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Remedy  •  09 February 2021  •  Non-Fiction

What 2020 Taught Me About Gratitude

By James Morkaya
Content Warning: Mental ill-health
What 2020 Taught Me About Gratitude

Growth is usually preceded by a type of pain. Oftentimes, it’s a misfortune or a negative, upsetting experience. To grow, you need to be able to understand and use that negative experience as fuel for your future self. 2020 was probably one of the worst years a lot of us have ever dealt with. Two common enemies to everyone — the bushfires and the global pandemic — virtually forced an entire country to stay indoors for a whole year. I’m sure there are some hermits that initially relished the idea of having an excuse to stay indoors. However, most eventually joined the rest of us in craving social interaction, outdoor exploration and basically anything that involved more than our own four walls and inner thoughts. For those of us with mental health issues such as anxiety and/or depression, this year proved to be one of the most difficult and mentally taxing years to date. So, to make myself (and hopefully a few others) feel better, I have listed a few things that 2020 helped me realise.

The true value of friendship

I’ll start with what I think is the most obvious; COVID-19 really hindered socialising and connecting with friends. This was probably worsened if you have an anxiety disorder. People who experience anxiety might go above and beyond the actual COVID-19 restrictions because hanging with a group of friends could inevitably infect their whole family. Not being able to see my friends during lockdown made me realise just how much I missed them. Isolation helped me realise I greatly value my friends and their company. Now in the future, I will have a greater appreciation for my friends and the time I get to spend with them.

Pets deserve all our love and appreciation

Being stuck inside all year wasn’t all bad. If you don’t believe me, ask my three dogs. Because pets can’t verbally communicate with us, at times it can be hard to understand how much they value and love us. When we’re going to uni every day, working, and socialising, pets aren’t always our number one priority. However, after being forced to stay home almost every day for months on end, I noticed my dogs were much happier. Being able to pet them as much as they wanted and pay more attention to them, not only made them happier, but helped me realise that we are all they have. I have a greater appreciation for my dogs now that I understand they spend everyday waiting for me to come home so I can play with them, pet them or simply give them company.

Self-work is important

Being home alone all day forces you to explore all of your thoughts, good or bad. By not being able to go elsewhere for other stimulation, you will eventually turn to your brain and your inner voice for entertainment, whether you like it or not. Being forced to confront all of my thoughts throughout the year forced me to dive deep into my biggest insecurities and face the things I need to work on as a person. Being stuck with myself for months helped me grow so much, and value other people in my life. It also helped me get in touch with my spiritual side. 

Yes! Last year sucked. But experiencing a bad year has really helped me value and appreciate what I have, even if it’s during a global pandemic. Normally, the constant grind and priority juggling within our lives makes it hard to take a step back and appreciate what is really going on. This year forced so many of us to take a breather and focus. The silver lining of COVID-19 has been the newfound appreciation most of us have for normalcy in life, inspiring us to cherish every moment and helping us be more present.

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