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I have sat down many times to write this blog. I knew I needed to find some of the good in 2020, which has been a challenge to do at times. However, in the fresh new light of 2021, I am trying to straddle looking back at what I have learnt and looking forward to what I can make out of the year ahead, and overall, I am cautiously optimistic.

There have times of great productivity – revamping the blog and losing some excess weight in the first lockdown, and also times of less productivity and becoming somewhat of a hermit and putting the weight back on with excess mince pies and cider in the second lockdown! BOTH ARE FINE!

There have been many ups and downs in the past year, and many things to learn, so, here are my top takeaways from 2020:

What is really important?

Family. Health. Happiness. Friends. Connection. I knew this before, but 2020 really hit home how vital these things are to a fulfilling life. Yes, I miss going on holiday and eating out and popping down to the pub, but what I really want is to sit and have a home-cooked meal with my parents, I want to visit my sister and brother-in-law at their new home, I want to sit and have a cuppa and a catch up with my grandparents, and I want a cocktail and a gossip with the girls. I need people, love and laughter much more than I need things.

Finding the joy in the small things.

Whether it is the comedy pigeons and seagulls that frequent our doorsteps, or a hot chocolate when it’s cold outside, maybe it’s laughing until you cry with your best friend, or just being comfortable in your own company, this year has made me really look at the joy in the everyday. Life is not always a big adventure, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Life is full of small moments of joy, but you have to have your eyes open to see them and to really take them in.

The importance of not being selfish.

We have all had to sacrifice a lot over the past year. It’s been really hard. It’s hard to not see family and friends, it’s hard to miss birthdays and Christmas and celebrations, it’s hard to shield the ones you love, even though all you want to do is hug them and show how much you care. I have cried a number of times over the past year because I want my people – but it’s been so important to think of the bigger picture. To not give in to the selfish wants and to remember that by doing what is hard, you are helping everyone to survive through a tough time. I’ve had to learn to put up with the hardship and to try to find ways to make it suck less – even when I see others not willing to do the same.

What we can achieve when we all work together.

Although there are always going to be those who flout the rules and think that they are above the restrictions or that they are more intelligent than the scientists and the researchers that are trying to save our lives, overall, it has been amazing to see what we can collectively achieve when we commit to significant change. By staying home and staying safe, we have not only helped combat the COVID19 pandemic (to varying degrees of success at times….) but we have also seen how the natural world can be revived when human impact is reduced. This has been so important in opening our eyes to the world around us and the impact that we have on the natural world, and also the impact that it has on us. Many of us have found solace in nature over the past year, so once things start to revert to something resembling normal life, it is vital that we don’t forget this and that we strive to make the new normal greener and more sustainable.

Looking after ourselves is vital.

This has been a big one for me over the past year. It has by no means been smooth sailing, but I do feel like I have turned a corner with this. I am definitely more focussed on making good habits rather than just losing weight, I want to make my body feel good inside and out – that is the mentality that I am taking forward with me into this new year. What you put in your body is important, sometimes you need comfort food and that is ok, it serves a purpose, but sometimes you need the smoothies and the fresh veg – which is ok too. I am also trying to challenge my body, to push my own boundaries on what I think I am capable of – run for that extra minute, lift the heavier weight, just 1 more squat. I am learning that my body can be my friend, not something to be changed and forced into too-small jeans. However, mental health and wellness should also be a priority. Rest is part of success. Self-care should be part of the routine. Stress, overwork, burnout and endless hours working should not be the norm. I have learnt to allow myself down-time. The to-do list will still be there when I return.

Re-evaluating what you really want out of life.

This is something that I feel like I have done endlessly over the past year and it has paid off. Me and my partner are saving for a house of our own, we are making plans for the future and have had so many discussions about what kind of life we want to lead because we have had so much time together to really get down to the details! I’ve also managed to take steps in my personal goals by entering into the conservation sector and recommitting to my degree in Environmental Studies – I have a solid direction for myself, for the first time in many years, and that feels pretty darn good.

Me and my partner have also started Hansell-Stanley Enterprises, which is our attempt at building the life we want together. Encompassing what I have been working on the past few years, with his expertise and passion, we are putting ourselves out there and refusing to settle for a life that doesn’t fit.

The impact that we have on this planet.

We’ve all experienced first-hand over the past year, what our impact on the planet is meaning for our survival and that of countless other species too. Our encroachment into the natural world has meant that the pandemic ran rife through populations, in addition to extensive wildfires and loss of biodiversity on a global scale. I won’t go into it all now, you were there, you lived through the year. I am now looking to the future and how we can do something from our little corner of the UK.

To start with we pledge 10% of our annual profits to One Tree Planted – a charity which does amazing work to reduce global deforestation. We are also taking part in Veganuary, where you pledge to go vegan for 31 throughout January. We love doing this every year – and making vegan choices throughout the year too – and you can follow our 2021 journey on all the usual social media platforms (@swbcblog).

There are also a number of eco-goals that we could all try to undertake in this new era. Here are some to get you started but do feel free to share your own ideas too!

  • Change all disposable products such as paper towels, plastic wrap, bags to reusables.
  • Change all cleaning/laundry products to eco-friendly alternatives with refills.
  • Change plastic bathroom bottles to shampoo bars, toothpaste tablets etc.
  • Change plastic toothbrushes to bamboo alternatives.
  • Change to biodegradable products, such as wipes, female products, bin bags and floss, etc.
  • Remove all, or as much as possible, single use plastics from daily life.
  • Bring the outside in with houseplants.
  • Start a compost bin for food waste.

Be brave and be yourself.

The main thing that I will be taking away from 2020, is that you never know what is around the corner. So, the best you can do every day is to be as brave as you can and to be authentically yourself – whatever that means to you. Take risks, don’t talk yourself out of putting yourself out there, don’t doubt your abilities before you have even tried. Try new things, find your joy and always strive to be the best version of you that you can offer in the moment.

2020 was crap in many, many ways, but that doesn’t have to be the part that we hold onto as we face down 2021 in all its rainy, January glory. We got through 100% of the rubbish 2020 days, we got through the disappointments, we got through the lockdowns and we got through the sleepless nights that were filled with worry, we got through Christmas being cancelled for many of us… we got through. So, whatever faces us now, we will do the same.

You got this.

We’ve got this.

We are in this together – so give it your best shot.

Wishing you all the very best for 2021 and beyond.


SWBC Blog x

Written by Rebecca Hansell for Small World, Big Cause Blog – January 2021.

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