5 things that had the biggest impact on my happiness this year

As I’ve worked this week to put the finishing touches on my 2023 goals (yes, I decided to go back to my goal-setting ways this year, albeit with a lighter touch), I’ve spent a lot of time looking back on, and dissecting, 2022. In examining the ups and downs, the accomplishments and setbacks, the messiness and the serendipity, I discovered a number of small things that had an outsized impact on my overall happiness and well-being this year. They range from the truly mundane to the take-a-leap-way-outside-my-comfort-zone, but they’ve all had a profound effect on me this year.

Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Masters swimming. I’ve come a looooooooong way since showing up at my first practice in May. I’m a much stronger, more efficient, and more confident swimmer. Some days I actually get through the entire workout! (And if I don’t, that’s ok, too.) I’m currently attempting to learn a proper flip turn. I signed up for extra coaching with a smaller group once a week. I watch swimming videos on YouTube for fun. I crave the challenge that every day in the water brings, and I love the new community I’ve found of people who willingly get up at bonkers early hours to jump in the pool.
  2. My morning ritual. I always start my day with a cup of coffee, writing out my intentions and to-do list for the day, Wordle, and a bit of reading. Mundane? Very. But whether I spend 15 minutes or 45 minutes on this small and basic ritual, the quiet time to myself where I get to ease into the day sets me up to successfully face the rest of the day. Even (especially!) if the day goes south, at least I had this bit of solo time.
  3. Planned / effortful fun. Fun fact: I participated in the study that formed the basis for the book Tranquility by Tuesday. One of my biggest personal takeaways from the experience was that it pays to be thoughtful and deliberate about how you spend your leisure time. (Sort of a mix of the rules “effortful fun before effortless fun” and “one big adventure, one little adventure”.) So now, instead of thinking “wouldn’t it be nice to go to the art museum again someday?”, I’ll check the calendar to see if we have a few free hours in the upcoming weekend and schedule it in. I’m more likely to pick up a book and read a few pages, or pick up my latest crochet project and stitch up a row or three, rather than scrolling social media when I’m bored. The study experience primed me to think more specifically about my free time, and my free time’s been much richer as a result.
  4. Teaching taekwondo. I started teaching once a week at my studio this spring, and I also teach a special black belt weapons class once a week. It’s fun using the teaching skills I’ve honed over my career in a different context, and fulfilling to share my joy and passion for taekwondo with others.
  5. Scheduling the thing before you leave the thing. I am notoriously bad about calling to make an appointment, whether for doctor visits, haircuts, or what have you. I just hate talking on the phone! I’d already gotten in the habit of making my next dentist appointment at the end of my current dentist appointment, and this year I started doing that with haircuts, too. (Which is important because I have short hair that grows fast so I really do need to go in every 8 weeks.) Sounds trivial, but it’s made such a difference — I don’t spend mental energy wondering when my last haircut was and stressing about calling to get in before my hair gets truly shaggy and unwieldy. And it’s a bit of regular self-care for me, too.

What’s had an outsized impact on your happiness and well-being this year?