As restrictions ease a little here in the UAE this week, enabling us to go out for daily exercise, and with malls, shops, cafes and restaurants gradually reopening, we’ve been reflecting on the things that we have been most grateful for during the strict lockdown period, in the the hope that by committing them to print (or screen!) we will immortalise them, as a reminder in the future to remember the simple things that hold such importance in times of crisis.

There are many things I could have listed here, but focusing on the things that have been of most importance day-t0-day during lockdown, I can limit them to three basics:


1. Our garden

Such a small thing, we were adamant we wanted a garden when we were house hunting, but we never realised how important it would become. Day to day, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, we really didn’t use it that much, it was nice to look out on, and occasionally during winter we would have a BBQ for dinner and sit outside, but not often, and we would only host people here a couple of times a year, so although it looks lovely, it probably wasn’t appreciated anywhere near as much as it should have been. During this lockdown period, I have been out in the garden doing a workout six days a week, followed by a 15 minute meditation with breathing exercises. I’ve often sat and worked from the garden table for a couple of hours afterwards, in the morning before it gets too hot, and we invested in a paddling pool just as lockdown was announced, and I have spent a couple of hours in it reading a book every weekend.

In spending this additional time there, I’ve cleared my herb garden, replanted some new herbs. I’m now trying to grow some fruits and veg from the seeds. My husband has seen my passion for continuing my exercise in the garden and made me a kettlebell, by filling a basketball full of cement and attaching a handle, and has this weekend finished making me a plyometric wooden jump box. We’ve been spending a lot of time out there, and I hope this will continue once lockdown is lifted. The beauty about doing these things in the garden is the convenience and increased time available from not travelling, this means I can prepare dinner and put it in the slow cooker and then get in the paddling pool, or I can exercise later in the morning because I don’t have travel time and can therefore still get as much work done. I’ve also become a lot more aware of our surrounds, who our neighbours are, how loud the birds are, what plants are doing well, and which are struggling. This week we’ve even had a little bird nest in one of our trees!

2. My body/health

I’ve not always been friends with it, and we still have a complicated relationship, however I am so grateful for everything it can do. It’s a privilege just to be able to move! Our bodies are incredible things, and I love the physical strength and endurance that I put to the test everyday with different workouts in my garden. My trainers have been fantastic in sending me workouts and challenges to keep me focussed and committed – particular thanks to Joel Neale for continuing the programme from afar and maintaining the motivation and support.

I’ve also been able to pick up yoga again through Zoom – doing a weekly flow, and a weekly yin class with Camilla Way (The Yogi Mama) to stretch my body and relax into the uncomfortable, which really makes you appreciate and focus on every little muscle and joint. At the same time the daily meditation and breathing exercises which I have picked back up again have made me focus on every breath and the benefits it brings to the body, as well as feeling like I am fully exercising my lungs. As someone with asthma, these clear deep breaths are a luxury in themselves and should not be taken for granted, particularly as many people are struggling with this at the moment.

Now that we are able to leave the house for exercise, we have been walking and running around the community, taking the time to appreciate this new freedom, and all of the details of our routes – the smell of the different flowers, the faces of the people we pass (what we can see from behind the mask, that is). We’re exploring more of our local community, finding new paths and little hidden gems, and getting inspiration from all the other gardens and houses we see.

3. My family and friends – and the virtual ways we can keep in touch

I’m not going to say I’m lucky to have a wide network of amazing friends and family, because it’s not just luck, except when it comes to family (you can’t choose those!) I am lucky to have a close loving family who mean a lot to me and who have all remained healthy and strong during these difficult times.

When it comes to friends and partners however, luck may play a role in paths crossing, but maintaining and developing these relationships takes effort and commitment, luck has very little to do with how friendships and relationships develop once the initial meeting occurs. Either way, I am grateful every day for the people I have around me.

During this time, I have been particularly grateful for all of the virtual ways we can now keep in touch. My grandmother has been introduced to Whatsapp (she’s just about got the hang of it), and although she doesn’t have enough data for video calls, we can all send her a photo every day and message her to let her know what we’re doing and check in, even if it’s just nonsense. I think it’s probably that which has saved her from feeling completely alone, as she hasn’t been able to leave the house or see anyone at all for six weeks now.

Thanks to Zoom and Houseparty, we’ve been able to keep in touch with friends and family back home much more than we normally would have done, and because we have more time on our hands, these video calls have been much longer and much better quality than they would ordinarily have been. Zoom has also enabled me to find and follow a couple of great live weekly yoga sessions, and to make the weekends a bit more interesting by hosting group quizzes, competitions, bingo nights, and pictionary games with friends. Plus I’ve been able to attend and follow a number of great courses, workshops and webinars from the comfort of my own home, developing my skills and giving me further inspiration.

These three things are definitely at the top of the gratitude lockdown list, if I was going to add to it I would have to say my husband, our house, my slow cooker and work (I’m so grateful that I still have work to keep me busy and maintain an income! It may not be what it was, but given the circumstances I am definitely grateful for what I do have) and the amazing wedding team who have been very accommodating and supportive in helping us to reschedule our special day. However I’m not going to turn this into a full blown essay, I would love to hear your thoughts on what you have been most grateful for in these difficult times?

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