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Creating a “new normal” after 2020 – connecting to make life even better by Dr Tim Sharp

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It probably doesn’t even need to be said but 2020 has been a year of unprecedented change and disruption, of uncertainty and for many, loss. Even if you’ve not been directly affected by the events of the last nine months, it’s safe to assume you’ve almost certainly been indirectly affected.

Illness or even just worry about illness, multiple changes and constant uncertainty, separation from loved ones and so, so much more.

But as difficult and distressing as it’s been for most, it’s also been a time of reflection and growth for many; a time to review values and priorities, to remember what’s really important in life.

And early research seems to have found that amidst the myriad of messes, there are just a few common themes when people were asked about what they’ve experienced and learned during this strange and unusual year.

At the top of the list?

Relationships, connectedness, family and friends.

They say “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and if 2020 has proven anything it’s that not being able to see our loved ones, or not being able to see them in person as often as we would have liked, has highlighted how important they are, for our wellbeing and happiness.

No one would have chosen to live 2020 the way it’s panned out; but it won’t be entirely bad if we’ve learned, or remembered, to focus on priorities such as connecting with others, on being more willing to both ask for and to give help to others.

Out of difficulty, good things sometimes come; and the good thing to come out of this year’s difficulties will hopefully be a willingness to focus more on our relationships with others; our family and friends and community and all those around us. Because ultimately, these are the most important contributors to our health and wellbeing and happiness.

But that hasn’t been the sole focus during these 6-12 months and next on the list of concerns for most has been health and wellbeing. There’s nothing like sickness, or the threat of sickness, to help us realise how important health is.

And the good news is that (despite what some might think) a significant proportion of our health and wellbeing is within our control. Understandably, the process of ageing plays a role, as does our genetic makeup if we’re going to be honest. But much of our health comes down to us, to our daily activities, what we choose to eat and whether or not we choose to keep active. Activity and exercise might mean different things for different people but there’s no doubt that keeping moving, in whatever way you can or in whatever way you enjoy, will boost your health and help you feel better, for longer.

And then rounding out the top 3 list of “issues” is control and certainty. It’s probably safe to say that most of us haven’t felt as unsafe as we’ve felt these last nine months for quite some time. No one likes uncertainty; and 2020 has had more uncertainty than any of us would have chosen.

That being said, there are always things we CAN control. Despite the challenges around us, we can all still control much of our daily routine; things like what we eat and when we get up, things like continuing hobbies and committing to some form of activity and especially, what we choose to focus our attention on.

Instead of getting too stuck in negative updates, for example, we can limit our consumption of news or even search for positive news; we can practice gratitude and appreciation, making a conscious effort to focus more on what we have and less on what we don’t have.

I’m not suggesting any of this is easy; in fact, for some, for different reasons, much of this will be quite difficult. But it is possible. And with effort even small changes or small achievements will still make a difference.

So, keep reading the next article for some tips I’ve put together to hopefully help you cope better with the now, and make a better tomorrow.

Dr Tim Sharp