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It’s 2017: The Year of Living… Happily?

As we merge into the new year of 2017, there are many things going on in the world that have the ability to rattle us – or worse – if we let them. Sometimes that catch phrase we recite to each other in early January – “Happy New Year!!” – can make us feel more miserable than happy, depending on our circumstances.

Many of us are in some way steeped in the throes of addictive behaviors – we may be struggling with our own active addiction, we may be in early recovery from addiction, one day at a time – or we may be loved ones of those who are addicted. Whether it is our own addictive behavior or someone else’s that is problematic, this time of year can bring about its own particular brand of heartache that can be difficult to separate ourselves from – and far more people than we know are feeling this way.

So, with all of that going on, how could I even be suggesting that the year to come could be a happy one?

I’ve heard a number of people say that 2016 was a very rough year for them and they’re glad it’s over. There are currently so many hardships happening all over the world – so many wars, so much poverty, unpredictable and scary weather patterns, drugs like fentanyl – just to name a few. In the US (as well as in other places in the world, such as Canada where I live), many of us are quite concerned about the incoming American president who will be inaugurated in just a couple of short weeks. As we witness the havoc he is already causing all over our planet, many of those who voted for him are now seeing through his charade and scratching their heads in disbelief. I’m very aware of the fear and unrest in our world today.

And yet, I’m saying that we can be “happy” in this coming year? Yes, we can – if we choose to be.

Can We Really Just Choose to be Happy?

I’ve learned a lot in this past year. I, too, have had my share of ups and downs. At around this time last year, my sense of inner happiness was at an all-time low. My ever-unpredictable Crohn’s Disease was flaring up badly and I was feeling scared about that. I had recently come back from a trip to Asia where finding appropriate food for my condition was a major issue, and it seemed I had lost the friendship of some of my traveling companions as a result.

I also know, deep inside, that if we don’t give up and if we learn another way to live, things really can change for us.-Candace Plattor

I didn’t know how, or if, I’d come back from all of that. I felt very alone and shameful, on many levels. In fact, I have known the sting of ongoing unhappiness for much of my life – and it has not been pretty.

When I look around at the rest of the world, I too hate seeing the inhumane atrocities happening in places like Syria. I, too, have worries about what Donald Trump might do to life as we’ve known it. I see people struggling financially and with health issues, and I know what that feels like. Just like many of you, I continue to lose people I’ve cared deeply about to addiction. But I also know, deep inside, that if we don’t give up and if we learn another way to live, things really can change for us.

The most important thing I’ve learned in 2016 is that I alone am responsible for my own happiness or lack of it. And that my happiness really has much more to do with me than with anyone else or with what is happening around me – which are often conditions I can’t control or change. I understand now that what causes my happiness or unhappiness is my attitude about what I see around me – and that this is completely in my realm of control, if I allow it be.

How Can We Be Happy, Regardless of Conditions?

I am in my mid-sixties now and I know that I have a choice about how to feel about that strange turn of events. I’m not exactly sure how this happened, but it’s my reality nonetheless! And I do have choices regarding how I think about this: I can, in short, either continually tell myself that I’m getting old and that my life is close to being over, or I can stay in today, be in the moment of now (which is the only place any of us ever have anyway), and live each day as fully and positively as I can, even when difficult things are happening around me.

Now, please understand – I am not, by nature, a Pollyanna. I have, until recently, always been a glass-half-empty kind of gal. I have no real answers, spiritual or otherwise, about why certain things happen in our world. For example, I don’t know why there are so many atrocities and wide-ranging genocides that cause suffering and death for many wonderful people all over the globe.

I can’t tell you why the majority of US voters elected a man to be their next president who is a self-proclaimed bigot, bully, and misogynist, and who appears to have no respect for the potential destruction that will inevitably result from using nuclear bombs to negotiate much easier settlements.

I don’t get why some people feel so badly about themselves that they have to take out their rage on others, rather than use that energy to find positive ways to build themselves up. There are so many things that don’t make any sense to me – and I know I’m not alone in that lack of understanding.

But what I’ve learned this past year about what I can’t and, more importantly, what I can do about all of this has changed my life. Even though I can’t tell you that everything is amazing and wonderful for me all of the time, I can tell you that things are so much better because I now recognize and understand what I’m sharing here with you – and I am so much happier! That inner happiness is definitely worth the price of admission – and once you discover it, you can live this way too – or not, your choice.

What I know to be true today is that I have very little control over much of anything, and I definitely have no control at all over anything outside of myself. I can’t control other people, I can’t control what other people do to each other – or even to me. When I pin my happiness on how I am being treated by others, I am in trouble – and yet, isn’t that what we are all trained to do from the time we’re small children? We are pretty much taught that we are here to please our parents, our teachers, our friends, our partners, our children – and if we don’t do that, we will likely face some unpleasant consequences. So many of us grow up trying very hard to make other people happy and to avoid conflict, thinking that this is the best way to keep ourselves feeling good.

But the trouble with this logic is two-fold: first of all, it isn’t our job to provide for anyone else’s happiness, and secondly, we can try and try and try to make someone happy – and they still have the right to make the choice to be unhappy, which is something out of our realm of control.

See the problem?

Let’s Decide to Feel as Good as We Can

But when we decide that we are going to choose to feel as good as we can as often as we can, and be in the most positive frame of mind as much of the time as we can – regardless of what is going on around us – that is when we have the capability to give ourselves a happy life. We may not feel cheerful all of the time – I don’t think anyone does, including me – but it will definitely be a better life than what most of us have unwittingly been living.

We alone have the ability to decide how we are going to feel – good or bad, positive or negative – at any given moment. I love knowing that!

So, what will you choose for 2017? Will it be yet another year for you of feeling badly, as if you’re at the mercy of other people and their emotional whims? Will you continue to complain, as I did for many years, about how awful things are for you? Or will you instead follow the more courageous, less travelled path and do the inner work it takes to decide for yourself how you want to feel – right here, right now?

Images Courtesy of iStock

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