I heard on the radio this morning that every year most people make the same three New Years’ resolutions… to go on a diet, to stop smoking, and to spend less money. Supposedly, despite the original good intentions, more than eighty percent of these resolutions have been broken and forgotten by mid-February. Overeating, smoking, and spending too much money are all habits that people use to make themselves feel better… to fill an emptiness in their lives… so it’s not surprising that these resolutions routinely fail when taking away the “comfort indulgence” is the only lifestyle change.

Resolutions don’t have to be painful. I challenge you to make these two easy-to-keep resolutions… and to stick with them. I promise they can change your life.

Resolution #1:
Every day… acknowledge and appreciate something that made you genuinely happy. You are the only person who knows what this will be… perhaps some time spent with your significant other, a cuddle with your child or a pet, a good book or movie, a thoughtful gesture from an unexpected source, the beauty of nature, a few moments of solitude… the only restriction is that your choice must have brought you real happiness. Write this down on a calendar or in a journal or notebook… one happy moment for each day. You will soon find that even in the very worst of circumstances… and even on days when you were positive nothing good had happened at all… there is almost always SOMETHING to feel happy about. And when you take the time to identify and appreciate these happy moments, you will discover more and more of them in your life.

Resolution #2:
Every day… do something thoughtful for someone else. This doesn’t require money or complicated preparations… just give the gift of YOU, a few minutes of your time, and your undivided attention. Start with your immediate family, a friend, or a lonely neighbor… the choice of what you do is up to you. When you decide on something, don’t just think about it, do it… and write about it in your journal. Over time this second resolution will almost certainly become a part of your first resolution, because it is impossible not to feel happy when you have just brought happiness to someone else.

Life moves in the direction of your thoughts. If your thoughts are unhappy, you will feel unhappy. When you acknowledge the happy moments in your life… and make more happy moments… you are creating genuine happiness… not just for yourself, but for the people you care about.

And yes… happiness CAN be that simple.

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Thank you for the reminder, I couldn’t agree with you more!


I’m going to do this. I could use a happier outlook right now. I too want to say thank you for offering such a peaceful safe haven in this weird world. I look forward to each posting. You have been a great help to me and my family.


Your blog is a bright light in a dark world. So many new years articles so shallow, focusing on changing minor habits or improving your material situation. Your article really hits right at the heart of what’s important. Changing yourself, that’s the only way you’re ever going to change your life for the better. I’m taking the challenge. Thank you!

Amanda T.

Count me and my husband in. We’re working on improving our marriage and has occurred to both of us that your challenge would be a huge help.

donna s

I look forward to reading your comments on your simpler lifestyle. Thank you for sharing with so many of us. You inspire us to keep working toward our own Garden of Eden.


Agree with the posters above–your site is an oasis. We are downsizing, donating tons of “stuff” we never thought we could live without. It is so freeing it’s unbelievable, and I love the fact that local charities are getting books, furniture and other things that may well be treasures to someone else.
When I first read The Tightwad Gazette I had the feeling that I was learning how to live simply, spend carefully, and shuck off the bonds of debt. With this blog I get that same feeling, plus an appreciation of those beautiful “freebies” life offers us just for being alive: cardinals at the feeder, clothes right off the clothesline, a sudden summer shower, kind people sharing their ideas and positivity…


The most thoughtful thing I think I’ve been doing lately is getting my two girls (12 and 14) to spend more time with each other. It’s not that they don’t get along, even though they’re complete opposites. They just don’t take the time for each other. So I’ve been playing card games and board games with them for the past few weeks now, and I enjoy seeing them having fun with each other. No hard feelings when someone loses. Friends come and go, but family, and sisters, should know that they’ll always be there for each other….And I try not to make resolutions anymore. There are changes I would like to make, and all I can do is try to make that effort if it’s something that’s really important to me. We live on 9 acres, are almost debt free (we had to get a new car), and I’ve been doing the decluttering thing. It is indeed very freeing. And I thank God for everything He is doing in our lives. And I also thank you for having such a calm and inviting site.


I’ve been doing this for the past 3 days and I can’t believe the change in my attitude. The 1st day I did this had been crappy and I had completely forgotten anything but the upsetting stuff. A few minutes that night reflecting on the entire day made me realize that I had experienced happiness too. This is a powerful concept and it works. I hope people will try this.


These ARE powerful suggestions, and I thank you for pointing out these wonderful daily practices. We are much more likely to find genuine happiness in our lives as they are if we take the time to look for it, and it is refreshing to have a resolution that appreciates what is already in place, instead of trying to CHANGE everything!


I have kept a gratitude journal since Wednesday 16th April 2008 (I just checked!) My first three entries were 1. I’ve lost weight ( ha!) 2. I’m going to London for a day out 3. I have three adorable daughters. Since then the entries have covered every possible aspect of my life. When I have been really low “I have a roof over my head and I am still breathing” might have been an entry, but I still wrote them down. Not only is it an excellent tool towards greater happiness it is also a wonderful journal to read over (and giggle over too sometimes)


What a joyful, uplifting column, Shirley! Instead of making rigid resolutions like “I’m going to lose 50 lbs. this year” or “I’m going to meet Mr. Right this year,” I’ll instead say (and mean) “I’m going to make myself a better me” and “If the right guy comes along, great. If not, I’m fine by myself.”

Happy New Year!