There are some huge positives to the last 12 months that we may have overlooked. Our health has had a chance to reboot and recharge both mentally and physically. We should take all that we have learnt and use this in a very positive way to increase our happiness and reduce our stress levels. It is all too easy to jump back into an unhealthy lifestyle in an attempt to get back to 'normal'.

2020 and the start to 2021.....No one saw this coming!! A pandemic...A year in total and we will all remember this world crisis for many different reasons. The year that shocked the world and somehow totally changed every country from the 'daily norm' into something completely different. The whole world went into 'Lockdown' and as we put aside the awful impact of frightening death toll figures and the nations' health crisis......we have gained some incredible positive benefits from this year of uncertainty.

From the very beginning we panicked as the 'unknown' continued to spread and we were faced with many dilemmas, unpleasant emotions and unanswered questions. 'What if we run out of fresh foods at the Supermarkets'?....'What if the gym doesn't open for months'?......'What if I can't see my family'? We had to learn very quickly, in this world of high stress, multi-tasking, money making, transport dependent society, that things were about to change drastically!

The 'positive' was in the question. We changed from 'What if'? to 'What can'? 'What can we do with the limited amount of food on the supermarket shelves'? Some great new recipes and home cooked meals began to appear on social media, particularly from men who suddenly found inspiration and a flare for cooking during their time on furlough or working from home. The unexpected upside to lockdown.

'What can we do if the gyms remain closed to stay fit and healthy'? A wealth of ideas from fitness professionals on how to workout from home to the considerable health benefits of outdoor exercise with the whole family.

'What can I do if I can't see my family'? Something amazing happened here. We used social media for the good of mankind. We picked up our phones and talked to family, friends and those who were isolated or vulnerable. We became sociable creatures, learning how to interact and care for our family and friends and watching over the elderly and susceptible of our society.

So What Did We Learn?

Money is not as important as we thought? We suddenly had to live on less income, learning how to budget, become a lot less extravagant with our purchases and manage our pennies in a very different way to our normal means of spending.

We learnt the meaning of time. We suddenly had plenty on our hands and realised that 'time is one of life's precious commodities'. We used time for long chats with distant friends, social media for group chats and that all important 'me' time for our thoughts and mindfulness. We appreciated the world where we lived a lot more than we had ever done. We walked and discovered places we normally let pass us by with our over-stressful previous life. We noticed the fresh, less polluted air around us and understood that our transport dependent life was ruining the planet and finally our big lesson.......'take nothing for granted'

What Should We Do Now?

For the sake of our health and the future of our planet, we should continue our love of the outdoors. With the ever increasing load on our National Health Service, we need to be taking care of ourselves and take responsibility for our own health. We have the great outdoors providing us with places of natural splendour to walk, jog, run, cycle, socialise and to appreciate the beauty all around us. The simple things in life had become lost among the pressures of modern day life, with our pointless worries of earning more, the latest technology, expensive branded goods, and our popularity on social media. By adopting a simpler life we increased our happiness, well-being and peace with many benefits:

1. Walking - Walking is free. 30 minutes a day can reduce the risk of a stroke by up to 40% depending on your pace. It's easy on the joints reducing bone mass loss and the risk of fractures. Weight loss can be achieved with a 30 minute brisk walk burning up to 200 calories. Walking also improves your sleep by reducing insomnia, helps mental health, reduces memory decline and can be a very social activity between friends.

2. Cycling - During the first month of the first lockdown the sale of bicycles increase by 60%, according to the Bicycle Association. The 'bike boom' saw the public leave their car keys at home and use their exercise time on their bicycles. Cycling is great for health and fitness. It's low impact but a good muscle workout. Cycling also increases stamina, aerobic fitness and strength. It's a fun way to exercise for the whole family, coasting down hills and being outdoors.

3. Mindfulness and Journal Writing - This is a subject close to my heart. Mindfulness and journal writing are for greater well-being and improving mental health. But science has now proven that these techniques can increase physical health by relieving stress, reducing blood pressure, chronic pain and gastrointestinal difficulties.

4. Crafts and hobbies - More time on our hands, no work, unable to go outside - The most googled topic in March/April 2020, with a 90% increase of average 'monthly search volumes' was 'how to?' searches. The most 'how to?' searches were on gardening crafts, from pot decorating and buntings to decorating and designs, this all being prior to garden centres opening. Our gardens flourished, we became adventurous with our garden designs and spent a lot of our time outside working on our lawns, pots and bedding plants. In fact our gardens became our social meeting places once we were able to meet up with family and friends. A godsend to those who are not so lucky with outdoor space. Many hobbies began during this time as we discovered new skills and flairs that we would never have attempted or known about prior to lockdown. Spending time on a hobby or craft helps reduce stress and improve mental health and well-being. Hobbies can get you out and about, make you feel happier and will encourage you to take a break away from the mundane chores of life.

5. Socialising and less time on phones - Technology has taken over and we spend far too much time on mobiles, computers or watching soaps on the TV. Lockdown brought us together as the restrictions were lifted and slowly we were able to meet up in parks and gardens. We held conversations with family and friends preferring to leave behind the angry 'rants' and dismal news coverage shared on social media. Socialising provides health benefits both mentally and physically. Connecting with family and friends can boost brain health and can lower the risk of dementia.

6. Budgeting - The most difficult times during Lockdown has been the reduction of income. We had to learn very quickly the valuable experience of budgeting. No longer could we waste food, buy new clothing or purchase goods without a valid reason to do so. A good lesson learnt, as we had become a nation of 'careless spending' instead of 'waste not, want not'. There is an art to budgeting and something that we can continue when we return to the new 'normal'. There is a sense of achievement with budgeting, especially if we are focused on saving for something that we long for like a holiday, a spa retreat or a deposit on a house. Budgeting is not as easy as it appears. We need to take into account all our outgoings, any contingencies and unexpected six-monthly or annual bills. These items all have to be implemented into a budget calculated on a monthly or weekly basis (depending on your income/salary). You will find many free budgeting tools online to help you calculate your expenditure.


Although we are slowly coming out of lockdown and restrictions are being lifted, we need to remember what we have learnt during this unusual time....where time was on our hands and we used it for the good of our health and well-being. This may have been spending quality time exercising with family, walking, cycling, gardening or family hobbies. Maybe meeting up with friends in the park with picnics or socialising in small groups at garden parties. Remember the reduction in stress levels during lockdown or from working at home. Learning these new skills such as meditation, mindfulness or new exercises with home workouts, have played their part in bringing a bit more calm into our fast paced lives. Stress can play havoc with our health and we need to take all the things we have learnt over the last year and continue to practice with our new ways of life, moving forward into a happy and healthy 'new normal'.

Author's Bio: 

Catherine is a Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer and founder of Healthy Forever Fitness Motivation.
Her mission is to help everyone stay active and live a healthy and happy life. Catherine promotes all things 'positive' and believes that all aspects of health can work together in harmony. A healthy body and mind, together with good nutrition will achieve optimal health