As we're wrapping up the most unusual year of our lifetime, it's still hard to grasp what we've been through.
Countries, industries, and frankly the world, stopped at the same time, in a way that hasn't been experienced before. Many have lost family, friends, homes, and jobs. No words give justice to what still feels like a dream we can't wait to wake up from.
While COVID-19 is far from over, let's look at how the challenges we've faced can be transformed into opportunities for personal development and growth. What if you could use the learnings, no matter how stressful it's been, to enter 2021 mentally and physically stronger?
Well, you can. Here are 9 healthy habits we've been forced to practise lately worth maintaining next year and beyond - with or without a pandemic.
1. Reflect on what kind of life you want to live
With a "new normal" and restrictions forcing us to slow down, many have stopped to reflect over their lives. With more time on our hands, it's harder to ignore if something doesn't feel right. Recognizing it and taking action are the first steps towards change and feeling more fulfilled.
While research shows that we are more open to lifestyle changes when faced with major disruptions, why not make evaluating your current situation a regular habit? Whether it's going after that dream career, changing city, focusing more on your family or yourself, now is the time to make that move.
2. Be present and prioritize your health
Nothing matters if you're not healthy. Material things, fame, and all those things "you need to fix" become meaningless if you're not well. Being isolated has also put an emphasis on the importance of our mental health. It’s not taboo to feel down. It’s real, and it’s common.
It's easy to feel overwhelmed and as if you always have to be productive in today's fast-paced society. While it's nothing wrong with working on goals and planning for the future, make sure to maintain a good balance in 2021. Develop mindful habits, such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, and spending time in nature. Make self-care, physical and mental health a priority even if you're busy. Practise enjoying the present, because you'll never get the same moment twice.
3. Set off time for new experiences and skills
Many of us have started new hobbies during the pandemic. Ranging from learning an instrument to Italian cuisine, meditation, or finally getting started on that project you've put off for so long. If you've found something new that you like, try to continue with it.
Apart from that it's fun, learning new skills can improve your brain function. It's also a great way to meet new people and feel good about yourself.
The pandemic has given us access to so much without having to travel. From France's famous Louvre museum, to Disney's virtual theme park rides, you're spoiled with options.
4. Be grateful for things you used to take for granted
With restrictions limiting activities that used to be normal, it's a great opportunity to practise gratitude and appreciate what we have around us more. Travel, dancing, spontaneous get-togethers with friends, smiling to a stranger, a good concert, a game with your favorite team. Health, freedom, or just the possibility to step outside - and the list goes on.
Let's also remember all the incredible individuals within healthcare, education, banking, transportation, grocery stores, and more, that provide us with the essentials we need to survive.
5. Create meaningful connections with people that matter to you
Over 1 million deaths from COVID-19 have reminded us of how fragile life is and the importance of friends and family. The uncertainty has forced us to re-evaluate what matters.
Many have used this time to check in more on people they care about, resulting in stronger relationships. Even if we haven't been able to meet in person, technology has enabled us to connect despite distances and restrictions.
The pandemic has also made it more socially acceptable to show vulnerability and encouraged conversations on sensitive topics such as finances or losing someone.
Video calls or messages expressing how grateful you are to have someone in your life are simple ways to stay connected in the future too, even when you're short on time.
6. Be kind and generous to others
Out of generosity and the need for connection, people have helped others like never before during this pandemic. From Italians singing on their balconies, to the many volunteers offering everything from psychological help, to careers sessions, and shopping help for the elderly. Hashtags like #TogetherAtHome and #FlattenTheCurve have spread across the world.
Research shows that practising kindness stimulates the area of your brain associated with trust and connection, which makes you feel good. It can in fact boost you more than the receiver.
Listening to someone who needs to talk, signing up for volunteer activities, or checking in on your neighbour, are just a few ways to continue seeing and supporting others post-COVID.
7. Embrace a more sustainable lifestyle
Drops in carbon emissions, reports of cleaner air and more vibrant wildlife are somewhat positive consequences of the pandemic. While its long-term effect on the environment can be discussed, it has shown us that we don’t need much to be happy.
As the world slowly starts to speed up again, we can bring this sustainable mindset with us. It's all about small choices in our daily lives - such as mindful consumption or indulging in tasty plant-based recipes.
8. Be flexible and don't worry about things you can't control
"The only thing which is constant is change", as the famous Greek philosopher Heraclitus put it, has never been more true.
Living in uncertainty has forced us to practise letting go of the need to have everything under control. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't plan things or look for solutions. Just accept the possibility that things can turn out differently. Learn to be flexible and enjoy what is for what it is.
You can, however, prepare for things by for example having savings and a plan B in place.
9. Transform difficult experiences into strength
While COVID-19 has made us go through extremely challenging times, experiencing trauma doesn't automatically translate to a miserable life.
Research shows that people who have overcome more difficulties in the past are better at appreciating life’s small pleasures, which can support greater life satisfaction.
When life tests us, we can choose to focus on the downsides - or make the best out the experience by using it as fuel, even if it's hard and may take time. The choice is yours.
Which approach are you taking?
Want to improve your health but don’t know how to begin? Check out our 7-Day Wellness Starter Kit that will help!