A couple years ago, I gave up on classic New Year’s resolutions. I was discouraged from a decade of vowing to lose a certain amount of weight or do a certain number of workouts in a year. I was all too familiar with the all-or-nothing feeling that's quickly replaced with a sense of shame from messing up—missing a workout, or seeing the number on the scale go up instead of down. I was burnt out from it all, so I gave up all those numerical goals. I had never really completed any of those resolutions, anyway, I told myself. Well, except one.
The only resolution I ever kept was more like a challenge. It was my sophomore year of college, and I promised myself that for 365 days, every day, I would write down one good thing about each day. By the end of the year, I had a planner full of good things. Most of them were just a few words, “Family” or “A good first date” or “Writing all day.” I remember looking back on all of the good things on January 1 and seeing a single word or phrase and knowing instantly what moment or memory it was connected to. I also remember thinking how easy it had been. For the first time maybe ever, I stuck to a daily challenge, a year-long resolution—and it wasn’t that hard at all.
Even if it was a simple as writing a few words every day, I felt proud of myself for sticking with something and more grateful than ever before for the previous year. Turns out reflecting on the positives of a year is much easier when you have dozens of pages full of reasons why. The truth is when people take on a resolution at the start of a new year, they aren’t searching for a tangible end result as much as they’re searching for a feeling. When I vowed to myself year after year that I would end the year thinner, sure, I was looking to shrink myself, but more than that I was looking for the feeling I thought shrinking myself would bring. Though I was more likely to say my obsession with weight loss was, “Just, you know, about being healthy," in reality I thought thinness would make me happier. I thought it would make me feel more capable of experiencing life fully, and of being grateful for that life.
When I vowed to myself year after year that I would end the year thinner, sure, I was looking to shrink myself, but more than that I was looking for the feeling I thought shrinking myself would bring.
It took me a couple more years to put it all together, but what that list of 365 good things taught me is that happiness is available to all of us. It doesn’t take a year-long dedication to running or pilates or dieting to get there. It doesn’t take losing ten pounds to get there. Sometimes it just takes 10 seconds, each day, being grateful for something tiny. At the end of the 365 days I felt powerful, but looking back, that power wasn’t because I did something every day after saying I would. It was because it helped me realize happiness is available to all of us in its fullest form regardless of what we weigh, or how much we run. It’s always there if we look for it, acknowledge it, and actually believe we deserve it.
If I had to guess, I would say at the beginning of that year when I resolved to write down one good thing every day, I also told myself I would lose weight that year. I can’t remember if it was 10 or 15 or 20 pounds, but I’m sure it was on my list, right next to 365 good things, because it always was. At the end of that year, I didn’t lose any weight, but I can’t even remember that fact even crossing my mind. Because, whether I knew I was looking for it or not, that feeling I was searching for was already right there in front of me.