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Twenty lessons learned in 2020

Lulu Sinclair takes a closer look at the twenty lessons learned in 2020.

  • Seize the day. Don’t put off today what you think you can do tomorrow. Tomorrow may not come, or not in the way you imagine.
  • Zoom is great but it’s not as good as three-dimensional contact. We need people – friends, families (even, sometimes, enemies) – if we are to thrive fully as human beings. 
  • Question more.Those in authority are not always right; they need to be held to account much more than they are. Who would have imagined millions of us would have been in an almost-as-restrictive lockdown as we were 10 months ago.
  • Following the science. What exactly does this mean? I thought scientists were known for their questioning natures, or theories at any rate. That particular phrase seems more about stifling debate, rather than coming up with satisfactory answers.
  • Save Our NHS. The mantra that we’ve heard over the past few months. Now I am not for a moment decrying the amazing work of those doctors, nurses and other staff who were on the “front line”. However, if this lockdown has been all about saving the NHS, maybe we need to look at reforming it.
  • Books are entertainment. I’ve read a great many books this year and have alternated between educational and plain fun. In times of difficulties, too many intellectual pursuits can be draining. For me, fun wins every time.
  • Working from home is not the answer it was imagined to be. It’s fine if you’re self-disciplined and a person who likes his or her own company, otherwise it can be very lonely. And unhappy staff make for less successful businesses.
  • Pets are for life, not just for lockdown. That seems self-explanatory to me, though not necessarily to others.
  • Walking is good and spending time outside is essential for everyone’s mental health. If we didn’t know it before, we certainly know it now.
  • Shop-bought meals. There is only so much anyone can take of the one-flavour-fits-all taste that so many meals in a carton seem to have. Cooking from scratch is good for both body and soul.
  • 24-hour news does not help, particularly if you’re prone to anxiety. The constant barrage of news featuring frightened – and frightening – politicians and experts (didn’t Michael Gove once say no-one cared about what experts thought?) has certainly not helped those suffering from catastrophic thinking.
  • The best laid plans … Poor Prince Harry and Meghan. They left the UK full of the spirit of adventure and great plans for their future. And then Covid-19 happened.
  • Boarding school had its uses. I suspect the people who were institutionalised from a young age have coped better with this lockdown than those day pupils who lived a more family-friendly life.
  • Lockdown makes us sly. I’ve written about this before, suggesting people find ways of bending the rules when they disagree with them. Long-term, it makes for a suspicious and dishonest society.
  • Identity politics still exists even in lockdown. For example, those who don’t agree with lockdown are considered by some of their opponents as potential killers while those against it see the lockdown enthusiasts as perhaps too compliant or fearful. I’d suggest there is no definite “either/or” in most scenarios. A bit of unconditional positive regard (that’s called not judging, to those who have yet to discover the great Carl Rogers) does wonders for debate and understanding.
  • Political leaders need to have some conviction to carry us with them. I may be biased because of the present situation – though I try not to be – but I feel I would gain more if I believed my politicians truly had their heart in what they say. Unfortunately, it seems many of us are becoming increasingly sceptical about what our political masters declare. The problem is: once they lose our trust, it’s hard for them to regain it.
  • The future of wars. If we have all been put into lockdown because of the potential for death if we resume mingling, what does this mean for war? A politician who gives the go-ahead to some form of conflict knows some troops may die. In view of how entire countries have been locked down because of the fairly narrow threat of death from Covid-19, doesn’t it make it difficult to justify war and the subsequent number of deaths to which it may lead? Just a thought.
  • Hope for the anti-woke. Is it possible that Bill Bailey’s win on Strictly Come Dancing is a vote against woke? Yes, he was terrific and let’s hear it for the hugely talented 55-year-old but he was certainly not better than Maisie or HRVY. Could it be that the trendy young the BBC are chasing are no longer interested in the programme and are not voting? Or is it that the “natural” viewers of Strictly, i.e. older, more traditional family-inclined people, have staged their own protest against wokeism by voting for charming – but older – Bill? Either way, it’s a good result.
  • Look to the East. It’s not just the star of Bethlehem I’m talking about here. A recent article revealed densely populated Japan has had just 18 deaths per one million people as a result of Covid-19 and without ever being forced into official lockdown. The reason given was that the Japanese people work for the collective good of society, rather than focusing on individual rights. Also, their personal hygiene habits are scrupulous. Maybe we could take something from that.
  • Stay hopeful. The year started off for many people with a great sense of optimism. Now it seems nothing but bleak. Remember things change, sometimes sooner than we can imagine. Life will get better and this seemingly impossible situation will one day be a faded memory, even if some of us have sadder memories than others. Hold on tightly to that hope.  
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Lulu Sinclair

Lulu is an experienced journalist who has worked in print, TV, radio and digital media. She retrained as a psychotherapist and counsellor some years ago and now combines both her passions. She writes a regular blog on mental health topics for a Harley Street psychotherapy practice.

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