We Asked 15 People What One Habit They’re Taking into the New Year—and the Answers Are So Heartwarming

published Dec 22, 2020
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The final weeks of December are often a time for looking ahead, and you might already be thinking about New Year’s resolutions, excited by the prospect of a fresh start. This sentiment might be especially true in 2020; with much of the year lived under the backdrop of a historic pandemic, it’s understandable that many people want to move forward and leave this chapter behind.

But the end of the year is also a time for reflection, and as challenging as 2020 has been, it’s simultaneously brought a ton of perspective. With many people staying home, limiting contact with friends and family, and changing how they go about their daily routines, there’s no doubt that a few life lessons have been learned along the way. 

We talked with several people of a variety of ages to find out what habits they built in 2020 that they intend on taking into 2021—and long past that, too. After all, Jan. 1 is not a reset button (sorry), so it might be worth holding onto a few things from this year, especially anything that cultivated a sense of joy, fulfillment, or inner peace.

“I want to keep trying new things and putting an end to self-doubt. I’m a grad student, so a lot of my time is consumed by academic endeavors. This year, I presented at my first (virtual) conference; I defended my thesis proposal; and I got more involved in my academic department. Outside of academia, I started paying more attention to where my interests actually lie, and I’ve been exploring those areas. So, I started attending virtual writing panels, reading for fun, and trying to find life enjoyment in such a tense time.” —Camille, 22, Florida

“We’re going to continue having groceries delivered. I don’t miss the chaos of the grocery store at all.” —Erin, 38, Massachusetts

“This year, I used technology more than ever before—I was able to keep my students engaged, while staying in touch with friends and family, along with viewing remote theater performances. I want to continue using technology for good, and to make my life easier.” —Mindy, 65, New York

“I’ve been trying to call people on the phone more often, particularly those I’ve lost touch with for a long period of time.” —Maude, 65, Pennsylvania

“I’ll keep looking for the good things in life and focusing on them as much as possible.” —Kate, 33, North Carolina

“In 2020, I finished paying off more than $165,000 in debt after a year and a half of working towards this goal. During the latter half of 2020, I worked on an emergency fund (something I’d largely ignored prior to this year and learned my lesson as a result). Between quarantine and these financial goals, I spent less overall and embraced things like no-spend months and the opportunity to reduce utility costs like phone bills. I want to take this new financial minimalism into 2021.” —Dannie Lynn, 27, Illinois

“Daily journaling. It’s been so helpful for managing emotions during this stressful year. I want to keep it going even when things are not literally on fire.” —Isabel, 24, California

“Not beating myself up over using the TV or tablet with the kids in order to give myself a concrete break each day.” —Jen, 30, Massachusetts

“I’m going to continue working on being present when spending time with my wife and kids. I admit I am not always good at this, and I get distracted by work and other unimportant things easily, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it when I actually get it right.” —Dan, 33, North Carolina

“I want to keep falling in love with the ‘little things.’ I think we forget to do that as we get older. My goal is to keep my inner-child happy, safe, and secure. To me, that means honoring joy for things I may not have recognized in the past. Being cooped up and the anxieties from this entire year made it difficult to realize the good—but there’s SO much of it if you really look! I want to hold onto that feeling.” —Leila, 24, Connecticut

“Letter writing. It is the best hobby I developed during lockdown and it’s introduced me to a heap of new people. The joy of receiving a letter is ten times better than a text message.” —Kat, 26, Ireland

“I do a writers’ hour on Zoom every morning to work on my novel, so I hope to keep that up.” —Iris, 25, England

“Cooking more of my own food. I used to go out all the time and do a lot of takeout, but this year I’ve been cooking more at home, looking up new recipes, and learning a lot of cooking skills that I didn’t know I could do.” —Jac, 25, Washington

Credit: Leela Cyd

“Structure within the day. Keeping a daily schedule and staying on track of the things we need to do has helped anchor us a little bit when things have been overwhelming.” —Dani, 42, Maine

“Taking things one day at a time. I used to be a planner, always trying to think ahead, and the pandemic shattered that for me. And while it’s been difficult at times, it’s also been a refreshing mind shift to just focus on the now.” —Eliza, 38, Michigan