If we turned the clock back precisely 12 months, most of us would have been as incredulous then as we are now at the dramatic turn foisted on the world. Of course, we’re still living in uncertain times. While some of us are enjoying the independence of relatively normal living, others remain under curfews and restrictive conditions.
So what, if anything, have we learnt from the experience?
Most of all, it would be good to think that we’ve acknowledged that we just can’t take anything for granted, whether that’s our health, our jobs, or our freedom.
After many years of flitting, without a moment’s thought, between Australia and Europe to lead our gastronomic walking tours, my husband and I initially found ourselves effectively grounded and unable to do what we love most.
Looking back, it seems that the upside of this momentous year is that we’ve discovered so much about ourselves, what makes us tick and most importantly, how to stay positive.
Naturally, everyone’s experience is completely personal, but over the past 10 months, we’ve found that putting in place just some of these things has helped us cope and adapt.
Most of us recognise the importance of introducing regular physical activity into our daily lives and are probably more aware of it than ever now that much of our lives are played out inside and often virtually.
Setting aside the physical benefits, improved mental health and general wellbeing is well documented. It’s a rare thing to get back from a walk and wish you’d never gone!
But what if you really struggle with the idea of ‘doing exercise’? If you can find something that you enjoy, you’re half-way there. For me, spending an hour cooped up in a gym may get me fit but does little to boost my mood.
By contrast, walking works every time, as does Pilates, which also happens to be an excellent way to improve fitness for walking. Meanwhile, friends swear blind by swimming, yoga, or gardening.
You’ve probably noticed that getting fresh air makes you feel better, without knowing why. In fact, breathing fresh outdoor air increases oxygen levels which in turn improves brain function. Interestingly, being outside has also been proven to reduce stress levels.
A daily dose of fresh air will also boost your vitamin D levels. During the winter months, you may still not be exposed to enough sunlight for the levels you need, but every little bit helps!
While physical exercise is also recognised to increase brain function, setting aside some time specifically for mental activity can be very satisfying, even if it’s just 10 minutes a day. It doesn’t need to be astrophysics – number puzzles and crosswords are fun and absorbing.
If you’re looking for more than that, consider learning a new skill or brushing up on an old one such as revisiting a foreign language, perhaps via online learning or audio books.
Helping others will certainly boost that inner glow. Volunteering may be tricky if you’re living under strict lockdown restrictions or having to shield, but there are so many small ways to help out which don’t necessarily involve going indoors.
Maybe you have a neighbour or family member who would appreciate a cake or even a weekly meal? Or if you enjoy gardening, perhaps you could help out with a neighbour’s garden?
One thing we’ve noticed is that while it’s so easy to get swept up in what we need to do, we sometimes lose sight of what we want to do. In fact, there’s no time like the present for devoting some time to an activity that you really enjoy.
Set aside a day a week to try a new recipe, pamper yourself with a manicure, or re-discover long-lost creative skills.
Nothing cheers me up more than having something special to look forward to! Often this will be a trip, although it could be something as simple as getting together with friends for a fabulous meal or glass of wine.
Of course, so much that we’ve all planned over the past year has had to be cancelled or postponed but it’s always heartening to have a few things in the diary.
Think about planning an out-of-town visit to see friends or family. You may even consider booking a holiday for later this year or even 2022. Enjoy the research, double-check the cancellation policy, and then sit back to look forward!
Are you a glass half-full or glass half-empty person? Has your approach changed over the past year? Tell us how you manage to stay positive during difficult times.