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What Have YOU Learned From 2020?

Runner running into 2021 out of 2020

Getty/Prostock-Studio

What have you learned in 2020? If you feel you have struggled this past year, mentally or physically, you are not alone. But what are the positives?

To say that 2020 was a challenging year is hardly a hot take. If you feel you have struggled this past year, mentally or physically, you are not alone. However, despite the countless pain that this past year has brought, there are many lessons to be garnered from the not-so-hallowed halls of yesteryear.

I count myself firmly among those who really struggled. Nevertheless, as I do every year, I sat down at the end of it to reflect on what I had achieved and what I wanted for 2021. What I realized surprised me—in the midst of the malaise there were positive lessons to be learned.

3 Lessons From Lockdown That Have Increased My Wellness

The first lesson I learned during lockdown was how to fall in love with running.

Before lockdown, I couldn’t understand why anyone would choose to run for fun. My stamina was terrible, and, quite frankly, I couldn’t be bothered. Motivated, of course, by the fact that I couldn’t leave the house for any reason other than essential shopping and exercise, I decided to give running another go.

What I learned during these (initially physically painful and painfully slow) runs was how to let go of any expectation to be fast or to look presentable and open my eyes to the beauty around me. More than anything, I learned what a privilege it is to be able to breath fresh air and move freely through nature. Running has strengthened my body and nourished my soul.

The second lesson I learned was how to look after my natural hair, which is curly and unruly.

I discovered the Curly Girl Method, created by Lorraine Massey, which encourages a return to the most natural and healthy hair possible. By cutting out heat-styling and harsh chemicals, my damaged hair is slowly becoming curlier, shinier, and healthier.

The value of looking after my natural hair transcends the superficial desire to look good—it has taught me a powerful lesson about self-acceptance. Instead of heat styling or straightening it into submission, I have learned to embrace the hair that grows out of my head. The simple yet radical goal is to be the best version of yourself; unadulterated, unapologetic, and uncompromisingly you.

The final, and probably most important, lesson I learned in 2020 was that our way of life is increasingly fragile. Our relationship with the natural world has been exploitative and selfish for too long, and the pandemic is unarguably a consequence of that.

In August 2020 I decided to go vegan, and it was the best decision I ever made. I feel lighter, more energized, and free of gnawing guilt that had plagued me for a long time. I now view the dietary choices I was previously making as unsustainable.

Opting for a vegan lifestyle has made me feel so much better, both physically and mentally. I adore cooking, and another bonus of going vegan is that I have had to learn lots of new recipes. This has brought joy to otherwise dark days.

Reflecting on these important lessons, I realized that the common thread that weaves throughout them all is how important enjoying nature and embracing the natural is for my wellbeing. Though it was the year I stayed inside the most, 2020 was also the year I learned to cherish nature. I feel a whole lot better for it.

If you’re still feeling beaten down by the year past, take a moment to make your own list. What have you learned through it all? Where can you go from here?

Your 2020 Wrapped (Fill in the Blank)

In 2020 …

I have accomplished ____________________________________________.

I took time to explore ____________________________________________.

I witnessed that ______________________ and ________________________.

I accepted that _____________________________________________.

I enjoyed __________________, ____________________, and __________________.

Despite ______________________, I am thankful for _______________________.

In 2021 I will ________________________________________________________.

Read more about the positive side of 2020 in “Pandemic Silver Linings.”


About the Author

Emily Qureshi-Hurst

Emily Qureshi-Hurst is a doctorate of Philosophy candidate in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Oxford. Her research focuses on philosophical questions surrounding the intersection of religion and science.

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