It goes without saying – 2020 has been a difficult year. The pandemic, economic instability, social unrest, and rising anxiety have all left their mark on us. As we head into the holiday season, we may be feeling all too eager to move ahead to the new year and forget 2020 even happened. It may feel like there is very little to be grateful for, but 2020 did provide many occasions to practice gratitude. In these difficult times, there were and continue to be glimmers of hope, positivity, and opportunity.

Here are 10 reasons to be grateful for 2020. 

1. New Learning and Skills

LinkedIn Learning reported a 3x increase in usage in just the first 3 months of the pandemic. With more time on our hands, an urgency to adapt, or even a need to cope with stress, many of us turned to learning and self-development. You may have reskilled or upskilled in ways you normally would not have in any other year. Did you gain any new technical knowledge? How about interpersonal skills? The skills and learning you gained definitely need to be recognized as they will continue to serve you in 2021 and beyond.

2. Deeper Connections

With social distancing, social bubbles, and isolation, all of us had to spend more time with our loved ones this year. While it certainly is difficult sharing a space for such long periods of time for everything from work to school to socializing, you likely created some good memories. Did you spend more quality time with family, get to know a friend or colleague more intimately, pick up a hobby together, or support each other with fear or anxiety? Keep in mind that not only were these moments special at the time, the time you took to strengthen your relationships will pay dividends in the future as well. 

3. Innovation

How many things did you do differently this year? Did you or your team take any risks? In many instances risks were probably necessary in order to be agile and adaptive. Perhaps you launched new products, improved your customer experience, adapted or streamlined traditional processes, retained social gatherings by bringing them to the virtual world, or found innovative ways to homeschool your children. 2020 offered many opportunities for creative problem solving. Take the time to appreciate the risks you took and new ideas you generated.

4. Sense of Community

You might have seen images of people singing from their buildings to salute essential workers at the onset of the pandemic. Since then, people have provided support to our community’s most vulnerable, performed random acts of kindness for neighbors, educated themselves on anti-racism, and more. Google even reported that “how to help” was a popular search term in 2020. In fact, “how to donate” was searched twice as much as “how to save money” in spite of all of the economic uncertainty. The collective grief, fear, and anxiety we all faced acted as a catalyst for the world to come together in new ways, which is nothing if not uplifting.

5. Social Awareness and Empathy

It is undeniable that 2020 was a year of social awareness. Racial inequality, political polarization, and widespread social unrest were prominent headlines for much of the year. There continues to be much suffering and deeply ingrained pain which must not be forgotten, but this was a year in which significant progress in empathy, action, and education were made. Did you or people around you make an effort to listen, unlearn biases, or collaborate on ways to be a true ally? We can be grateful that there was a real social awakening in 2020 and we can hope that it will continue to accelerate important conversations going forward.

6. Increased Resilience 

Resilience is one of many buzzwords this year. But as much as we hear about it, it has to be mentioned that resilience is not built overnight or in one go. Ask yourself: how many times did you feel you could have given up? At what point did you feel at your lowest? These are not fun questions, but they will help you to see how far you’ve actually come. Things may still seem bleak and uncertain, but you have made progress and strengthened your ability to thrive. Be grateful for your wins, even if they seem small or insignificant.

7. Mental Health Revolution 

Lockdowns, job security, financial constraints, fear of the virus, systemic racism, loneliness, burnout – all of these stress factors and more collided this year to create what is being called a mental health crisis. Anxiety and depression were already on the rise before 2020, which only made the unprecedented events of this year that much harder to manage. The silver lining is this has increased the spotlight on burnout and work/life balance, how to talk about mental health at home, school, and work, reducing stigma, and resources to assist people. We can have hope for more structures, processes, and skills to support each other in the future. 

8. Re-evaluation of What is ‘Essential’

2020 provided a rare opportunity to slow down and reassess what we truly need. Unsurprisingly, but sensibly, holiday shopping is expected to be down this year. Did this give you a chance to prioritize quality time over material goods? Are expenses like travel actually essential? How about certain norms?  For example, many are celebrating the collapse of professionalism, thanks largely in part to the pandemic, and are starting to embrace being their imperfect, human selves at work. This opportunity to pause, re-evaluate, and focus on what really matters is something for which we can all be thankful. 

9. Reconnecting with Nature

You may have spent more time outdoors this year to pass the time. In an age where we spend so much time in front of screens, getting the chance to find joy in nature is definitely something for which we should be grateful. Furthermore, we saw the biggest drop in global carbon emissions this year. You might even remember the excitement during initial lockdowns at the images of fewer cars on the streets, less air pollution, and marine life enjoying cleaner waters. While the pandemic has had its own negative impacts on the environment and trends will definitely rebound, many are optimistic that we have learned lessons this year that will help fight climate change.

10. Fast-tracked Digital Transformation

The pandemic has been called the world’s largest work from home experiment. Thanks to advances in technology, people who never thought they would have an option to work remotely set up home offices. Putting aside the inconveniences of sudden upheaval and sharing a space during lockdowns, 2020 has shown employers that work can be more flexible. Are you grateful for being able to cut out your commute, work in your pajamas, or take breaks to chat with family? Beyond just working, 2020 showed us the power of technology in transforming how we shop, socialize with friends, take a class, and even get medical advice.

What else are you grateful for in 2020?

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but is a way to start reflecting on all the good to come out of this year. What else inspires gratitude and hope for the future?