely write-off 2020 and fast-forward to those sweet COVID-free times but, in fact, we need to be doing the opposite. We should be remembering these times for what they are, learning lessons, growing as people and developing a respect for our fragile earth.
Here are some important lessons we should be taking away from this strange year:
1. Prevention is key
Modern medicine is leaps and bounds ahead of what it was in the past but that doesn't mean we should be relying on it. We should always be looking for prevention rather than a cure.
We are in such a lucky position nowadays to have scientists who are able to use their knowledge and past trends to become fairly accurate fortune tellers. Before this pandemic, scientists were actively warning us about the high risk of an infectious disease outbreak, yet we were still unbelievably underprepared.
Unfortunately, we are surrounded by fake news, misinformation and political propaganda which makes it hard to know what to believe. In order to learn from this pandemic and take steps forward, we need to be trusting science as our primary source to guide decision making, keep up to date with new scientific discoveries and bring more scientists into debates and policy-making.
2. Support the local economy
This pandemic has hit small, local businesses hard. Many of these have been running locally for many years and are a huge part of the community. We should be appreciating the work they put in and supporting them in any way that you can.
During the panic-buying stage when supermarket shelves were empty, small shop owners were working hard to keep their shop well-stocked. Big chains have a large supply chain and don't react very quickly to a change in demand. Small shops are much better suited to restocking based on demand.
3. Respect keyworkers
Far too often nurses, shop assistants, teachers and bin men don't get anywhere near the respect and thanks that they deserve. They usually go about their jobs quietly and can be overlooked by society.
The past few months have been a well-needed reminder of how important these job roles are in keeping the world turning. It's important to carry this respect through to our life post-COVID and keep appreciating all that they do.
In the same way, we should also remember that all jobs have their place in society and should be respected too. Remember the excitement people felt when football came back on TV, the time people have spent enjoying YouTube workouts and tutorials, the joy we'll feel when theatres are back open and festival line-ups are released. All careers have importance in our lives.
4. Humans and nature go together
History has shown us, time and time again, that our wellbeing shares a tight link with the health of our planet. We have now put ourselves at high risk of animal-borne infection due to destroying their habitats and extending our living space to come in closer range.
We actively cut down our forests, poison our soil and water supply and pollute our oceans. Unfortunately, our destructive mindset and greed for growth is putting our wellbeing at risk. In order to build a safer and greener future and prevent another pandemic, we will need to change our lifestyles to support the wellbeing of humans and nature.
5. Working at home
At the start of lockdown, schools were shut and many offices followed suit. A lot of work was able to continue almost uninterrupted. This easy transition has highlighted how much work could actually be done at work.
Meetings have been able to be completed successfully over apps like Zoom, negating the need to meet up in person in many cases. By taking away the need to go into the office, you get rid of commutes which will improve mental health and carbon emissions. Win, win.
Any time spent travelling reduces time spent exercising, socialising and cooking which are all important for mental health. Maybe post-COVID we could consider reducing the time spent in the office and work remotely more often.
6. Don't take family and friends for granted
Popping out for brunch with your best friend, meeting your pals after school or having family parties used to be the norm. How times have changed. During these times, we got used to our friends and family being a quick walk or drive away and took that quality time with them for granted.
It takes something like this pandemic to wake us up to how lucky we are to have those people around us. Even though you may be able to video call them or have a socially distanced picnic, it's not quite the same as being able to have a cuppa on their sofa or throw your arms around them when you see them. Make sure you savour that first hug with your loved ones and remember the feeling for a lifetime.
7. Your body is amazing
Coronavirus isn't the only infectious disease circulating at the moment. We are constantly fighting off foreign bodies to keep ourselves healthy. A virus that's able to cause such a high level of fatality is an important reminder of how fragile the human body really is.
Having a healthy body that is able to fight off disease and keep you alive is so much more important than it matching 'beauty standards'. We should practise self-love on a daily basis and realise how much you have to thank our bodies for.
Lockdown is also an amazing time to really focus on yourself. Be selfish. Do things that make you feel good. Enjoy your own company and start getting to know yourself. You are amazing.
8. Rainy days are real
We know that people always say to 'save for a rainy day' but when it's sunny it's hard to picture a rainy day. The fact is that no matter how good times are, there could always be a rainy day around the corner. We shouldn't live in fear of the rain but we should always have an 'In Case of Emergency' plan.
Whether it's having some extra tinned foods or toilet rolls in the house or saving a little bit of extra money each month. Any preparation will help when times get tough.
9. The outdoors is pretty cool
During lockdown, the once-daily exercise was the highlight of many peoples days. That breath of fresh air was exactly what was needed after being cooped up in the house all day. We appreciated the outdoor space that little bit more than before and started noticing things we hadn't before. Maybe the bird song sounded a bit louder or you noticed the slight changes in the trees and flowers each day.
As we move forward, we should try and keep this appreciation for the outdoors. Make your garden a little sanctuary for yourself and your family, explore local parks and feed the birds. The earth is pretty cool when you spare a moment to take it all in.
10. Money isn't the meaning of life
A global crisis has the ability to bring humans closer together. In recent months, we've all been fighting the same battle. Whether you have a big ship or small boat, we were all stranded on the ocean. People in mansions were just as restricted as those in a bedsit.
During a time where we couldn't go on fancy holidays or eat fancy meals, besides the basic cost of living, money hasn't been able to buy us 'happiness'. We can't buy an uninvented vaccine or the hug of a loved one. In a time of a crisis like this, it becomes even clearer that money isn't everything.
So, rather than erase 2020, let's embrace the important lessons it's taught us and the flaws in our lifestyle it's highlighted. 2020 isn't a waste, it's a well-needed wake-up call!