It’s 6:30 am. And I’ve woken early on my day off. It’s my birthday! And Archie is fast asleep downstairs. As I peer out of the window and breathe in the beautiful colours in the sky, it feels like time for change and a new year ahead. I ponder on the last 12 months. My friend Marie would call them ‘challenging’. My friend Priya would talk about acceptance and remembering change is inevitable. And as I write this blog, silence around, Archie deep in slumber downstairs, despite all the poor health, the tougher times, at this very moment the feeling is great gratitude for the loved ones in my life. As I observe my year I wonder what lessons I have learnt, and am still learning.

I have awoken to a beautiful e-card and message from my Aunty Val in Canada. My heart warmed; what a wonderful way to start the day! This kicked off a spiralling of thoughts of the so many kindnesses I have received over these past months. And how, despite the tougher times, and on occasions feelings of isolation and despair, I have always been surrounded by love, and how lucky I am. So I decided to play my own game of expressing gratitude for all the kindnesses of people over the last 12 months. It’s taken a while!

My family and parents are my rock and so no surprises they popped up time and again. And as I trawled my rather foggy mind for memories of the year now past, the so many kindnesses of friends made my heart leap with joy.

I’d only yesterday been reading about children and friendships. And how despite the rise in online connections these ‘virtual’ friends were right at the bottom of children’s lists when it came to who was important in their lives. Top was ‘besties’, unsurprisingly! Since even from a young age children too know that online friends can’t hug you, visit you when you’re sick, or celebrate a happy occasion with you. Our most important and powerful connections happen when we’re face-to-face. As I’ve talked about previously, good connections and social support can improve health and increase longevity. Some research suggests that they are every bit as powerful as adequate sleep, a good diet, and not smoking.

And it’s not all about quantity. Diversity of friendships brings enrichment to our lives, yet having even one or two very close friends can make all the difference.

So as a day of time spent with loved ones is about to unfold, and the sun sits firmly outside my window, I celebrate friendship in all its wonderful glory. Whatever it means to you, whomever those people may be, perhaps take a moment and express gratitude for those who brighten your days and make your world a better place.

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”

– Albert Schweitzer