Reflection on 2020

Ilona Madden - RightFood4U - Nutrition Programmes - Bray Wicklow Dublin

Written by Ilona Madden

December 31, 2020

“Without darkness, we won’t be able to appreciate the light”

This is a quote from the live stream commentary on the winter solstice at Newgrange in the Boyne Valley in Ireland.

For those not familiar with this ancient passage tomb in Ireland, have a look at this website. Every year on the winter solstice (21st December 2020), at sunrise, the sun enters a rooftop box and travels along a 19m passage and illuminates the burial chamber at its end. The people who built it around 5000 years ago were most likely celebrating the fact that the days were getting longer again. They were worried that the days might be getting darker and darker and that one day the sun wouldn’t come up anymore, but then it did. And it will continue to do so…

What has this got to do with 2020?

When I was watching this video live and I heard that comment above, I was crying and felt very emotional. After the year we’ve just had, I think, many of us have struggled, but equally those “dark” days have made us appreciate things we had been taken for granted for so long.

I know many people struggle with the idea to think of something “positive” or that this year has brought, or to show gratitude. The one thing I have actually “learned” this year, is that is it my choice to see the positives and to find gratitude in the small things.

Even though I had heard it hundreds of times before in my life, I actually “got it” finally, and managed to finally understand how I have the power to influence my thoughts.

I have also learned that being able to have positive thoughts is hugely influenced by factors we actually have control over. Yes, you can tell me to focus on the positives, but if the “chemistry” in my brain isn’t up to scratch, it is going to be very very difficult. I have noticed that while there are many techniques out there on changing our mindset, those are not enough on their own.

The nutrients we give our bodies, the loving tender care we give our bodies, the amount of time we move our bodies and the hours of deep nourishing sleep we give our bodies all influence our thoughts and our feelings. You can’t just force yourself to think positive without all those factors in place.

On the other hand, when we are feeling low, we are less likely to do exactly those things. We tend to feed the body with sugar and other addictive foods that don’t nourish and do harm, we can’t get off the sofa, we don’t take time out for self-care, we go to bed late watching TV, we have lie-ins. And we feel even worse. It’s a vicious cycle!

I realised it very early on in this year, when during the first lock-down, my good nutrition habits that I developed over the past 10 years suddenly went down the drain, and when I very quickly felt tired, unmotivated and “cranky”. However, only a few days into eating well again, exercising and meditation, I noticed how my “mojo” came back quickly. So I made it my goal to show as many people as possible this connection between our “food” and our “mood”, and to help people break that vicious cycle.

The most important thing is to acknowledge and realise that you are in fact stuck in the cycle. The awareness of the connection of feeling low and lack of nourishment (food, movement, sleep, relaxation) you are giving your body is the very first step to feeling upbeat and to see the positives even when the world around you seems to be falling apart.

You cannot blame the circumstances around you for your feeling miserable. It is never the circumstances, it is always your reaction to those. “The pain is real but the suffering is created by you” is a quote I heard, but can’t remember by who.

So, with this in mind, I’d like to share the positives I have found in 2020. And if you find yourself saying: “Well, it’s easy for you, because you don’t…” or “It’s easy for you to say, because you have…” – you are probably right! I know, I have many privileges. But many people with many privileges also struggle to see those.

Ok, so my year started with a very ambitious goal setting for my nutrition business in January. I ran my first group course and it was well-received and very successful, and many participants still tell me that they loved it and are still “off sugar mainly”.

In February, we spent our annual holidays in South Africa, and even though on entering the country we were asked if we’d been in China and our temperature was taken, we had no idea what was about to happen. We got out of the country just in time before a major lockdown there and a few days back home we got the lockdown in Ireland.

I remember how quiet everything was. I remember how much I appreciated this quietness and where we live – near the sea. We got into a routine straight away. Getting up at 6 am, to avoid the crowds on the Promenade, then an online gym or yoga class, and then after breakfast, my day at the laptop began. I took part in – what feels – every single course that was offered, bringing your business online, social media, start your business, mindset, positivity, meditation, business coaching, etc.

And I was putting out content for free to various groups and associations. I helped people get online, use zoom and other technology even though I had just learned it myself. I worked on my marketing. I created an online programme on how to best go sugar-free for a week and reduce cravings.

I ran a very successful “Brain Health” 6-week group course, which was great fun with a lovely group.

And finally, in August, I decided to go away for a few days. Those days were the highlight of the year. I discovered parts of enjoying irelandIreland I’ve never been to. Endless, stunningly beautiful beaches in Donegal, unspoilt landscapes, wild cliffs and the honest Irish hospitality in Mayo in a small pod. But I’ve also discovered some great golf courses in Donegal and Sligo and treated myself and my husband to a luxurious stay in a 5-star-hotel. I went for long hikes in the Wicklow Mountains – on my doorstep – that I’ve never seen before. I learned about foraging in my local area and discovered the abundance of sea buckthorn on the coast of Dublin.

Every morning I walked the looking out over the sea and some days having a coffee at Catalyst in Bray (the buzz in that place was electric – and I don’t think I ever before appreciated having a coffee that much! It wasn’t just the coffee – it was the whole atmosphere of like-minded people, enjoying the simple things in life).

enjoying a coffeeI often – but not every day – went for a sea swim, and I counted my blessings for where I live and how beautiful everything around me is. This one constant. The one thing I could plan.

It seems everything else that I had planned seem to fall apart. And other opportunities opened up. And I took those opportunities.

From September onwards, I’ve been busier than ever before with one-to-one consultations. I have seen many really happy clients who have found their energy levels again, who felt better in themselves, who lost weight, who found their moods have improved.

With all the lockdowns and with all the uncertainty, this year has shown me how to keep thinking positive. This year has taught me about resilience. This year has taught me that you can feel abundance in your life with the little things.

If you too want to feel more positivity in your life, if you want to stop that cycle of food cravings, feeling unmotivated and without energy, why don’t you give me a call, and we can find out together how and if I can help you.

You can find my schedule here:

I’m starting a new 4-week programme “Let’s get rid of 2020!” where I will focus not only on nutrition but also on strategies to mentally feel better, stronger and more resilient. This programme will show you how to break that cycle and step into more positivity in every aspect of your life.

I want to continue in 2021 the way I finished in 2020, and want to help even more people find their mojo again despite all that is going around. There are so many small positive things happening, we just need to see them. And just like we need darkness to appreciate the sun. We need to have something as drastic as this pandemic to appreciate the small things we have in our lives, such as a beautiful garden, the vegetables and herbs that grow in our gardens or out in the wild waiting to be plucked.

gratitudeLet’s finish off this article with a little exercise:

Why don’t you write down everything you did in 2020, your challenges, your struggles, what you hated about the year, what you want to let go off, maybe you’ve been cranky sometimes to others and want to apologise, maybe someone has been cranky to you because they’ve been stressed out – ask them for forgiveness, write down every tiny thing you are grateful for.

And now – burn or shred that piece of paper! Let it go. Let’s get rid of 2020!

Anything that happened in 2020 that you regret or didn’t like does no longer serve you. You can’t change it anymore.

But you can move forward in 2021. A new year is always a new start, new hopes, transformations, new opportunities. The future possibilities are endless! Choose how you want to spend 2021, belief and then let go and trust.

That’s the other thing I learned this year. While it is vital to have a clear goal in mind which gives you focus and gets you out of bed in the morning, it is equally important to free yourself from the actual outcome of this goal. After the first lock-down, I thought I’d never reach my original goal, but I kept doing the things that needed to be done to reach it – anyway. And once I let go of the pressure, it just happened.

I’ll be covering a lot of about mindset, goal setting and taking baby steps etc in my New Year’s transformation programme as well as practical tips on nutrition and lifestyle. So, this is not just another fad diet programme, this is much more! So, book your place now:

And even though this quote by Seamus Heany is not related to the year we’ve just had, I’d like to quote it, because it shows the positivity and optimism that I would love to see more of in 2021!

“If we winter this one out, we can summer anywhere.”

You May Also Like:

Why shouldn’t I eat that cake if I fancy it?

Why shouldn’t I eat that cake if I fancy it?

Many people have been telling me that they don’t want to live a life where they constantly must think about whether something is good for them or not. They tell me, they want to eat a piece of cake when they fancy it and not restrict themselves. While they do...

How do you manage to stay so slim?

How do you manage to stay so slim?

“How do you manage to stay so slim, when you are eating so much?” 3 “hacks” to stay slim without food restrictions I’ve recently been away with a few friends on a fully organised tour programme where meals were included and where we spent a lot of time eating. One...

How Golf helps you live longer and healthier

How Golf helps you live longer and healthier

Golf for longevity When we think why golf might be good for us, most people will think it's because of the exercise you're getting while out there. But most other sports involve some form of movement that is healthy and contributes to a longer life. What makes golf...