By TMoM Team Member Ellen Bryant Lloyd

New Year’s resolutions have never worked for me. I gave up the practice of making them years ago after letting my resolve go just a few weeks, or even days, into the new year. Maybe it was that my list was too long or too challenging to meet. Whatever the reason, I did not like feeling defeated so early in the year.

Adding a Happy Thing

Instead, I decided to add one thing to my life that I loved and knew would bring a smile to my face and a little extra happiness in my day — one “happy thing.” Knowing myself, I mentally noted these things had to be as simple as possible so there was a chance the “add” would last the entire year. I made a list of 50 things I loved and that brought me joy. For example, simple things like butterflies, fresh flowers, making creative salads, trying out new recipes, buying and reading a new book, watching movies and listening to classical music. I selected one thing on the list and thought about how I could add that one thing to my life more often throughout the year.

My Happy Things

For example, one year I chose fresh flowers as my “happy thing” to add. I decided that having fresh flowers in a prominent spot in my house would not be a big investment. Yet, it would be something I would enjoy every day. I purchased a vase I loved and placed it on the sofa table between my kitchen and family room. These are the two rooms I spend the most time in each day. Every week, I purchased a bouquet of flowers from the grocery store. This simple act made me so happy that I have continued to buy flowers weekly for over 15 years. It still brings a smile to my face when I arrange and then place a fresh bouquet in my home.

Other examples of ways I incorporated things I love into my life over the years include treating myself to a new book each month. It also included subscribing to a CSA program with a local farm and using the fresh produce to make creative salads each week. I was also open to acquiring a new “butterfly” (bookmark with butterflies, screensaver photo, a photo I took of a butterfly in my backyard, butterfly stickers, painting of a butterfly, coffee cup with butterflies, etc.) each month. Lastly, it was making time to watch a movie once a month. I was surprised how each of these additions was simple, yet brought me so much happiness.

Engaging Your Children in this Practice

I started thinking how this simple practice might also be fun for children to try. Stop introducing them to the idea of making New Year’s resolutions. Instead, ask your children to make a list of five to ten things that make them happy. Talk about each of these things and learn why your children chose them and how they make them happy. It’s a wonderful way to get to know your children better. Plus, it will help you guide them in figuring out ways they can add one of the things to their life.

You may consider creating a fun chart or poster that helps them mark each time they add the “happy thing” to their lives. They can draw a picture in a square with a month indicated, add a sticker or another creative approach they dream up. This chart/poster will be a good visual reminder of their “happy thing”. In addition, it helps encourage them to keep going with it throughout the year.

Enjoy Your Happy Thing

Adding a “happy thing” to my life at the beginning of each year has been a wonderful addition to my life. The unexpected surprise has been how the majority of “happy things” I have added over the years have stuck with me. They are things I continue on a regular basis. This simple, yearly “add” has not only been successful for me, but a fun way to kick off a new year and bring me more happiness. Maybe it will bring you and your children more happiness as well. If you choose to add a “happy thing” this year, I would love to hear what you think and how it worked for you.

Here’s to many happy things in 2023!


Ellen Bryant Lloyd is a writer and mom of two children, one who has flown from the nest and the other is not far from it. She blogs about perspectives on life and parenting at and tweets at @EllenBLloyd. She is the author of FRECKLES and FRECKLES and The Great Beach Rescue, a freelance writer and memoir ghostwriter. Ellen lives in Greensboro with her husband, her daughter, when she is home from college, and the sweetest dog ever. She looks forward to seeing her son, who is now living and working in a nearby metropolitan city, as often as possible.

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