The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Pick a New Year’s nudge word instead of a resolution

This annual word of the year exercise can help you reflect on your values, intentions and hopes for the new year

Woman is surrounded by words reading: growth, connect, peace, engage, awe, breath, strength.
(Abbey Lossing for The Washington Post)

You are reading our weekly Well+Being newsletter. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Thursday.

While everyone else is making New Year’s resolutions, try something different. Pick a personal nudge word instead.

This annual word-of-the-year exercise can help you reflect on your values, intentions and hopes for the new year. Think of it as the anti-resolution resolution.

Instead of setting a specific goal, choose a word that captures the mind-set you want to adopt in 2023 — a word that will nudge you toward positive change whenever you think of it.

To better understand the word-of-the-year exercise, it helps to know what it is not. It should not be a broad resolution (exercise more), a specific action (lose 20 pounds) or a goal (save more money).

Instead, choose a single word that reflects how you want to live in 2023. So how do you pick a word of the year? Here are some tips.

  1. Write down the things that made you happy this year. What felt good? What do you get excited about? What would it take to feel this way all the time?
  2. Next, think about what parts of your life could be better. What causes you stress? Are you thriving at work or feeling bored? Do you wake up excited about your day? What’s happening in your relationships?
  3. Finally, check in with your body. How is your physical health? How is your mental well-being? How do you feel when you look in the mirror?

Your word should reflect your values and intentions, your vision for what well-being means to you and the areas of your life that need attention.

Here’s a sampling of words to get you started.

Words of reflection: awareness, awe, breathe, pause, reset, gratitude, resilience, optimism, focus

Words of change: reset, renew, nourish, energize, growth, recharge, evolve, bloom, adventure, travel

Words of connection: relate, reconnect, experience, balance, engage, cherish, comfort, listen

Last year, my nudge word was growth, which I chose because I felt a bit stuck — at both work and in my personal life. At the time I chose it, I had no real plans for change, but as I opened my mind to what it means to grow, I suddenly started seeing opportunities all around me. I asked myself on a daily basis: Will this be a growth experience?

Since then, I have quit one job and taken on an exciting new one. I’ve moved to a different city, rekindled old relationships and made new friends. I even decided to go to graduate school, a decision that has been a tremendous source of personal growth and friendships.

In a few weeks, I’ll share with you my nudge word for 2023, but first I want to hear from you. Once you’ve settled on your word, tell me about it by filling out this short form. I’ll share all of your words of the year in this newsletter later this month.

As you are mulling what word to pick, chances are your mind will cycle through a few words that resonate with you. You always have the option of picking more than one word, but personally I like the focus of choosing a single word to reflect my vision for the year.

And remember, the real value of the word-of-the-year exercise is the thinking that goes into choosing it. Take your time. Try a few words on for size and settle on the one that will help you focus on the things that are most meaningful to you — no matter what surprises 2023 may bring.

Please let us know how we are doing. Email me at

Simple changes for better health

Health goals succeed when they are fast, convenient and easy, researchers say, and here are some simple changes you can make in the new year. And sign up for our newsletter to get these and other tips directly in your inbox.

For better health this year, keep it simple, because when we eliminate or reduce struggle, we are far more likely to succeed.

Try these steps to make worry less of a burden — locate it in your body, make it concrete, problem solve and let it go

We procrastinate because our brains think the task will get easier later.

You don’t need to count calories if you focus on improving the quality of the carbohydrates you eat, studies show.

Motivation for exercise can come in many different forms. Here are six simple steps to get moving.