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  • Writer's pictureBranwen Defren

23 Lessons Learned in 2023: Reflections on Work, Self-Care, and Life

As we bid farewell to 2023 and step into a new year, it's only natural to reflect on the lessons learned throughout the past twelve months. 2023 for me, was quite a rollercoaster (and honestly, not the fun kind). So, here are some insights I learned the hard way that you can take away so you don't have to, and can maybe help you shape your approach for the new year ahead.

1. Where You Work Matters. A lot.

Where you work matters more than you might think, the impact of your coworkers and supervisors can significantly shape your experience at a company. Seek a workplace that uplifts you and genuinely wants to see you succeed.

2. Choose Your Work Confidants Wisely

While many of my past coworkers have become wonderful friends, it's still important to be cautious about whom you confide in. Trust your intuition, and as a rule, consider refraining from following current colleagues on social media until one of you has left the company. (Excluding LinkedIn!)

3. Cherish Those Who Show Up For You

People who consistently respond or make an effort to get back to you, even in the midst of their busy lives, are invaluable. Cultivate and appreciate these connections; they're worth more than gold.

4. Prioritize Your Health

You get one body. One. It is irreplaceable, so it's essential to take good care of it. Be sure to get regular yearly check-ups, get vaccinated, try meditation, get a massage, and exercise as much as you can, if you can. Because someone else out there is wishing they could. Preventive measures are so crucial, and it's vital not to ignore "small" health issues - a "small" issue can escalate into a "big" one fast, and then you won't be able to ignore it.

5. Embrace Rest

Rest does not need to be earned; it's an actual fundamental thing you need for your well-being. Don't hesitate to rest when you feel you need it.

6. Invest in Gadgets That Make Your Life Easier

If a gadget can make your daily life easier or better and fits your budget, go for it with no apologies!! My personal favorites I indulged in getting myself this year:

7. Utilize Amazon's "Save for Later" Feature

Avoid impulsive purchases by taking advantage of the "Save for Later" option on Amazon. I always try to wait 48 hours before making a final decision, so I don't purchase something at 3AM that I think I need or that I like, but then I look at it the following day and decide not to. This feature has saved me a looooot of money (more than I care to admit)

8. Curate Your Social Media to Fit YOUR Interests

Follow social media accounts that genuinely interest you. What you follow and see every day is more influential than you may think. It's like the quote, 'You become like the five people you spend the most time with.' Most people spend a lot of time online - so surround yourself with accounts that are informative, happily influential or just plain interest you.

9. No Hobby-shaming

Don't be ashamed to declare reading, watching TV shows, or playing video games as your hobbies. Hobbies are personal; if they bring you joy, embrace them! And for those whose hobbies are more physical, don't disparage those who aren't because you may not know whether there are physical limitations at play that may restrict other activities.

10. Check Out The Finch App:

I initially checked out The Finch app because I wanted to have something where I could check things off, and I was delighted to discover it's kind of like a virtual neopet you can "take care of" by taking care of yourself and win points for little tasks! I highly recommend it.

11. Pet Every Dog:

If circumstances allow (e.g., if the 'pawrent' is okay with it), make it a habit to pet every dog you come across. The joy of connecting with furry friends always brightens my day.

12. Microwave Magic

If you're not a cooking aficionado like me, this microwave steamer is a GAMECHANGER - I have literally made the most delicious salmon and veggie dishes in less than 10 minutes with this. It's my favorite new kitchen tool - it's so, so easy!

13. Embrace Geeky Hobbies

Indulge in the things you enjoy, even if they're considered "geeky." Personally, I got really into graphic novels and delved hard into Game of Thrones and its lore this past year, and I absolutely love it.

14. Connect with Nature

Try to step out your door once a day if you can. Whether it's a walk, opening a window, or simply enjoying nature. Maybe it's just me, but sometimes when I don't have a "purpose" to be outside, like for an errand or something, it feels weird to go out, but it's still something that's helpful, especially if you work from home.

15. Let Yourself Enjoy Mini Luxuries

Occasionally indulge in small luxuries - personally, I get myself Liquid Death water (since I don't drink, it makes me feel like I am, even though it's just water), or my favorite Starbucks drink. Little treats are part of the joys of everyday life.

16. Try Something New Every Month

One thing I like to do to change up the monotony of the every day is to try a new item at the grocery store. Again, it's a small thing, but simply allot $10 or less to try a new item at the grocery store - you might just discover a new favorite snack!

17. Invest in Quality Products

When it comes to everyday electronic essentials like phones and laptops, quality is worth the investment. Don't skimp on items you use daily - it'll avoid a lot of unnecessary frustration. (I got a Chromebook for Black Friday, just something to use for emails and personal work, etc., and it was less than $200... and the screen would go black every. Two. Freaking. Minutes). It drove me irrationally nuts.

18. Virtually Explore Unreachable Places

If you can't physically visit a place, explore it virtually. Check out YouTube videos of the place you want to visit - or if you want a more personal touch - check out this "drive and listen" website where you can literally listen to the local radio stations of a place while "driving" through the area. It's one of my favorite websites!

19. Uncommon Goods for Unique Gifts

Discover the treasure trove of unique gifts at Uncommon Goods. It's my go-to for thoughtful and meaningful presents - (I have literally made my mum cry with a couple of them). I highly recommend checking out their options for gifts!

20. Acceptance of "Minimal" Achievements

Remember, it's okay if all you did today was breathe. Acknowledge even the smallest of victories because you can always try again tomorrow.

21. Adapt To What Your Body Needs

Getting angry at your body won't solve anything. Instead, if it's possible, try to adapt what you want (or need to do) in order to participate - whether that means just going to a party for a little bit or eating at home first before going out, taking an Uber instead of public transport (if you can afford to), etc.

22. Streamlined Skincare Routine

I don't know who else fell down the rabbit hole of skincare during the pandemic, but I sure did. Honestly, my skin got SO much better, but it wasn't a sustainable or frankly affordable routine to keep up with in the long term. Simplifying my skincare routine in 2023 was also one of my best choices. Some of my favorite products:



23. Trust Your Instincts

Above all, trust your gut. If your gut is getting a feeling something’s not right - then something’s not right. Always, always trust this instinct. It’s there for a reason.

As we all step into 2024, while there is always uncertainty, and perhaps now more than ever, remember we're all on this crazy roller coaster together.

Wishing you all a bright & happy new year ahead! Much love 💙


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