Here we are at the beginning of another year…and millions upon millions of us are endeavoring to make a commitment…for the umpteenth time…to change something that we believe will improve the quality of our lives.
Usually our New Year’s resolutions are about losing weight, quitting smoking, getting more exercise, finding a better job, or making more money. Now, don’t get me wrong, these are all useful resolutions. But they don’t make as big an impact on our happiness as we think they’re going to. Before talking about those resolutions that most affect our happiness, let me take a moment to describe what happiness is.
Most of my life I tended to think of happiness as meaning things like joy, pleasure, fun, and cheerfulness. However, authentic happiness really has much more in common with a sense of well-being. Happiness is about feeling an undercurrent of “okayness” or “rightness” with our day-to-day life. It’s a sense that, in general…not necessarily every minute of every day…but in general, we are satisfied, content, peaceful, and accepting of where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going.
Not too many of us have this general feeling of well-being in our lives. I certainly didn’t for most of mine. But we all want it, don’t we. We want our lives to be filled with happiness and well-being.
Although each of us may experience our own unique version of happiness, we all share the same human needs. Such as the physical needs for food, water, and safety. Once past those basic, physical needs, we share a very powerful and fundamental need to be with each other. To feel close to each other. To feel that we matter to each other. To feel deeply known and deeply accepted by each other. It is only through this felt connection with the people in our daily lives that we can experience an authentic, and enduring happiness.
The experiences I’ve had during the 48 years of my lifetime…as well as the tremendous amount of research that has been done in the field of human well-being…clearly shows… the number one factor that affects our happiness and well-being, is the quality of our relationships with other people.
Nothing, on the whole of this earth, can make us feel better…or make us feel worse…than the way we spend our time with the people in our daily lives.
It doesn’t matter if we have the perfect body, the perfect health, the perfect job, the perfect house, crammed full of the perfect stuff, and tons of money in the bank.
We can have all these things, and still…be… miserable. I know, because I had all of those things…well, maybe I didn’t have that perfect body thing…but I had all the other things…and I was still miserable.
I spent my entire adult life, year after year after year, fulfilling the American Dream. You know what the American Dream is, don’t you? The psychologist and author, David Myers, describes the American Dream as “Life, Liberty, and the Purchase of happiness.”
Well guess what. That…dream…doesn’t…work. It turns out to be more of an American Nightmare.
If you want to make the biggest impact on your happiness and well-being, then the most powerful New Year’s Resolution you could begin to practice, would be to increase the amount of emotionally satisfying time you spend with the people in your daily life.
Emotionally satisfying time is the kind of time you spend with those people that you actually like to hang out with. The kind of time that friends spend together. Friends can be anyone from spouses, to co-workers, to neighbors, or family members.
Many of us do not spend nearly enough emotionally satisfying time with anyone in our life. Either we don’t make the time for it…or we don’t know how to do it.
I believe that when we fully understand that almost all of our happiness and well-being depends entirely upon spending fulfilling and satisfying time with the people in our daily lives, then we would reconsider how we are spending our time. We would use more of our time, putting into practice, how to be with people in emotionally satisfying ways.
What are those ways of being together that make us feel emotionally satisfied?
First of all, it is when we make the effort to spend time together.
…it is when we do those things for each other that build trust.
…it is when we treat each other as equals, with respect for each other’s thoughts, feelings, values and opinions.
…it is when we make each other feel safe and secure to be who and what we are, strengths, weaknesses, and all – trusting that we will be accepted…and hopefully, even liked.
…it is when we let each other share our thoughts and feelings, without any fear of rejection, criticism, or judgment.
…it is when we can enjoy just hanging out with each other, without necessarily having to do anything.
…it is when we are committed to be there for each other whenever, and for whatever, we are needed.
…and it is showing that we deeply care about each other’s feelings, and each other’s welfare.
So while we’re planning our resolutions for a better body, a bigger house, more stuff, a better career, and a bigger salary, let us remember that our happiness and well-being is most affected by those resolutions that allow us to more authentically connect, in emotionally satisfying ways, with the people in our daily lives…whether we make those resolutions on New Year’s, Easter, Halloween…
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