Doesn’t that sound optimistic? Here we are in the midst of one of the deepest economic crisis ever and I’m talking about hope for 2010. And no, I’m not planning to go into politics this year! In fact, as I write my last entry for the Andalucia.com blog (I’ll be handing over the baton to a new blogger as of next week), I can’t help thinking about an uplifting article I read in Málaga’s “Diario Sur” newspaper just a few weeks ago. Titled “Esos Malos Oportunos” (These Opportune Misfortunes) it looked at all the good things we can get from tough times. The author pointed out that we can only really appreciate the good in life after we’ve faced difficulties. And that the strongest, most amazing people are those who have emerged intact after enduring great suffering. Oh yeah, I know you’ve heard it all before: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” and the like. However, I think it’s worth it to reflect on just how much hard times help us to refine our priorities and especially to learn about how much we actually need in order to live well. Last year I read a report about how economic crises affect our health. Would you believe that data shows that people actually enjoy better health during times like these? Studies in the United States and Latin America showed that during economic downturns when people were losing their jobs and money was tight, mortality rates steadily dropped – and then rose again as the economy began to recover. Sounds amazing, but researchers concluded that a slower pace of life and better quality, home cooked food could have something to do with it. But beyond physical health is the chance to improve our mental and spiritual health. Mystics around the world and throughout time have urged us to strip away all of our materialistic urges and cravings, to get down to the bare basics and really know the essence of life. That type of living is becoming more of a reality for many of us as we use, re-use and then “re-cycle” before heading out to “re-place” anything. The value of what is rises as we let go of the frenzied craving to buy, buy, buy that our society has so much encouraged. And that’s why I look towards 2010 as a Year of Hope. If we so choose, this can be a year of growth and evolution. This can be the year when we actually slow down enough to see and appreciate all that we have – especially the relationships we have in our life. Cheers!