Happy new year everyone! By now you’ve reflected on your year and what worked and didn’t. And as you get off the treadmill and sip your vegetable broth and try to avoid the lingering box of chocolates on your coffee table you resolve to make this year better. You resolve to get rid of defeating patterns and behaviours, you resolve to make your relationships better, to put up with less crap, and to give yourself more of what you need. You have goals. You will treat your body better and you will make more money or improve your job or take up a hobby. You set these targets with hope and positivity and are satisfied with what you’ve come up with. These things you’ve chosen will make your life better. You will get there.
But at the bottom of your belly could be this mild sense of dread that at times you can harness and other times can overtake you. This sense of impending doom. This all sounds like a lot of work and build-up to more disappointment. Don’t you go through this every year? And now here you are again and on top of everything that didn’t work out….it’s January. Yuck. You look outside and it’s doom and gloom. You have overspent and it’s cold out and what’s to look forward to? For many of you no sunshine or no exciting holiday lined up. Just these targets that are…let’s face it, not as exciting as you’d hoped – because there is so much pressure and so much work to attaining happiness.
The new year is often a confronting time for most people because there is nothing to hide under. No mulled wine or parties or chocolate to distract you or feed your addictive or escapist tendencies (except for Netflix maybe!). Now it’s just you. Yes you have these goals, but they only highlight what you lack, a certain happiness that lives somewhere in the future. Society teaches us to set goals and do whatever it takes to achieve this elusive ‘happiness’. That’s all good and well and I don’t completely begrudge this. It is good to set goals and take the necessary steps to achieve what we want in life. Life is fruitless without desire. And desire is a healthy driving force that springs us into action.
Ultimately what I have learned though is that happiness doesn’t sustain or satisfy us. Striving is good, but once we get the thing we want there is always another thing we want. We lose weight, then discover now our noses look bigger and our bums look saggy. We meet the soulmate of our dreams; we’re blissful until we realize they snore and leave crumbs everywhere. We get the ultimate job, and then become stressed by the commute and then have no time to spend the money we earn. Happiness is fleeting and temporary. It comes and goes like the seasons. We have no control of it and once we get it there is always the fear of losing it.
So I have decided this year that although I have some goals – some things that I am striving for that could bring me some happiness, my one and only resolution is to sustain the presence of joy in my life. Joy is different to happiness. Joy is the feeling that comes from a place deep inside of you even when circumstances are not favourable. Joy is a state of being. It’s embracing what’s around you and having gratitude for what is available to you, right NOW. Joy is having a really good sense of humour even when life is hard. Unlike happiness, joy is a choice. You have access to joy all the time even in the worst situations.
Bring joy to whatever you are doing, every moment, every day. If you have a long commute to work, find that radio station that works for you and start singing. Grumpy person in traffic cut you off? Laugh at how seriously they are taking themselves instead of getting embroiled in a silly war. So you’re exhausted and it’s Monday and you’re at a job you dislike with colleagues that you despise. Joy might be too hard. But how about acceptance? Smile. Bring people cookies! Feel a bit of joy that you can offer compassion and forgiveness to a situation that you don’t desire. Give attention to whatever task you are doing knowing that by accepting it and letting go of judgement, you are free, and that eventually the present situation is bound to change. People will notice and respond differently to you. Life itself will interact with you in a new way, showing you beauty in ways you never imagined.
Here are some things that bring me joy: The comfort I feel when I drink a really nice cup of coffee, laughing from my gut with good people in my life, seeing the crinkles around my dad’s beautiful warm eyes and being grateful he is still around and I get to see him, peeling an orange – i love the smell and bright orange colour and all the textures, the sound of rain (even though I hate winter!), a really good hug, music, the feeling of satisfaction I have after I clean the bathroom ( love that awful clean Lysol smell)
And there are so many more. I invite you to see the sacred in everything you do. When you wash dishes feel the warmth on your hands, the smell of the soap, the gratitude you feel that you have four walls when many out there don’t. Your goals and resolutions for the new year will still be there and that’s okay….but for now, just take a deep breath. Let go and allow yourself to feel joy. Feel what this moment right now can bring you, and what you can bring to it.