Qualities You Gained in 2020 That Will Make 2021 Better

As you have encountered different challenges during the pandemic, you may have developed qualities that will continue to make you stronger in the New Year and beyond. Whether or not you realized it, if you’ve been forced to do more things by yourself during lockdown, you may have gained a greater sense of self-sufficiency. 

While working from home, you may have gained better time-management skills or made more time for exercise or friendships. You may have mastered skills that seemed intimidating in the past, like baking bread. And you may have discovered your resilience, realizing that you’re stronger than you expected and you can bounce back from adversity.

“With the pandemic, an election year, and societal upheaval, it is difficult to imagine looking for a silver lining in such a challenging time,” says Anjani Amladi, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist in Sacramento, California. “However, [people] who have found a way to manage their stress during this time have found a way to embrace the challenges life has thrown at them.”

The qualities you gained or bolstered during 2020 may help you thrive in 2021… or at least approach challenging situations by saying, “I’ve got this.” See how many you developed:

Resilience. Most people are resilient, managing to find joy and purpose when faced with hardship. This has been true even during the unprecedented events of 2020. Being flexible while trying to cope with challenges thrown your way may help you become more resilient, according to researchers.

“Humans are resilient and are able to adapt, even in the most trying of circumstances,” Amladi says. “People are learning to be more mindful of [negative] thoughts and counterbalancing them with more positivity, which is improving their outlook on life.”

How to stay resilient in 2021: Recognize your progress, and pivot as needed.

“Being able to acknowledge our resilience so far may make us feel more confident about our ability to get through the next few months,” says Saba Harouni Lurie, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Los Angeles.

Self-sufficiency. Did you dye your own hair, create your own workouts, or repair your wonky toaster during the shelter-at-home months? Solving your own problems may have made you feel proud and accomplished, knowing that you could rely on yourself to handle things that you don’t normally do.

“Confidence is critical when it comes to learning or trying anything new,” says Sergio Pedemonte, a certified personal trainer based in Toronto. “An example of this is a personal-training client working out for the first time without assistance.”

How to remain self-sufficient in 2021: Challenge yourself.

“[People] were pushed to develop new habits and gain new perspectives,” says Brian Wind, PhD, a clinical psychologist based in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. “We may need to make a concerted effort to stay in touch with these qualities by continuing the behaviors and routines that helped us to develop these qualities.”

Prioritizing exercise and physical health. Some people sought ways to add physical activity to their days, working out during “commuting” time or going for daily walks to escape the monotony of sheltering at home.

“Many of us will have learned to delegate time for exercise no matter the task at hand, even if it means waking up earlier than usual or having to leave work late and still finding the willpower to push through to get the workout done,” Pedemonte says. “We must take advantage of it and build good habits.”

How to stay fit in 2021: Maintain your active-lifestyle mindset.

“The days you don’t feel like you want to do it are the days you need to do it,” Pedemonte says. “It allows them to feel better and build a tolerance to avoid doing it.”

Learning new skills and gaining confidence in your abilities. Trying new activities during the pandemic has helped people stay engaged. Whether you created an online presence, improved your baking skills, or mastered new yoga poses, you may have been pleasantly surprised at the results.

“Finding ways to create a sense of purpose in your own home has been immensely helpful,” Amladi says. “Tackling new projects, taking up a new hobby, beautifying a space, decluttering, donating unused items all help with personal fulfillment.”

How to continue developing new skills in 2021: Stay curious, and nurture creativity.

“Focusing on new skills, experiences or values can give us something to look forward to,” Lurie says. “It can also provide positive things like novelty, excitement, and even joy.”

Better time-management skills. Until you began working from home, you may not have realized how productive you could be.

“At home, people can experiment and figure out how they work best: Early in the morning or later in the afternoon, with music or without, in different places, wearing more comfortable clothes or even at a different temperature than whatever the office happens to be,” says Pennsylvania-based time-management expert Laura Vanderkam, author of Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done.

How to manage your time well in 2021: Set boundaries.

“It can be very easy to keep half-working all night and all weekend in the absence of a stark dividing line—that is, the commute home,” Vanderkam says. “[Think about] how to structure their personal lives so they actually feel ‘off.’ I’m a fan of some sort of transition ritual: Walking the dog, calling a colleague to say goodbye, that sort of thing.”

Emphasizing relationships over superficialities. When the pandemic disrupted your daily routine, you lost many opportunities to socialize but gained more time for meaningful conversation with important people.

“The lockdown measures meant that people were forced to recognize the importance of gatherings and staying connected with each other,” Wind says. “The importance of the superficial—such as impressing people when going out—has decreased significantly.”

How to prioritize relationships in 2021: Stay in touch with loved ones.

“In these difficult times, people have realized that meaningful relationships are essential for emotional and social support,” Wind says. “[We shouldn’t take] friends and family for granted.”

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