Healthy Mind

How To Look Back On This Year With Positivity

Whether you’re after a healthy mind, bank balance or relationships, we’ve got all your wellbeing needs covered this month

After months of restrictions, cancelled plans, job losses and bereavement, this year has become one many of us would rather forget once the clock strikes midnight on the 31st December. “It would be so easy to look on 2020 as the year that would rather be forgotten; the year that felt unforgivable; the year that was filled with empty promises and a loss of freedom,” agrees Georgina Lynch, counsellor, life coach, mentor and yoga teacher (georginalynch.com). “Yet for most, regardless of how this year has impacted your life, you have the ability to shift your perspective and empower yourself by switching your outlook to one of gratitude.” It may sound impossible after what we as a country have collectively been through, but it really can be done, and 2020 doesn’t have to become a ‘wasted’ year. We turned to the experts to find out more.

The importance of gratitude

You may be thinking ‘how can being thankful possibly make 2020 any better?’ but the practice really can be beneficial. “This year has undoubtedly brought a lot of change and upheaval and we have had to cope with so many unexpected and largely unwanted things,” says Jo Haworth, hypnotherapist and founder of The Happiness Club (thehappinessclub.co.uk). “But I’m a firm believer that there is always good stuff; even in the darkest of days there is always good. Building a practice of gratitude and appreciation can help us to shift that wiring, to train our minds to find the beauty that is absolutely all around us.” And research backs this up – studies show that not only can gratitude increase your happiness and protect you from stress (which is much-needed right now), but it can also lead to better relationships and improve your sleep.

Start with the small things

It can be hard to know where to begin when trying to find things to be grateful for in 2020, especially if you’re worried about feeling guilty for feeling thankful for anything right now with everything that’s been happening. “If you’re struggling, I would ask you to start looking at those small, everyday things,” advises Jo. “It’s so easy to walk straight past them, because they may have been there for so long that we take them for granted. Bringing your attention purposely to them, actively looking out for and finding things to appreciate will change your entire perspective on life, regardless of what’s going on around you.”

Business mentor and mindset coach Ruth Kudzi (ruthkudzi.com) agrees, adding that you should give yourself a reason why you’re grateful for these small things. “For example, ‘I am grateful that I live next door to a park as I was able to walk outside every day and get some fresh air and time away from everything’,” she suggests.

“‘I am grateful for social media because it meant I could connect with my family and friends in different countries which made me feel less lonely’. ‘I am grateful for having more time at home, as it allowed me to declutter my house which has helped me to think more clearly’. Consider what is relevant to you right now: gratitude comes from the connection with the smallest things and from celebrating what they give us.”

Savour every moment

Yes, there have been moments to savour this year, and it’s important to celebrate them. “Evolutionary psychology suggests we have an inbuilt survival mechanism called ‘negativity bias’ which means we tend to focus on the ‘bad’ things in life over the good,” explains business and mindset coach Rosie Peacock (rosiepeacock. com). “With COVID being a big ‘bad’ thing you could argue there are more bad things than good that could tip us over the edge this year. One way to combat the ‘negative bias’ and look on the positives of 2020, is learning the art of savouring. This practice combines both mindfulness and gratitude, and is proven to boost our mental wellbeing and our immune system – good news all round then! It’s that moment for example when you’re making Christmas pudding with your children, savouring the experience with all your senses, the smell of the mixture, the feel of the pudding in your hands, your children’s laughter and excitement. In this case, it would be taking the time to look back over everything positive that has happened this year, and writing a joy list of 20 things – 20 things in 2020. When listing each item, really taking yourself back to the moment so you almost experience it again. Take five things from business, five things in your personal life, five interactions that you learned from and five things that filled you with joy. Notice all the small things – the hugs you had with people, the feeling you received when you saw someone you hadn’t seen for a while, or that time when you completed Joe Wicks’ PE lessons! Savouring comes in many forms, all of which can work towards intensifying the positives.” Savouring isn’t difficult to do – try Rosie’s five easy steps you can take right now:

1. Slow down everything – your breath in particular
2. Pay attention to the task in hand – which in this case is listing the top 20 positive things that have happened this year
3. Use all your senses
4. Stretch out the experience
5. Reflect on your enjoyment

“It’s important to remember that savouring is a process not an outcome; it’s something we do, not something we get,” says Rosie. “It can also transform something that in the past could have been overwhelming into a joyful experience.”

Learn about yourself

Chances are, you’ve had more time to be alone with your own thoughts this year – and whether that’s been welcome or not, it will have definitely taught you some things about yourself. “Consider what you’ve learnt about yourself this year,” says Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic (thechelseapsychologyclinic.com). “Are there certain aspects of ‘normal’ life you miss? If so, what are they? They might hold clues as to the things that really matter to you. Use them as guiding points for bringing more intention into your life in the year ahead.”

Make time in the evenings

“We can always find light in the darkness but often it takes practice and we have to look a bit harder when things have been particularly tough,” says Ali McDowall, co-founder of The Positive Planner (£20, thepositiveplanners.com). “As a way of getting better at this, I suggest putting your phone down before you switch off the light at night and finding three things you are grateful for before you go to sleep. It’s a simple yet powerful ritual to help reframe your reality, find some inner peace and get some clarity on what really matters to you.”

Celebrate your achievements

This year doesn’t have to be a forgotten one, you will still have achieved things that are worth recognising. “Instead of looking at everything that went wrong in 2020, look at everything you’ve achieved,” says Georgina. “How different does that feel? It could be anything from overcoming adversity, anxiety, worry or stress, changing career and making a success of it, keeping your household going with homeschooling and still managed to look after your own health and wellbeing, or maybe you’ve been able to slow your life down and stop feeling overwhelmed and burnt out all of the time. Just by simply taking the time to reflect on your experiences, you can start to see all of these incredible opportunities with appreciation, and be able to look at 2020 with gratitude for all you’ve been able to achieve this year.

Thanks a million!

The H&W team reveal the things they’ve been grateful for this year

Deputy editor, Vicky

“Although we’ve always been close, lockdown helped bring my sister Charlotte and I even closer together than ever before. She’s been at the end of a phone whenever I’ve needed her and, thanks to the fact that we’ve both been working remotely, we’ve been able to spend more time together than we have since childhood by working at each other’s houses – I’ll always be grateful for that.”

Editor, Holly

“I am incredibly grateful for my garden this year. I’m lucky enough to have a large outdoor space and discovering the joys of growing my own veg and landscaping the lawn has been a real saviour both during lockdown and coping with loss. I’ve been dubbing it the ‘Grief Garden’, as it’s shown me that with nurture and time, life returns and will eventually even bloom again.”

Content writer, Stacey

“I don’t think I’ve ever thought as much about my health as I have done this year – both physically and mentally. I feel grateful to have a body that allows me to go on walks for hours, swim in rivers and lift heavy boxes when I need it to. I may not be the fastest runner or the best at forward front crawl, but I’ve learnt to appreciate what my body can do, rather than what it can’t.“

Editorial assistant, Daniella

“Without sounding like ‘one of those’, exercise is genuinely a key part of my life, so when group workout classes were off the table, I turned to Club V – a home fitness programme – that has really given me structure to my day and a strong sense of community during these strange times.”

Commercial content creator, Jessica

“I’m beyond grateful for the time with my dog. She’s coming up for 14 years old and is my absolute world, I feel very lucky every day that I get to spend this quality time with her now that I’m working from home. Since getting her when I was only 12, there’s never been a time in my life where I’ve been able to stay home and dedicate time to her like I have since March. It’s really helped me to reflect on what’s important to me and, how even the smallest moments can be so special and create everlasting memories.”

Health & Wellbeing