What Have We Learned From 2020?

Byrdie columnist Juhi Singh reflects.

Meet our columnist, Juhi. She’s an acupuncturist, wellness and health guru, activist, CEO and founder of The Juhi-Ash Center in New York City’s Upper East Side. Each month, she’ll be answering your questions and sharing her tips on how to leave a healthier, more centered life from a holistic perspective. In her first column, she shares her personal health journey and a few simple tips for easing into a new year, new season, or new period in your life. Got questions? Follow her @juhi says and DM us @byrdiebeauty so she can answer them in her next column.

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Gifts come in all shapes. Brightly bowed boxes. Treasures tucked in tissue paper. Offerings of love, gratitude and even inspiration. Nine months ago, a giant box arrived at our global doorsteps containing none of these. Or so it seemed. This box contained fear, uncertainty and the overwhelming desire to re-gift. Yet often, the unwanted offers us the opportunity to explore something new. So, let’s take a closer look into the box that shook the world.

First off: no one was exempt. That in itself is a source of comfort—a reminder that despite our differences, we are inextricably linked. Understandably, initial preservation prevailed—eyes averted at a safe distance, stocking up on survival resources. A fear that we would do without. As the months rolled by, a miraculous treasure tucked at the bottom of the box revealed itself. What, indeed, could we do without? And more miraculously, what could we share with those whose need was greater?

This was perhaps the greatest year in our lifetime. A pause in which to reflect. It revealed the best and worst in us. In my opinion, the best prevailed. As information increased and our knowledge of how to protect each other became clearer, our humanity resurfaced with greater strength. We checked in on neighbors. We sat six feet apart and empathetically listened to their fears. We began to show our solidarity with smiling eyes. We once again became a community. A community supports and squabbles. It’s just a fact. There’s always going to be someone on the checkout line who’s not on board yet. Cut them some slack, soften your mind, and meditate while clutching your bag of cherries. You do know you can meditate anywhere, right? You don’t need a mat or yoga attire. You simply need to be present in your soul. 

woman flower

And what of the community within the walls of our home? We baked lopsided cupcakes with our children. Perhaps not rivaling the perfection of our town's premier bakery, but in a way, far better. The slightly gloppy mac and cheese we prepared may not have been devoured, but I am certain it bonded the family in laughter. Laughter strengthens your immune system. Who’s game for a tickle fight? We dusted off a long-forgotten project and set our minds to accomplish its completion. We tackled a new skill, perhaps a new language. We improvised our fitness program using actual steps. And who says an adult can’t do pull-ups on a jungle gym? Or sit-ups on grass. Kick-ball with your kid gets your heart pounding in more ways than one. Perhaps we began to journal. Remember, journaling is not meant to be a Pulitzer Prize contender. It is meant to help one know oneself. Please journal on paper. The last thing you need is more blue light. We mastered Zoom amidst the household noise. We made the time to look within ourselves and to honestly access our strengths and weaknesses. To honor what we cherish and dispose that which no longer benefits us. That includes our own habits, our relationships and our possessions. And I hope each of us took a moment to smell the proverbial flower. Stress eases with the occasional indulgence of doing nothing . The privilege of life’s basic pleasures, whatever they are to you. Somewhere in this world of go-go-go, the basics have been lost. It has perhaps even become a word associated with failure. The Webster dictionary tells me the meaning of basic is "foundation." And in this year, each of us has pondered our own foundation. Do we find content in it? Or do we find the foundation cracking? If a blossom can crack through faulty cement, then so can you. You may not have accomplished all your good intentions. Congratulations, you’re human. 

woman looking outside

I would like to take a moment to speak to those of you who have gone this alone. Quiet solitude can be as deafening as a noisy home. Routine is your ally, and an asset not afforded to a chaotic household. I know solo motivation is difficult. We are more programmed to attend to others. Let’s imagine you were preparing a dinner party. You would ponder your guests' preferences. You would tidy-up, set the table with flowers, light candles, turn on mood music and search the back of your closet for your most flattering dress. And so I ask you this: are you not as deserving as your guests? Your value is far greater than a peanut butter sandwich eaten over the kitchen sink. Nothing wrong with a peanut butter sandwich—just put it on a plate and savor it. Often we refrain from wanting to intrude on another’s concerns. Trust me, the mom scraping Play-dough off her iPad will not consider it an intrusion. Our challenges need not be the same; it is the shared care that matters. Pick up the phone and connect. Not a text. An actual voice. Or take that pretty dress for a walk. I am certain there is another person in need of momentary conversation. The lack of human touch, I imagine, has been the most difficult. Don a mask and treat yourself to a massage. This last bit of advice may shock you, but may well be the most beneficial: cry. Researchers have found that crying benefits both the body and mind. Emotional tears contain stress hormones and other toxins released in soft weeping. Sobbing has its benefits as well. When you sob, you take in many quick breaths of cool air. Breathing cooler air regulates the temperature of your brain. A cool brain is more pleasurable to your body and releases muscle tension as it subsides. It is why you are more invigorated in brisk air. Of course I’m not recommending days in bed. What I’m saying is your body is an irrefutable guide in knowing what’s best for you. Heed it’s wisdom. 

We all count the days to 2021, hoping for utopia at the strike of midnight, myself included. But life will ebb and flow, no matter the year. So, what has this particular year taught us? That we are fragile and resilient. That empathy resides in each of us. That we are sustained by our relationship to ourselves and those closest to us. That communication benefits us all. We learned the importance of mental health, self-care and rituals. That good habits are crucial to a good life. We learned the need to respect our planet. We learned down time does not equivocate to laziness. And we learned that joy can be found in even the most trying of times. So perhaps we need a bigger box. 

This holiday season will be like no other in tradition, but for one: Love. I wish it for each of you. 

Be well,


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