Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Happier New Year as Easy as 1, 2, 3

I am definitely my mother's child, but one thing we didn't share was a mutual love of New Year's Eve. While most busied with putting final party details in place, chilling bottles of champagne, and laying out festive outfits to don, my mother spent the hours leading up to midnight in quiet reflection on the year that had passed and a (somewhat pessimistic) view of what a new year could bring. It was definitely a glass half empty approach to embracing another 365 days on the horizon, especially if the prior year was marked with loss of some kind. Needless to say, as I became a young woman, I would have to make a concerted effort to enjoy New Year's Eve in order to shake off the unfounded fears my mom clung to that could easily hang over my celebration like a cumulus cloud, thanks to what I call "familial conditioning."

As I've gotten older and partying on New Year's Eve has become a bit riskier (yep, wisdom speaking here) my celebrations are often confined to gathering in friends' homes who live within a five mile radius; taking to the couch with a bottle of bubbly, Chinese food delivery, and Netflix on deck; or quietly spending it with a significant other. So, I may not "turn up" like I used to but one thing I'm mindful not to do is lament about what possible sorrow a new year may bring, and instead see the impending year as one full of possibility for growth, adventure, and new discoveries. That is why when I ran across a quote from American writer, activist, and feminist, Rita Mae Brown, I realized it provided the perfect recipe for happiness that has unknowingly always been at the root of my joy and also serves as a great reminder of how to approach and, ultimately, have a fabulous new year--every year--in three easy steps.

1. Find Someone to Love: I know traditionally speaking, it's easy to immediately reduce this advice to the definition of love in a romantic sense. And there's certainly nothing wrong with that; if you have a romantic partner to love, love them and love them hard. But, thankfully, love is much bigger than that and is something everyone needs, whether exhibited through a closer connection with family and friends, or through volunteering with the numerous organizations designed to assist the disadvantaged. Be it through organizations like Big Brother, Black Girls Rock, the Red Cross, or even coaching a little league team, there is always someone who could stand being loved on through your time, attention, and efforts. As actor Adrian Grenier once said, "It's enough to indulge and to be selfish but true happiness is really when you start giving back." So, go head, give back and spread some love while doing it.

2. Find Something to Do: Benjamin Franklin once said, "If time be of all things the most precious, wasting time must be the greatest prodigality." That also reminds me of something my mother often told me: "Time waits for no man; you either get busy living or get busy dying." Now, that may have been a tad extreme in the literal sense, but the message was loud and clear: get moving! Whether that's picking back up an old hobby or taking up a new one; learning a new language; finally drafting that business plan; finishing school; or--everyone's favorite new year's resolution--getting in better shape, there's a lot more you could be doing if your free time is usually spent twiddling your thumbs or, dare I say, sitting on social media. When you have something productive to do, the idleness that can often lead to restlessness, irritability, and sadness, will have a difficult time taking root. So, get going, which ties directly into the last important piece of advice:

3. Find Something to Look Forward To: This, I must say, is my personal favorite and why you could flip through my yearly planner and see something of interest--a concert, a trip, a Broadway show, even the opening of a new restaurant--noted across every month. Anticipation births excitement. And as writer Gretchen Rubin said, "By having something you look forward to, you bring happiness into your life well before the event actually takes place." And who among us could afford an investment into happiness that yields a return well in advance of its "maturity date"? All of us! So, get to planning and get that joy flowing into your life.

As 2018 welcomes us with open arms, let's make plans to embrace it back with a deliberate investment into our growth and happiness that will ultimately make us better, more joyful people, not only for ourselves but for those in our lives as well.

Happy New Year!