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Remember when we used to associate Halloween with wearing masks?
Or when medical professionals wore masks on the job… not to the grocery store?
How about when we used to go to the movies to see the latest big screen blockbuster?
Well, thanks to 2020… these once typical things have now become stories for our children, and our children’s children, to tell.
This year will forever be remembered as the one when most of us were asked to accept a “new normal”… which is a sugar coated way of saying that life, as we once lived it, will never be quite normal again.
We’ve been asked to go against the very grain of our humanity… to distance ourselves from others, limit our socializing, wear face coverings, travel and eat out less (if at all).
And this new normal can make it difficult to find things to be thankful for, especially as the holiday season draws near.
Some parents have been pulling their hair out homeschooling their children. Others are wracked with guilt having to send their kids to school because they need to work.
People have lost their jobs… while others are being forced to work in less than ideal conditions as first responders, medical professionals and educators.
Yet, in the midst of all the chaos, some good has come to light in 2020.
We’ve seen people rise up to help others.
Families are spending more time together.
Outdoor living spaces are trending.
You can choose to be thankful for what you have… and for others.
In this article, I will offer up 9 things to be thankful for in 2020… because there has never been a better time to be a glass half full kind of person.
Gratitude #1: Quarantine Brings Families Together
At its core, the word “quarantine” has negative connotations.
Its definition means to isolate.
And while some introverts may enjoy the thought of more time alone, most people crave contact with others.
When things started getting hairy in 2020, many world leaders ordered people to quarantine… which meant spending more time at home.
More people were working out of their house, kids weren’t going to school or out to see their friends… and couples weren’t leaving their young children with babysitters on date night.
Most extracurricular activities were put on hold.
And while it may have been a culture shock at first, many eventually chose to view it as an opportunity for more family time.
A chance to slow down and reconnect with your kids.
To live in the moment.
The gift of time is a precious one… and you've been granted that with your family in boatloads.
Think about it. Without having to play chauffeur, you’re able to actually sit down and talk with your kids.
Bring back family game night.
Enjoy a meal together or binge watch a series.
Gratitude #2: Now Is the Perfect Time to Learn a New Skill
Whether it’s an online course you wanted to take, a hobby you wanted to pursue or a practical skill you’ve been itching to learn… now is the perfect time to do it.
Honestly, if you told me earlier this year that my husband and I would find the time (and the ability) to build a shed in the backyard… I would have called you crazy.
If you told me that I’d develop a green thumb and plant a vegetable garden with our kids… same goes.
I also never thought I’d be able to build my own website to host a parenting blog.
Or train to finally run that virtual 5k in a decent time with my 10-year-old son.
But thanks to 2020, online courses are booming!
And many of them are even free!
Take up guitar, learn to cook from world-renowned chefs or simply teach yourself a practical skill like canning tomatoes.
There is no time like the present to stop making excuses… and start making the most of your time.
Gratitude #3: Become Outdoorsy
When most people are asked if they like the outdoors, their minds immediately turn to “roughing it”.
As in camping, fishing, hiking, hunting.
But someone who enjoys spending time outside may not necessarily consider themselves to be “outdoorsy”.
Sure, they may like camping… in a cabin with heat and indoor plumbing.
Or fishing off a party boat, beer in hand, rather than casting a fly in the river.
For my family, the strange events of 2020 coincided nicely with our recent move to a rural New Jersey town.
We live on the base of a mountain preserve and are surrounded by mountains, boulders, trails, rivers, farms and vineyards.
The opportunities for us to become more “outdoorsy” are endless here… and we’ve taken full advantage.
That being said, you don’t need to live in a remote part of the world to enjoy the beauty of nature and all its offerings. In fact, you will often find that a good hike or kayaking spot is just a car ride away.
And autumn is the perfect time to bundle up and get outside for some fresh air with the family.
In addition to the physical health benefits exercise can produce, it’s also been proven that spending time in nature can positively affect your mood and brain function.
Gratitude #4: Time to Reconnect with your Partner
If asked, many couples would admit that there just aren’t enough hours in a day to spend as much quality time together as they’d like.
Whether you work long hours, completely opposite hours or travel a lot.
Maybe you have children and spend the afternoons, evenings and weekends running them back and forth places. Doing homework and science projects with them.
Perhaps you are taking care of an elderly parent.
If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that things can drastically change… fast!
Suddenly, we are finding business trips being cancelled and ergonomic home office furniture sales are on the rise.
Instead of looking at these things as being a bit dull or slow for your liking, try viewing them as an opportunity to be still. To get to know one another again without all of the daily distractions.
Sit down with one another and watch a romantic comedy.
Schedule an at-home happy hour with your favorite beverages and small plates.
Play a board game together.
Read to each other.
Light a fire pit and watch the stars.
Take this time to remember what it is that brought the two of you together… and rekindle the sparks that used to fly high.
Gratitude #5: You Are Saving Money
So maybe you’re not suddenly rolling in cash… especially if you’re down to one income.
But if you think about it, you are spending less.
2020 has made dining out much more difficult than it used to be, with capacity and spacing restrictions.
Many artists are cancelling concerts.
Sporting events aren’t letting many fans into the stadium, if at all.
New movies are being released for streaming at home, rather than in theaters.
Going out to bars isn’t the same scene as it used to be.
Gyms aren’t as crowded.
Your kids’ dance and karate lessons have gone virtual.
If you took a closer look, you’d quickly see that this all adds up.
So, while you may miss these things… the huge plus side is you’re able to save.
Hey, it could happen. This is but a blip on the radar.
Be thankful for a future filled with possibilities, rather than a present filled with limitations… and I’m sure you’ll find a way to put your newfound savings to good use.
Gratitude #6: Find Out Who Your True Friends Really Are
The one thing I’ve noticed over the past few months is a divide among people.
Family members, co-workers, neighbors, friends… they are all dealing with the fallout of 2020 in different ways.
Some folks don’t believe face coverings are necessary.
Others wear them even when outdoors.
There is that sect of people that are itching to get back to the normal they once knew, dining out and having house parties with loved ones.
And then there are those people with high risk family members who are still afraid to return to the way things were.
Regardless of where you may fall, 2020 has helped people migrate towards those with the same belief system and comfort levels.
Conversely, you may choose to politely distance yourself from those who don’t share your point of view.
As long as you’re polite and respectful of others, 2020 is an ideal time for taking a closer look at the friendships that really matter to you.
At the end of the day, when this is all behind us… you’ll remember those who supported you, without judgement, along the way. And those are the friendships worth keeping.
Gratitude #7: Reassess Your Priorities
2020 has given us plenty of it.
And time should never be wasted.
Most of us have found ourselves with a bit more downtime than we’re used to… which means it’s the perfect time to reflect and reassess your priorities.
Decide what really matters to you.
Family. A new job. A new house or vacation home. Taking up a new hobby.
If you worked too many hours before, perhaps working at home has been a blessing. Frustrating at times, but a blessing nonetheless, because now you’re home for dinner at a reasonable hour every night.
Or maybe being laid off has made you decide you never wanted to be in that career in the first place.
Plan those vacations… even if it’s a drive cross-country.
And maybe, just maybe, you can finally take that cooking class you always wanted… now that you actually have the time to cook.
The possibilities are endless… and when you have the time to properly consider them, you’ll be amazed at all the things to be thankful for.
Gratitude #8: Take Control of Your Health
There is no time like the present to make the decision to be healthy.
Today you are alive and well, but tomorrow is unchartered territory.
2020 has seen an increase in people getting outside.
Biking. Jogging. Hiking. Kayaking. Walking. Skiing. Swimming.
Socially distanced-approved, outdoor activities are on the rise.
But we have also gained more access to online and small group programs than ever before.
And the best part is that many of these are free.
An active lifestyle, combined with a well-balanced diet, is a surefire way to prepare your body for all of the fun stuff that lies ahead.
Gratitude #9: Use Technology to Bridge the Gap
Whether you have family and friends living in another state or country… or elderly parents electing to lay low at home, chances are you haven’t seen these people very much.
While emails, texts and phone calls are great… one of the undeniably best things to be thankful for in 2020 is our technological advances.
Thanks to platforms such as Google Meet, FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp and the like… we are able to actually see and talk with people from afar.
Virtual birthday parties. Online book clubs. Game nights and happy hours.
With just a little creativity, we are able to continue to socialize… albeit differently.
Any chance to spend time with those you care about is a gift, so take it in whichever form it comes.
Final Thoughts on Things to Be Thankful For in 2020
I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a very different kind of year.
A year filled with emotional highs and lows.
The introduction of all-virtual schooling and an increase in remote workspaces.
While it would be easy to sit around and feel remorse for all of the things we miss from years prior… we can’t.
Because when we choose to remain stuck in the past, we aren’t moving forward… and that is no way to live.
It’s not the human spirit.
There are still so many things to be thankful for. You just need to look for them… just as I did.
Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications, and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization, and product reviews.