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How to be Thankful When Your Year has Been Tough

With the holidays approaching, many people are beginning to reflect on what they are thankful for.

Let’s face it: this year, it’s probably incredibly hard to reflect.

2020 has brought a lot of hardship into our lives.

From a potential World War III (which you’ve probably forgotten about now), the death of Kobe Bryant, and the onset of Coronavirus, to the death of George Floyd and the following demand for justice, lives have been completely changed with no return to “normal” in sight. For many, it’s hard to see the positives and find what they're truly thankful for in a year that has hurt so many.

Here are six ideas to reflect upon and to consider being thankful for!


Your Health

Although most take this for granted, this year it is especially important to be thankful for your health.

This year there have been 1.27 million deaths worldwide, so I would say that we are incredibly lucky to be here, reading this page. Many of us know the feeling of what it is like to lose a loved one to the Coronavirus, and it is not a good feeling. However, during this time of year, it is important that we focus on the positives rather than the negatives. Be thankful for your life, and all the aspects that you take for granted. You’re lucky to be healthy and be one of many that can say they have survived through a worldwide pandemic. Although the Coronavirus has disturbed our daily lives, you are not the one sitting in a hospital bed, on a ventilator, wondering if you will get to see your family again – you are reading this from the comfort of your home, or your dorm, or bed. This year especially, be thankful for your health and the perks that it has come with this year.

Your Support Network

During these trying times, we rely on other people for all kinds of support. Whether that be your family, your friends, or a mixture of both, this past year has tested relationships and proven who you can really rely on. Without the support of my family and friends, I know that I would have handled this year in a very different way. The idea that “we are all in this together” could not be truer and helps all of us relate to one another and rely on each other for support. We are all going through tough times and having someone that can help you and be there for you makes all the difference. This year, find that person or those people and thank them!


Honestly, we are lucky to live in a society where we have so much access to technology. Imagine what quarantine would have been like if you were unable to make those tiktoks, binge watch that TV show, or call family and friends that don’t live with you. If we didn’t have these technologies, we definitely would not be back at school right now trying to find some normalcy in our lives. Although social media gets a bad reputation, it is honestly a great way to communicate with people right now since face-to-face isn’t always the best or most feasible option. Technology allows us to connect with those we need the most and allows us to find some happiness in our lives so let’s be thankful that we live in a world where this is possible.


Genuine laughter has been one of the most important parts of my year. In a time where most of the news you see every day is sad or unfortunate, laughter and smiling puts us in a better mood and is an all-around cure for the news by which we are surrounded.

I make it a goal to try to laugh once a day. It is scientifically proven that laughter boosts your mood because of the endorphins it releases. I am so thankful for the people out there that find a way to bring humor into our lives and put smiles on everyone’s face. It makes the world seem a little less lonely, and a little less depressing. So let’s be thankful for the ability to laugh and have a good time focusing on the positives in the world!

Free Time!

For all of us college students, free time is hard to come by. With so many things happening, we barely have time to take care of ourselves on some days!

This year, that has completely changed. Although the homework load has increased for some people, we no longer have to spend the time walking to class, going to meetings, and hoping that we have time to eat dinner whether that be the left-over pizza in the fridge or a granola bar. With a little more free time in our days, many of us have picked up new hobbies, started working out more, learned how to cook, or just relaxed for once at the end of the day. Even though it’s definitely not typical, we now have the opportunity to relax for once which we should definitely be thankful for. 

Your Adaptability

This is definitely one of the most important things to reflect on this year.

We all grew up learning how to live what used to be our normal lives. Earlier this year, everything changed in a matter of days. Had we not adapted quickly or learned how to embrace the change and find the positives, I do not think a lot of us would have survived the past few months. We are lucky that we were able to move forward and find ways to work, go to school, see friends, and celebrate birthdays.

Although this definitely wasn’t the best year of many of our lives, I think a lot of us made the best of the situation and found ways to move forward. That is something that we can all be incredibly proud of ourselves for. 

Life has tested us in many ways this year, and although it can be easy to dwell on the negative parts of this year and all of the terrible things that happen, it is also important that we focus on the positives. If we can recognize that life hasn’t been too terrible, I think we can see that we really do have things to be thankful for this thanksgiving. Although it has definitely been an unconventional one, don’t let this year stop you from self-reflecting and giving thanks to things that make you happy.

A Michigan native, Madeline started writing for Her Campus in 2019. Currently a senior at the University of Michigan majoring in Neuroscience with a minor in Spanish Language and Literature and is currently applying for physical therapy school. Aside from Her Campus, Madeline used to row for the University of Michigan Women's Rowing team, attends every sporting event she can (especially Football and Hockey), and loves spending time outside.
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