In so many respects, 2020 was a dumpster fire. But as the saying goes, adversities are our greatest teachers—and that means that last year was the equivalent of a college education about what’s most important in life.
As we enter a new year full of change, here are 7 life lessons we’ve learned that give us fresh inspiration now, and will stay with us long after 2020 is a happily distant memory.
1. We are social creatures who must connect.
Home quarantining, social distancing and remote work/learning forced us to hunker down and isolate, abandoning many of the social interactions that usually colored our days and lives. We missed friends and far-flung family members; we even missed strangers we used to cross paths with on the bus or in movie theaters.
But this hardship came with a lesson. It made us all discover that human connection is as vital as oxygen, and spurred us to find other ways to connect that were almost as—and sometimes even more—satisfying, whether videoconferencing, texting, or even using our phones for actual telephone calls. Even snail mail made a comeback: As COVID raged, a postal service survey found that 1 in 6 consumers were sending more mail to family and friends. And the virus’ worldwide spread reminded us that we are all interconnected, and that we all need to cooperate with each other to live well. May we never lose that insight.
Social distancing made us all discover that human connection is as vital as oxygen.
2. We can spend more thoughtfully.
With fewer stores open and sometimes limited supplies on shelves, we all learned to make do with what was possible—and often discovered we did just fine without those “essentials.” Some of us discovered self-sufficiency skills like cooking, home gardening, canning, and home repair that saved us money and often generated less waste in the process. (And bonus: it helped us bond with each other as we tackled those home projects together.) It made us better understand how much we were spending on things that weren’t making our lives any better, and gave us a greater appreciation of what added genuine value to our worlds.
3. We must appreciate the many people who make our lives possible, and better.
The pandemic quickly showed us that our lives depend on a huge infrastructure of helpers, whether we call them “essential workers” or not. Just for starters, consider the carriers who delivered our mail, packages, groceries, and even our votes safely; the people who grew, harvested, shipped, stocked, cooked and served the food that kept us nourished; the teachers, staff, and bus drivers that helped our children continue to learn; and of course, the frontline workers in health care, transportation and critical services who often risked their own lives to keep us healthy and the country running. All deserve our support and recognition for the important work they do to hold our world together.
Our lives depend on a huge infrastructure of helpers, whether we call them “essential workers” or not.
4. We are actually incredibly adaptable.
2020 was a good reminder that we are, in fact, an adaptable species. We had to rapidly change so much in our lives; schools shifted to online learning; parents shifted to being home schoolers; doctors pivoted to telemedicine. Those of us who could, worked remotely, and many of us scrambled to reinvent our work lives in the face of furloughs or job losses. Things we thought we would never do, we had to do anyway, and even came to accept them as “new normals.” Uncertainty forced us to be more creative, and ultimately more resilient. The scar tissue we’re all entering this new year with has made us stronger.
5. There is no health without mental health.
The toll COVID has taken on our national mental health has been staggering; one third of Americans are now living with depression and anxiety. That’s a major rise from before the pandemic, but it has also had a welcome side effect of pushing mental health into a long-deserved spotlight. As increasing numbers of us are openly acknowledging that “everything is not okay,” we’ve helped remove the stigma that often prevents people from seeking help when they need it, and opened the eyes of legislators to the importance of mental health support. In a country where some 24% of people with mental health needs aren’t getting the treatment they need, this awareness can’t come soon enough.
6. Humor will get us through anything.
The pandemic forced everyone to be creative and hilarious, whether it was Broadway stars, actors, or TikTok creators. Every laugh made it a little easier to get by (and may even have given our immune systems a boost). Humor has always gotten us through hard times in the past, and it will again.
When we openly acknowledge that “everything is not okay,” we help remove stigma that prevents people from seeking help when they need it.
7. Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s vital.
As we discovered how vulnerable we were to a marauding virus, we also learned there’s much we can do ourselves to shore up our own defenses. We learned to be better custodians of our own health, whether it was eating more healthfully, tracking our sleep, forest bathing, or working out. Surveys suggest we began turning more to natural ways to heal and relieve stress such as yoga, meditation, forest bathing, journaling, and cooking up healing recipes (try a few of ours!).
Healthy routines thrive at home. When fitness and yoga centers closed, we were forced to bring our wellness practices home—and we made do creatively. Just look at recent, surging sales for meditation apps, fitness trackers and natural wellness products. If you’re one of the thousands of people who added Caliper CBD and Caliper Swiftsticks to your daily self-care, we’re so glad you brought us on board!
We learned to be better custodians of our own health, turning to natural ways to heal and relieve stress.
So, let’s greet 2021 with open arms. Everything is a little different from just a short while ago, and we are, too. That opens new doors, shows us fresh perspectives, and brings us new possibilities for health and joy. Here’s to all of our fresh starts!