How This Year Has Taught Me To Be Thankful For The Small Things

Take a deep breath. There is only one more month left of 2020. When I screamed “Happy new year!” at midnight on January 1, 2020, excited for this new decade, I did not expect this year to go the way it did. I will not sit here and romanticize 2020. I will not say that the isolation we all experienced due to the pandemic has been the best experience of my life. Let’s face it, this year sucked… it sucked a lot! And it is totally okay to admit so! However, that does not mean that this year has not changed me. For better or for worse, this year has changed or shifted everyone’s perspective in some way. While there is still a month of 2020 left, looking back at everything that has happened so far, I am beginning to realize that maybe 2020 wasn't totally a wasted chapter in the book of my life.

Two friends taking a walk on the beach with masks Original photo by Eva Kaganovsky

This year taught me to treasure the small things in life. 2020 has taught me to be thankful for tiny aspects of my daily life that I used to take for granted. This year has taught me to find joy in taking walks with my friends, to treasure every hug I receive, to appreciate every beach day, to value every in-person conversation that I have, and to let go of things that no longer serve me. 

It is truly the small, everyday events and the little joys that make one's life so fulfilled. Sometimes it just takes a pandemic, heartbreak and isolation to realize that. Now as I take my daily walks around UCLA with my roommates, the joy and warmth that fills my heart is incomparable. Every hike, every camping trip with my brother and sisters, every picnic, every beach sunset is met with a heart full of gratitude. I no longer seek extravagance, I seek connections and laughter in every present moment.  Friends in front of Royce Hall Photo by Eva Kaganovsky

Now I know what you're thinking, because I used to think the same thing. The idea of being thankful for the small things sounds great, but how can I do that when everything around me seems to be going so wrong? At the end of March, when many parts of my life seemed to be falling apart, I fell into the victim mentality. We’ve all been there, victimizing and whining about our lives when things don't go as planned. Getting out of the vicious cycle of self sabotage is one of the most difficult mental shifts to make but also one of the most important ones.

I encourage everyone that is struggling to find things to be thankful for as 2020 comes to a close to make a list of everything that you are grateful for and place it somewhere you look every morning. They don't have to be extravagant; they can be as small things like being thankful for a bed to sleep on or gratitude for the ability to afford groceries. Focusing on what you have, not what 2020 has taken away, is so important. It is easy to forget all the privileges we have when we are focussing on the negative. I am grateful for the ability to move my body, for my amazing roommates and friends, for my brother and sister, for the ability to afford baking ingredients, for the plethora of coffee shops that fuel my caffiene addiction, for the opportunity to study at UCLA… the list goes on and on.  

Coffee in Berkeley Original photo by Eva Kaganovsky

Secondly, I encourage everyone to live in the present. Stop reminiscing about mistakes of the past. Stop worrying about future events. What is happening right now in the current moment? Most of the time, in the very moment you are living in, everything is okay. So when your mind seems to be all over the place, focus on your breath  because while our mind may be all over the place, our breath will always be in the present. Staying mindful and appreciative of the current moment is what helped me the most in feeling more grateful.

2020 has taught me to be thankful for the small things in my life and it has taught me to surrender my planned path with grace and instead be flexible with my journey. It has taught me to be truly happy and content in my own company. It has taught me to hold on to the people close to me, to start conversations with strangers, to live everyday fully, and to check up on all the important people in my life. However, most importantly, 2020 has taught me that a life does not have to be extraordinary to be great. I wish for everyone to live for the small moments in life, because those are truly the best ones.