Recently I was cleaning out my bathroom drawer and stumbled across a note I written to myself in late 2017. It said: “2018 – The Year of Becoming Happier.” Written beneath it in meek handwriting was the phrase, “Be Nice to Jenny.”

I had completely forgotten about making this New Year’s resolution. But as soon as I saw the note, I remembered why I had written it. I had had a couple of rough years and was ready for some happiness!

When I jotted down this wish, I didn’t realize how powerful the act of doing this was. As winter became summer, I eventually forgot about my goal. But that didn’t matter –  the wheels had been put in motion. I ended the year in a much better place.

2016: A Painful Year

In 2016, I lost my mom to cancer and then my favorite dog shortly thereafter. I was grieving in a way I hadn’t known existed. Daily life hurt and the grief clouded my thinking. As I made silly mistakes or forgot things I would normally remember, I would sadly joke that now I knew what it was like to be dumb.  I was looking forward to thinking clearly again someday.

I had my first glimmer of happiness that year after going on a run one gentle summer morning. The afternoon before, I had had a meeting with some funny guys who had made me laugh a lot. That day I was going to travel and get our new puppy, Holmes. These two things, combined with the glorious weather and some exercise, made me feel good. As I looked down the street at the canopy of trees, I felt a ray of sunshine inside me, a lightness I hadn’t felt for a long time. 

The glimmer wasn’t permanent, but it showed me that I wasn’t going to be stuck in grief’s swamp forever. There was hope.

2017 – Better and Worse

In 2017, my grief was better and then sometimes worse. The fog lifted intermittently, but I also began to realize in a new, more serious way that my mom wasn’t coming back. Ever? How could that be? I began to understand that this was a permanent loss and that was deeply painful.

That Easter, I cooked while I listened to Handel’s Messiah on the radio. The music reminded me of my classical-music-loving mom so much; I cried and cried as I diced vegetables. My therapist had told me that I’d feel better once I had cried all of my tears. And so while my heart ached deeply, I let it go. I prayed each tear was getting me closer to emerging from my sadness.

2018: Making Time for Fun

As 2017 drew to a close, I was ready to become happier. It was time.

I wasn’t sure how one intentionally becomes happier, but it made sense that I should do things that are fun. As a Type A person who has a lot that she wants to do, I often fit fun in around the edges, when I have spare time and once all of my work is done. But sadly, that doesn’t happen often enough – there’s always more to do.

In 2018, I made fun a priority, something that was just as important as working or running errands. And so I played a lot of tennis, saw my girlfriends, goofed around with the dog and cooked – all things that make me happy.

By the time mid-2018 hit, I had forgotten about my resolution, but that didn’t matter. I had developed a new attitude about fun and it stuck. And it worked. I felt resoundingly happier at the end of the year.

2019 – The Year of Meditating

Since things went so well with my 2018 goal, I wanted to find one for 2019. It was easy; I know what I need to do and wrote it down on a new sticky note.

Over the past nine years, I have meditated regularly and sometimes not at all. I’ve taken classes, gone to workshops and retreats about mindfulness and meditation. When I meditate regularly, I feel so much better – more resilient, matter-of-fact and yes, happier. 

But knowing this hasn’t been enough for me to do this day in and day out. I want 2019 to be different. I am aiming to meditate for 10 minutes a day, but less is okay too. Something is better than nothing. And perhaps my practice will build on itself and I will want to meditate more.

We are now a month into 2019 and I’ve stuck with the plan. I feel calmer and more circumspect. When I feel painful emotions, it’s easier for me to remind myself that they are temporary. Everything is.

I am now a fan of New Year’s Resolutions, mottos, goals, intentions or whatever you want to call them because they seem to work. If you have a vision for 2019, try writing it on a sticky note and keep it near your bathroom sink. And perhaps next year, even if you end up forgetting about your motto, you will realize that yours has come true too.

Happy New Year, my friends. Thank you for reading.