This time of year, everyone is wishing each other a happy new year. It’s so automatic that we don’t stop to consider what we really mean. Let’s face it: despite all the well wishing, most people have no idea whether the new year will be happy or not. If anything, they fear that it won’t be. But in the spirit of this time of year, let’s be positive, but realistic, while considering how we can be happier in the new year and keep increasing our happiness every year after that!
New Year’s resolutions are great. Certainly typical ones like losing weight, exercising more, making new friends, making more money, etc., are not bad things to shoot for. You might as well have them, why not, but achieving them doesn’t lead to happiness.
The key to being happier sounds pretty simple on the surface: you have to get outside yourself. The more you get stuck in ideas of who you are or should be, the less happy you are. Why? You either become unhappy by not living up to your ideas of yourself, or even if you do, it’s not what you expected and rarely satisfying for long. Why? Because your ideas of who you should be are somewhat arbitrary: they are mainly based on societal conditioning and not on who you inherently are. This is why the core of Buddhism is about getting beyond this limited self, also referred to as the ego.
So how do you get outside of yourself? There’s lots of ways, here’s some tips to get you moving in the right direction:
First, loosen up your attachment to who you are and who you want to be. Striving to create the perfect you locks you up in an idea of who you are or should be. You aren’t anything in particular, you are everything, so there’s nothing else you need to want to be. There’s nothing wrong with having goals and working towards them, but think of pursuing your goals as a game that you just enjoy playing, whether you win or lose.
Next, notice that everything you experience comes and goes. There’s no need to get too excited or hung up on any one experience. It will pass.
Then, realize that you are making up reality as you go along. It’s your own movie, you can direct it how you want, so have fun with it.
Finally, recognize that you are at the center of the brilliance of life, which is happiness itself. Nothing that you do or happens will change that, so whenever you truly recognize this, you’ll be happy.
Easier said than done, right? This is where meditation and mindfulness come in: these are the daily tools refined over millenia that give you the skills and mental strength to accomplish all of these things.
So good luck with meditation and being happy in the new year! You’ll have it.