Wellbeing Corner – Vol. 4 January 2021
As the clock chimed at midnight relinquishing the past year of 2020, I’m certain many of us raised our glasses to gladly bid it ado and welcome in the newness of 2021. Every New Year brings with it the hope of new beginnings, possibilities and a ‘breath of fresh air’. 2020 left us clinging to these hopes with a whole new understanding and sense of desperation for a ‘Happy New Year’! As I anxiously awaited the ringing in of 2021, I found myself posing this joyous exclamation of “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” as more of a question… “Happy New Year?” Although the calendar flipped pages and a new beginning is upon us, many uncertainties still linger into this year. I realized “Happy” is a concept that can seem so foreign recently, and I paused for a moment to reflect on the emotion of ‘happiness’.
Happiness is an electrifying and elusive state that philosophers, theologians, psychologists, and even economists have long sought to define. Since the 1990s, a whole branch of psychology (Positive psychology) has been dedicated to pinning it down. Happiness is said to be a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life with a sense of meaning and deep contentment. This is much more than simply having a positive mood. A growing body of research also suggests that happiness can improve physical health, cardiovascular health, the immune system, inflammation levels, and blood pressure, among other things. Happiness has even been linked to a longer lifespan as well as a higher quality of life and well-being (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/happiness). Excellent! Happiness = Health (physical and emotional). We all strive for this with each new year, but grasping this ‘elusive state’ of happiness seems even more difficult in the reality of so many uncertainties.
This became ever more true to me this Christmas as my family suffered the loss of a dear loved one; my mother-in-law. I struggled to grasp the happy feelings that usually accompany the festive season and hopefulness of the New Year. We all have been profoundly impacted with losses throughout this past year; pandemic and political stressors, financial strain, separation from loved ones… and the list goes on. What I learned in the short two months I was blessed to call her my mother-in-law, is that happiness is within our control. Even when everything outside of us feels so out of control. She exemplified the definition of ‘happy’ and made a choice to grasp happiness within a life that was filled with tragic losses and trauma. I reflect on the happiness that I have a choice to grasp daily. This does not mean I necessarily ‘feel’ happy in the daily moments, but I choose to focus on the happiness in the present gift of today.
How, you may ask, does one find this state of happiness? It is not the result of bouncing from one joy to the next; researchers find that achieving happiness typically involves times of considerable discomfort. Genetic makeup, life circumstances, loss, achievements, marital status, social relationships, even your neighbors—all influence how happy you are. Or can be. So do individual ways of thinking and expressing feelings. Research shows that much of happiness is under personal control.
Regularly indulging in small pleasures, getting absorbed in challenging activities, setting and meeting goals, maintaining close social ties, and finding purpose beyond oneself all increase life satisfaction. It isn’t happiness per se that promotes well-being, it’s the actual pursuit that’s key.
Seeking it. Choosing it. Finding the happiness that has been, and will be within the hope of the New Year of 2021. This IS what we have control of. Choose your happiness at the center of yourself. Is it possible to find lasting happiness? I say YES! The key to lifelong happiness is taking time to cultivate small changes on a regular basis. Incorporating habits into your daily routine such as keeping a gratitude journal, practicing kindness, nurturing optimism, learning to forgive, investing in relationships, avoiding overthinking, savoring life’s joys, and committing to goals can make happiness a permanent fixture.
I wish you all the true happiness this New Year can hold, as we press forward into 2021! Change around us is constant and certainly needed! However, remember, our personal happiness is what we CAN control. Embracing 2021 with all of you!
Be and remain well,
Deidre McLeod, MS LPC
If your loved ones, friends, or maybe even yourself, are struggling to find your best mental health and HAPPINESS, please contact us to schedule an appointment at:
Cornerstone Centers for Wellbeing
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