Honestly, 2021 wasn't all bad – let's reflect on the good things that happened

Honestly, 2021 wasn't all bad – let's reflect on the good things that happened


This time last year, after months spent wishing for 2021 to arrive, we’d been smacked with the reality that, no, this year wouldn’t be much different than the last.

A four-month lockdown, a tonne of political scandals and an unheard of number of extreme weather events later, we’re finally reaching the end of what should have been a tall glass of water compared to 2020.

But was 2021 all that bad?

It’s easy to reflect on the bad times, like how difficult it was to exercise in lockdown number three, or how that event we were looking forward to was cancelled again.

This is the case despite the fact that, as senior therapist Sally Baker notes, we often have the same number of positive things happen as negative in a given timespan.

‘People who struggle to remember the positive aspects of their lives usually find it difficult to own their victories,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.

‘Hyper-positive people have the ability to see their achievements and small wins as just that, but for more negative people, it doesn’t really stick.’

While, as Baker notes, it’s important to remember what a difficult year its been – of course, simply surviving 2021 is an achievement on its own – and to lean in to those negative feelings, because they’re very real, it’s important to remember the good bits, too.

‘When we reflect and remember the good things that we experienced, it’s like our brains are reliving them,’ explains Baker.

‘So, we do get a dopamine and serotonin release from focusing on good memories.

‘So there are lots of benefits from focusing on the positive as well as the negative.’

With that being said, we asked people to share their wins – big or small – from the past year, to show just how possible it is for good things to come out of seemingly terrible times.

Here’s what went well in 2021

Being able to perform live again – Nile Marr, Manchester

At the first sign of trouble, our live events were cancelled and the music industry was willing to shut down and play along because it meant we were keeping people safe.

Even when the government told us to retrain we kept along as best we could knowing it will all be back eventually.

I’d kept making music and turned my attention to studio work.

Without the pressure to play live it was pretty freeing to just be creative for creativity’s sake.

It’s a little embarrassing to admit it, but after a while I’d started to forget I actually enjoyed playing in front of people.

I was afraid I’d forgotten how to do it and, as cliche as it sounds, the second I walked out with my band beside me in front of an audience it just felt like that weight washed off.

I’m hopeful for next year. I think everyone needs it.

I published my first memoir – Hannah, Scarborough

After overcoming homelessness and addiction in 2020, I was able to publish my first memoir, My Journey Home, in April this year.

It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done, but its opened up so many more opportunities and experiences for me.

Putting my story into the world was terrifying, but it seems it’s helped a lot of people which is such an incredible feeling.

I visited my grandma, who turned 100 – Aidan, London

My Nana turned 100 this year, and I was able to get Florida (where she lives) for her birthday party!

All her kids, grandkids and great grandkids were there.

It was honestly amazing seeing all the family again after all the lockdowns.

Hopefully it won’t have to be so long between visits next time.

I finally passed my driving test – Jen, Scotland

It’s the small simple things, but I passed my driving test first time after multiple cancellations due to Covid.

I started learning in February 2020 in London, but I had to stop and restart lessons in between lockdowns.

I had a test booked in November 2020 that was cancelled.

Then, I moved to Scotland mid-pandemic and had a test rebooked for April 2021, which was also cancelled.

I restarted lessons again in Scotland and finally passed my test in September 2021, at which point I was also juggling commuting back to London every week having started a new job.

I recovered from addiction and began training for an Ironman – Simon, Salisbury

After many years of hiding from the grief of losing my mother, turning to alcohol, painkillers and food, I finally faced my loss head on – running towards it, quite literally.

Over the last few years I have given up alcohol, stabilised my weight (from 21 to 15 stone) and stopped using painkiller medication – but most crucially, in 2021 I decided to take on my biggest challenge yet, preparing for an Ironman; which will see me swim 3.8km, cycle 180km and run 42km all on the same day, while fundraising for the charity Alabaré, which helps people deal with trauma.

My advice to anyone facing challenges or looking to make New Year resolutions is to go for it – 2021 has been a tough year for many, for me personally taking on a life-changing challenge has given me the drive and motivation to move forwards positively.

My biggest learning is that it’s about progress and consistency, not perfection; taking the steps towards your goals every day.

I got married – Alyshea, Merseyside

Unlike many people, my husband and I actually brought our wedding forward due to family illness and Covid affecting our families health.

Due to massive cancellations we managed to get everything sorted really quickly, but not in time to celebrate with some of the people we’d hoped to.

It was such a special day with all of our loved ones.

Sadly, my husband’s nan couldn’t be there in person but was definitely there in spirit.

After such a crap few years it was exactly what our families needed.

Helped end period plastic – Ella Daish, Brighton

This year my campaign to #EndPeriodPlastic has resulted in major period brand Lil-Lets ditching plastic applicators.

The move by Lil-Lets to ditch plastic tampon applicators from their products was a massive highlight of 2021 for me. 

The removal of applicators wasn’t always on the table, which is why this decision is even more significant.

Their transformation shows that brands can change if they are willing and open to, and I’m really proud to have played a part in it.

I also took my campaign to Europe in November, where I returned the giant tampon applicator (made from real tampon applicators collected from 15 different locations) to Procter and Gamble, the owners of Tampax, as a symbol of producer responsibility.

This was an important moment: It was empowering to be able to stand up and hold a global brand accountable in this way.

I graduated with a first class degree – Anna, Leeds

Considering I dropped out of my A-levels twice because of my mental health, I never thought I’d go to university.

But this year, in spite of numerous lockdowns, I got not only a first class degree, but I also got an award for outstanding academic achievement for my course.

I became a grandmother – Sally, London

2021 was the year I became a grandparent.

My son and his wife went all the way through pregnancy in and out of lockdowns, working from home, spending maternity leave in a small flat.

Now that my grandson, Jarvis, has been born, I’m so happy to be able to see him and it feels like a weight has been lifted.

While I am very overwhelmed at the prospect of being the grandmother, finding deep seams of completely unconditional love for this little scrap of humanity is delightful.

I went part-time in my job – Isabella, London

This year, I took the plunge and submitted an application to go part-time in my day job.

I’d been overloading myself for a while, trying to grab every opportunity and develop my career outside of what paid the bills, but money was never my motivating factor.

After negotiating a long-awaited pay rise to give myself a cushion, I got the approval to drop down to three days a week, giving me two days to focus on those other passion projects.

Honestly, I can’t ever see myself going back to full time work – the pandemic really hammered home how beneficial it is for me to manage my own time, for my physical, mental and emotional health, and I’m sticking with it.

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