2020... Everything started off great - a New Year’s Eve celebration with friends downtown, dancing to a live band in the middle of a shut-down street, joining in with hundreds of other voices as we shouted “3 … 2 … 1 … Happy New Year!” followed by the singing of Auld Lang Syne. If only we knew that night what we know now…

Would we have still felt the excitement that comes on January 1st? Would we have wished each other “happy new year” with a smile on our faces? Would we have not given a second thought to buying toilet paper? (Definitely yes to the last one.)

Everyone in the world has felt the negative effects of Covid-19 this year. Many lost their jobs, some lost their companies and family members. Loneliness and pain were felt among the masses as gatherings were strongly discouraged and, in some places, prohibited. Children missed birthday parties, milestone celebrations, and the simple joys of childhood. Grandparents were not able to be with grandchildren - and those in retirement communities were not able to be with anyone. It has been a difficult year for us all, but looking back, there’s only one thing we can do that will help us move forward.

Choose to be grateful for 2020.

I encourage you to look back on this year and find a few things to be grateful for - and then focus on those things. Perhaps it was being able to spend more time with your immediate family, after school activities and weekend plans with friends were canceled. Maybe you learned how to cook new meals when you were unable to go to restaurants. Did your list of house projects finally become a bit shorter with endless weeks inside your home? Perhaps you found a new job that you like more or you saved some money from not traveling.

Even in the worst of years, it’s possible to feel gratitude. Though it may not seem like it, gratitude is a choice. It’s easy to complain about missed events, altered celebrations, and the loss of normalcy. It’s healthy to talk about those things and to share your feelings of disappointment and deprivation - but it’s not a good place to stay. Keeping your mind in that place of negativity will only bring you negative emotions, which oftentimes leads to a more permanent pessimistic perspective.

Choosing an attitude of gratitude will not only bring you temporary happiness but also lend your thoughts to an overall more positive outlook which, as scientific studies have proven, will keep you happier and healthier in the long run. While gratitude does not spare us from difficulties in life, it will provide us with a deeper and better perspective about the world around us and it can help us navigate through hard times by reminding us of what is most important. No one knows what 2021 will bring but whether it be less restrictions or even more social distancing, being grateful for the hardships of 2020 will prepare your mind and heart to combat whatever will come in this new year.

As you review your 2020 experience and find things you are grateful for, consider making a list of those things. There were a few things Covid-19 couldn’t take away from us, including the beauty of nature, the warmth of a smile, and the lightness felt in laughter. Babies were born, marriages were performed, and cherished memories were made. Months after the beginning of the pandemic, we can be especially grateful for the healthcare workers and scientists who have been working around the clock since March, researching this new disease, figuring out what helps patients survive, and working towards a vaccine to protect millions of people they will never meet.

Moving forward towards the mysteries of 2021, all we know is that remembering our blessings is better than focusing on our problems - and with that, we’re ready to say goodbye to 2020 with good riddance but also with lots of gratitude.