A Little Happier: What’s Your One-Word Theme for the New Year?

A Little Happier: We’re all getting geared up for 2017, and January 1 is often a prompt that people use to reflect on ways to make life happier in the new year.

This week’s holiday hack is to choose one word, or a short phrase, to sum up what we want to focus on for the new year. When we distill our aims into a single word or phrase, it’s easier to remember it — and to take action.

In the past, I’ve picked words and phrases like “Upgrade” and “Lighten Up.” This year, I’m picking “Re-purpose.” I want to tackle the question: How can I make more of what I already have?

Elizabeth has picked words like “Free Time,” “Style,” “Hot Wheels,” “Novel” — this year, she’s picking “Home.” Her renovation is finally almost finished!

If this one-word theme “Home” appeals to you, you might enjoy my book Happier at Home — it’s all about how to be (surprise) happier at home.

In the past, we’ve heard from listeners that they’ve picked terrific, thought-provoking one-word themes like Adventure, Renew, Energize, Travel, Rest, Finish.

What one-word theme will you choose for 2017?


Check out LOFT.com — it’s a great go-to spot to pull together modern,  feminine outfits for all your holiday adventures.

Want to get in touch? I love hearing from listeners:


Happier listening!

  • Courtney

    Flourish is my word of the year. After about three years of working to set up my business, I want to see it grow and well, flourish. And as for personal goals, I want to do things that cause me to flourish–rest, relaxation, exercise, etc. My prior words have included joy, enjoy, story, and write.

    • gretchenrubin

      What a great word! Love it.

    • Rachel Coy

      That’s an excellent word – I think I will use it too! I have just finished a Masters degree and start a new career in January, my first full-time job outside the home for over 18 years. I am ready for my life to flourish!

  • Joy

    I’ve been thinking about this for at least three months and I have chosen Meaning as my word and theme.

  • Joy

    This has been on my mind for a few months, since it really helped me in 2016 (The phrase for this year has been “Here.” For next year, I have chosen “Meaning” as my word and theme for the year. It’s an umbrella idea that, for me, covers connecting with and being of service to others.

  • Corrie Howard

    Wow! I’ve never done this before, but it sounds like a great idea.

    I think my word for the 2017 will be ‘slow’ because I’m constantly multitasking and focusing on the next task. I want to be more aware of my surroundings, and I think slowing down will help me accomplish that goal.

    • gretchenrubin

      Love this word

  • mistakesweremade

    I love this idea! My one-word theme for 2017 is “Courage”. A few weeks ago, I rode on my bike down a hill I had always walked in the past. I was so thrilled and proud of myself for trying something I thought I couldn’t do. I decided to nudge myself to do more things outside my comfort zone in 2017. Including continuing to live as an immigrant in the U.S. under the next president. 🙂

  • Kathleen Curtis Wolf

    Purposeful – I’m embarking on a new journey that has me following my strengths and passions after working at the same company for 25 years. It’s my choice. I want to live my purpose and be purposeful about the things I do as well as the people around me. Exciting!

  • Megan Sapp Nelson

    My theme has emerged over the past few months since we got back from a trip to Scandinavia. My 2017 theme is Hygge, which is a Danish word roughly translating to the deliberate practice of enhancing comfort and hospitality. This word has meaning not only at home, where we are opening our home as foster parents, but also at work, where I am overseeing the move of a library to a new space, with all of the collection and programming decisions that entails.

    • gretchenrubin

      I’ve been hearing a lot about hygge lately!

      • Helene

        Being Danish I’m loving that “hygge” os being picked up internationally. It’s a great word but so tough to translate – you know it when you feel it :-).

        My word is intention – I want to be intentional in my life and not just drift.
        My word for 2016 was quality and It’s been great to have a single overarching theme to keep focus on!
        Here’s to a happy 2017 for you Gretchen and all your readers!

        • Kathy

          My word for 2016 was quality, too! It’s the best word of the year I’ve chosen yet as far as having a far-reaching effect (and a positive one) on my life. I haven’t decided yet what 2017’s word will be, but so far I’m leaning towards “deeper.”

          • gretchenrubin

            Terrific idea.

    • Gillian

      The Danish Hygge is pretty much the same as the German Gemuetlichkeit – the creation of a warm, comforting and intimate atmosphere whenever people come together. The closest we come in English is “cozy” but that is inadequate. I think that in order to create this atmosphere, all (or most) of the people present have to understand and expect it. It is basically a cultural practice that is mostly lacking in N. America. But maybe with all the talk about Hygge, we can gradually learn to create it.

  • Linda

    Do you think it’s possible to have two words or would the split focus be the kiss of death? I’d like to make “health” my word of 2017 for me but for my family I think it should be “Presence”.

    • Maria

      Hi Linda – I thought of the word “Whole” when I read your 2 themes. Healthy foods are often “whole” foods and not processed or manufactured and exercise can help your “whole” life! And being present for your family involves your “whole” being – body, mind and spirit. You won’t be a distracted presence but wholly there… Just a suggestion for you, only if it helps 🙂

      • Linda

        I would never have right of that. Thank you Maria! I really appreciate you taking the time to give me your perspective. 🙂

  • Donna

    I was thinking Renew because we are renovating 30 year old bathrooms and my computer is dying so I will be forced to get a new one and learn it. I decided to use Courage to put a more positive spin on it. I turned 70 years old recently and need to appraoach the challenges of modern life with acceptance of knowing I can do it and more. Having new things will be welcome.

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific themes.

  • Mimi Gregor

    Gads! It seems like only weeks ago that I was commenting on my word for 2016! I can’t even remember what I picked… must go back and look. But! For 2017, my word is Positivity. I tend to be an Eeyore, especially after this election, so I am trying to “look on the brighter side of life.”

    Gretchen — as to repurposing, as an avid garage-saler, I am CONSTANTLY repurposing things. Sometimes I will pick something up, not knowing WTF it is… the person having the sale will begin to explain it to me. “Hush,” I will say, “It doesn’t matter what it IS. I’m not going to be using it for that anyway.”

    Elizabeth — Once you have the renovations actually completed, you will undoubtedly dither over last minute decorating touches. I know I did. But what helped me put things together in a hurry was having an open house. All the little ideas that I had been putting off had to be implemented for this “grande event”. It helped me to focus. because if you have all the time in the world to do something, it will never get done.

    • gretchenrubin

      That is a GREAT suggestion for Elizabeth. A great Obliger strategy!

  • Maria

    My word for 2017 will be “Grit”. I am going to start playing the piano again after a 20 year hiatus and am re-starting my meditation practice everyday. I think both of these projects are more of the “slow and steady” variety and I hope this word inspires me to keep going even when it gets tough.

  • loretta

    My word for 2016 Connect. I wanted to connect more with my faith, friends, family, finances, etc. For 2017 I have chosen “Show UP” as my phrase. With the passing of my father a few months ago, I found myself reflecting on the lessons my parents taught us growing up. When push came to shove, my parents always expected us to show up…for birthdays, holidays, special occasions, just because, etc. I think that is a large part of the reason we are a close knit family.

  • DellaRobia

    My one word for 2017 is GRATEFUL! Here’s to a fabulous 2017 for you dear Gretchen!

  • Barbie

    My word for 2016 has been “alacrity” and I needed that focus to deal with some challenges including spine surgery in September. As part of my recovery, my husband has urged me to be balanced and not over do as I rush to return to my former activity level…thus “balance” seems to be emerging as my chosen word for 2017

  • Michelle Griswold

    My word for 2017 is “Contentment”

  • Angela

    My word for 2016 year was “Clear”. As I wrote in my notebook: “clear clutter, clear surfaces, clear vision of what I like and want to do”. Every item is still work in progress but it is much more clear for me what I like. And I did a lot of clearing in my home and I feel great about it.
    For the next year I think it would be “Kind”.
    There was a quote on my desk: “When in doubt be kind”. I see that it always helps to be kinder than you think you need to be.

  • Karen

    I think my word is challenge. To me this means new activities, people, places to mingle with my oldl love—family.

  • Tabitha

    I’m considering “Relish!” as my theme for 2017.

    I’m in a tough time of life. My husband suffered a brain injury two years ago, and we’re still adjusting. I’ve learned that gratitude for the good moments is crucial, and I’m wanting to extend that into all aspects of my life. I want to do more than notice–I’d love to consistently seize the good and engage wholeheartedly.

    Gretchen, this is completely unrelated, but I’ve wondered for months. Which personality are you, according to the Myers-Briggs framework?

  • CJZ

    Move – the act of moving including finishing its component parts like shedding the unwanted, the useless and the extra (in Jan 2016 we moved homes to better accommodate our life and it’s been a great perspective shift and given us greater joy while living in the same town and in Jan 2017 my firm is moving offices/towns).
    Moving my body.
    Moving my spirit – engaging with what nourishes.
    Moving my mind from getting or staying stuck on worries.

  • Elana Greenwood Lanzetta

    My word for 2017 is Santé. It’s a French toast that means “To your health.” It resonates with me on several levels. I am focussing on keeping things in balance, eating well and working out. I plan to spend more time with friends and family in the coming year celebrating big things and small. As we prepare for my daughter’s upcoming wedding, my husband and I are celebrating 35 years of marriage this year. We are taking a trip abroad with friends to celebrate! I am also continuing to learn French. So for me, “Santé” sums it all up nicely.

  • Leanne Sowul

    I’m still thinking about my word for 2017, so I’ll be checking the comments here to see if anyone has a suggestion I love! I’m thinking of something like “Present,” to remind myself to enjoy the moment I’m in, instead of thinking ten steps ahead (like the Upholder I am). Past words that have served me well are Brave and Accept.

  • Lisa Y

    My word for 2017 is Curious. I’m not naturally a very curious person, which I feel a bit ashamed to admit. But I know that when I become curious about other people and ask them questions about who they are and the things they love, it deepens the relationship. I also think being curious about others’ actions helps me to keep from making assumptions which are often negative and wrong. It may help me, too, to be curious about my habits and motivations!

  • Jenny

    2017 is the year of Love for me. I want to fully grasp God’s love for me so that I can in turn love others with His love.

  • HelsBels

    I think my word will be ‘invest’. As an Obliger I will tend to put everyone else ahead of me but I am determined that 2017 is the year that I get work done in my home to make it nice for me. Just me! That I commit to coaching to support me in my current role at work and help me prepare for a different role in the future. Something is shifting in me and I am beginning to see that investing in me will actually benefit others as well. It’s not selfish after all.

  • Marie Murray

    My word for 2017 is CELEBRATE. This is a year full of changes for me. My husband , baby girl and I just moved to southern Turkey from Lebanon in order to work more closely on relief efforts in Syria. I also recently lost a dear dear childhood neighbor from New Jersey who was like a second mom to me growing up. This woman took such joy in the people around her as well as in the large and small moments of her daily life (things from finding a pull-through parking spot to being home with her kids on a snow day). Since her passing, I have felt her energy with me, and have been catching onto all the pockets of joy throughout my day even in the midst of the tragic news. I am amazed at how my entire perspective has changed, and I hope to carry her spirit of celebration with me into the new year.

  • 2017 Word of the Year: VALUES! Define my big “V” values. Live according to those values. Give value. Derive value. Seek value for myself and for others both personally and professionally.

    In 2016 I started a Bullet Journal to replace my annual monthly calendar datebook. What a joy and a revelation. It is a combination datebook, gratitude journal, one sentence diary, incubator and playground for my thoughts, ideas and inspirations. In this one place I can house the world of my mind and my to-dos. Such pleasure. Such satisfaction.

    I love savoring color. I have introduced color accents and highlights into my record keeping and my musings. Using my bullet journal as a unique expression of my lived life has given me the much appreciated space/place to write my personal manifesto which has helped illuminate and identify my big ‘V” values as I perceive overarching themes.

  • I have been choosing a word for the last 3 years, thanks to you. In fact, I blogged about it today 🙂 My word for next year is: PRIORITIES. With 2 kiddos and less time to focus on my business, I want to be better about setting priorities (home and work) and sticking to them. Happy New Year!

  • Been doing this since 2007 and love it! My word for 2017 is “DO”. My reasons? Do more of what makes me happy. Do more, own less (get rid of stuff!). Stop saying I’m going to do something, and instead DO it!

  • Kristen

    My word for 2016 was “HOME”, so I love that Elizabeth picked that for 2017. However, our meanings are different. I’ve always wanted to be a stay at home mom, and this year I was focused on making it more of a reality. And though I’m not “HOME” yet, I am closer than I was last year, and I was able to spend more quality time with my kids and husband at HOME and traveling with them 🙂

    This year, I think my word will be “LEAP!” <3

  • KariCarlson

    I loved choosing a word for 2016: Journey. Little did I know our family would be on a journey of a lifetime- we sold everything and hit the road in September of 2016 for a year long travel abroad. We are 5 months into our journey and it is more fulfilling than we could have imagined (family of 5). I have decided for 2017 my word will be “create”. Create memories, moments, more income, crafts, a stable home (when we get back to U.S!)- I feel this is going to be a good focus for me and my family this year. Thank you for introducing me to this new way of doing resolutions.

  • KP

    I’m going with Steady. It captures my desire for consistency in habits and constancy of mood and mind.

  • claudette

    the word for 2017 is to maintain…I am 82…grateful, fulfilled, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. yes, there are difficulties but the Spirit Within is ever present. health, strength, persistence, perseverance, gratitude, vigilant, etc., thank you,

    • gretchenrubin

      Great choice.

  • NCJill

    Mine is SHARE. God has laid this on my heart to Share my faith, Share my resources, share my talents and gifts, etc. Hubby and I will be hosting a dinner once a month for one couple too….part of sharing.

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  • Olivia Tay

    My word for the year is discipline. I want to be able to do more, to learn more, to experience more. And to do that I have to set the foundations – to do the small things that I’d normally pass over. To be disciplined enough to stick to my goals, my tasks. To push through the book I know I want to finish. Not to just skip things because I feel like it. To go for crossfit regularly, to skateboard, meditate. Watch more films, read more. Because I know it’d bring me greater fulfilment in the long term.

    But discipline also involves pushing through the things that I think I can’t do, to try new experiences, to talk to people. posting this comment took some form of discipline as well! Because I’d otherwise leave it “till later”, and I’ll never do it. But then I’d miss out on the opportunity to connect with others.

    So discipline is my focus for 2017.

  • lealspach2

    I love this idea and have done a lot of thinking about my word. While several words resonate with me (comfort, calm, relax, mindful, present, happy, simplicity), I kept coming back to the word “peace”. Just saying this word brings me comfort and calm. It encompasses the life I want to build for myself in 2017 and beyond – a life with peace of mind, peace with self, and peace in the present moment.

  • Yana

    My word for the 2016 was Yoga. I decided that I would practice Yoga every single day with no time constraints attached. With exception of couple of days when I was both sick and jetlagged, I succeeded.

    For the 2017, I am choosing word Kindness as my word of the year. I decided on this in the weeks past the election when it became clear to me that what we need more in this world is kindness. Oh, and I’ll still try practicing Yoga every day.

  • Mine is awkward, because I am . . . and I’m learning to embrace it.

    • Amelia

      and perhaps you will realize we all, as human beings in this universe, feel awkward most of the time–whether or not you see it as such, or notice it in others.

  • Amelia

    Last year, I choose Follow-Through. Not sure if that is a word or phrase, but nevertheless, it helped me take the necessary steps to secure a full time job outside the home, with full benefits, since I left the paid workforce over 18 years ago. I don’t know which I will choose for this year, but reading the comments, I really like Flourish

  • SeekingBalance


  • Amanda Brown

    I loved this idea at first. But then I got completely overwhelmed by trying to pick just one word for the entire year. I haven’t quite landed on the right one. I’ve been going back and forth between simplify and explore.

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  • My word for 2017 is “Jump.”

    I just moved half way across the country 6 months ago and I’m trying to keep that Change momentum. I have so many things I want to do this year, and I’m terrified of all of them. I want to start writing queries to magazines, I want to write more in my blog (inventhappiness.com), I want to find clients after I finish yoga teacher training, I want to run 2 half marathons, I want to make more friends in Seattle, I want to keep up with my friends and family elsewhere, I want to travel …. You get the point 🙂

    Often I feel like I’m standing on a ledge overlooking my goals. And I sort of see the way down, but I’m paralyzed with fear. What if I fall? In “The Happiness Project,” you talked about overcoming the fear of failure by trying to fail more. But since “Fail” is not exactly inspiring (haha), I’ll go with “Jump.” When I’m on that ledge and I hesitate, I’ll just think, JUMP!

  • My word for 2017 is “Abundance.” For me, this means that I will approach life with the assumption that there will be more where this comes from: that I do have time enough to do the things that are important to me, that I do have enough stuff, that Sierra Trading Post will send more coupons, and that I really don’t have to hoard a year’s worth of Trader Joe’s Fireworks chocolate bars.

    I’m lucky enough to be in a place where I shouldn’t have to feel like I have to grasp at and hoard stuff because I’m afraid it will go away forever and nothing can replace it.

  • Simplify. I’m recovering from a 2015 ruptured brain aneurysm, and many things in my life have become complicated and overwhelming. I need to simplify so many areas of my life because despite a great recovery, I’m often quite overwhelmed. I make things harder than they have to be. The concept of simplification will help me in so many ways, from worrying what others think about me now to trying to be the exact same person as I was “before.”

    In 2016, I was overwhelmed with resolutions and decided to use a guiding word: refine. I was still healing and wanted to refine myself across the board. I’ve had a lot of victories in refining myself, though I’m still working on losing the 20 lbs. I gained during recovery.

  • I love reading everyone’s words, and I’ve finally settled on my own theme for the year: Intention. I’ve written a post about it here: http://www.booksuniverseeverything.com/2017/01/01/my-word-of-the-year-2017/

    Cheers to the new year!

    • Shaeffer Smith

      This is exactly what I was doing too!!! Reading your blog helped me define mine better!! Thanks! Happy 2017!

  • Melissa Feldberg Whipps

    My word came to me in a flash last night, it’s “lighten up.” I stress too much about the little things, and generally am not having enough fun in my life. It might be a tough year for this but even more reason to try!

    • Lisa

      I chose the same theme- lighten up. Stress less, get rid of the clutter, lighten my body.

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  • Rebecca Bowman Bromels

    2016: Look Up. It reminded me to get my nose out of my phone, correct my posture, assert myself, be mindful of the world around me, and aspire to something higher.
    2017: Reach Out. Offer and accept more help, make an effort to connect with friends and colleagues, volunteer and give more to causes I believe in, stretch physically and emotionally, hug my husband and kids more.

  • I’ve enjoyed doing the “one word” for a couple years now — and here is this year’s word: http://thoughtstipsandtales.com/2017/01/05/my-one-word-for-2017/. There are some great resources out there to help you think through and decide on a word: http://thoughtstipsandtales.com/2017/01/06/how-to-find-the-perfect-one-little-word-for-2017/

  • I’ve just loved writing in your Sentence a Day journal for the past five years and wrote a blog post about it (with a photo of your book as the cover) that’s gotten a lot of hits, recommending that other people do it, too: 10 Reasons to Keep a Sentence-a-Day Five-Year Journal at http://thoughtstipsandtales.com/2014/05/21/10-reasons-to-keep-a-sentence-a-day-five-year-journal/