Can a Word for the Year Facilitate Leisure?

I’ve been following a UK blogger, Susannah Conway, for the last couple of years. I have enjoyed receiving her “Something for the Weekend” posts which always offered lots of links for interesting reading. There was always something in the list that made me smile or left me inspired. In December of 2014, I noticed a post toward the end of the year focused on Finding Your Word for 2015. Having just moved in the middle of the academic term and facing a chunk of grading in December and anticipating that I’d start the January term behind, I quickly thought my word for 2015 would be “survive.” I did not take the time to go through the process of choosing a word and maybe if I had, my 2015 would have gone a bit differently. In any case, this occasion was the first I was aware of this notion of a word for the year.

This December, with my six-month sabbatical approaching and after having a semi-difficult year with my depression and anxiety, I chose to take the time to go through the Find Your Word process of choosing a word. I signed up for the free five day mini-course and I joined the Facebook group. Each day for five days, I received an email to guide me through the process of finding my word. I also had a chance to read posts from others who had chosen their word or were seeking help in choosing the perfect word to describe their intentions for 2016.

What has been fascinating to me is reading the stories behind the word choice of the members of the Facebook group. The posts come almost exclusively from women and the chosen words – even the same word for different women – are steeped in meaning. There are words like embrace, act, invest, faith, forgive, move, presence, enough, adventure, and create – each come with an explanation for the choice and a vision for its meaning in 2016. Many of the discussion around chosen words is about how time will be used. For some women, the word they have chosen, in part, serves as a reminder to enjoy hobbies or pursuits, try new ones, spend with friends and make new ones, do things that bring feelings of joy, and engage in activities that promote self-care.

After going through the process, my word became clear. Nourish.

Word for 2016 Nourish

The Find Your Word process helped me to settle on my word for 2016

I was looking for a word that would capture my desire to stimulate my mind outside of work-related activities – that will encourage me to choose, for example, leisure reading over television; that will encourage me to engage my mind in ways that will bring joy, satisfy my curiosities, and peak my interests (as opposed to simply distracting or numbing my mind). In 2015, I made some good progress in making changes to my eating habits and devoted more attention to working out and taking time to be outside – I needed a word for 2016 that would encourage me to continue those actions and would be a good mantra on days when a bag of chips seems like a good idea for lunch. This summer, I want to do more gardening – I want to pay more attention to helping things grow and needed a word that reflected this intention. I wanted a word that would capture my desire to focus on building and deepening particular relationships. Finally, I wanted a word that would capture all these intentions in a positive way and would not leave me feeling as though paying attention to these things was drudgery (e.g., I “have to” exercise; I “should” eat something healthy for supper). Because the word “nourish” seemed to so simply reflects my intention, the “should” and “have to” words do not feel necessary. Saying “nourish” seems like a gentle reminder of what I’m hoping to do on a daily basis.

My word is certainly not entirely focused on leisure, but “nourish” and the intentions linked to the word does force reflection upon how I am using my unobligated time or leisure time. Already, only three days in to 2016, I find myself asking about my choices in my leisure time: how will this action “nourish” my mind, my body, my spirit, my relationships? I don’t expect that ever single thing I do in 2016 will qualify as nourishing, but I do see that selecting a word for the year that has connections with leisure intentions could facilitate more leisure time, new leisure pursuits, leisure choices that better one’s needs, and more satisfying leisure in general. I am interested to see if a word can shift my attitude about or the meaning I attach to certain activities that may not always feel like leisure. Only time will tell whether the mantra of “nourish” will convert meal preparation from something I do not particularly enjoy and see as a chore to something I see as an enjoyable act of self-care.

Some women in the Facebook group have shared that they will be doing art journals for their word, creating experiences that reflect their word, and even taking photographs throughout the year that capture their engagement in actions that reflect their word’s meaning. It seems that particular leisure skills could come in very handy in supporting their efforts related to self-awareness, self-development, and/or intentional living in 2016.

If you use a word to guide your actions for the year or to represent your intentions, are there ways in which the meaning of the word represents your intentions related to your leisure?


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