Health

Assessing happiness at the start of a new year

A new year is finally upon us. All of the presents have been appointed new homes, the pulled pork and fancy chocolates are almost gone, the bottles of prosecco are long-since retired, and I'm gradually waking up from my holiday coma — something my friend recently described as feeling like you've taken "a 10-day Ativan."

january

A new year is finally upon us. All of the presents have been appointed new homes, the pulled pork and fancy chocolates are almost gone, the bottles of prosecco are long-since retired, and I’m gradually waking up from my holiday coma — something my friend recently described as feeling like you’ve taken “a 10-day Ativan.”

I find this to be a particularly reflective time of year — and not just because it’s too cold to go outside beyond emergency coffee/Chinese soup runs, and because I’m avoiding all of the work that has been piling up since late November. I’m not hugely sentimental when it comes to the holidays — though I will always tear up while watching Scrooged — but there’s something about the new calendar year that forces me to do a little reevaluation.

As a result of contributing to this blog, I spend a decent amount of time thinking about whether or not I’m happy. I certainly adopt little tips I’ve learned from my research — such as spending more time with friends and family, getting enough sleep, getting daily exercise (even if it’s just a 30-minute walk), drinking coffee, judging myself less harshly, actively doing nice things for others, reading more books, and eating real meals. It’s been somewhat reassuring to learn that much of what can make and keep you happy fairly intuitive — but sticking to those good-for-you lessons is sometimes easier said than done.

And so now, after spending 2011 working hard, falling in love, befriending the most charming small dog in the world, traveling to Paris, Istanbul, Jerusalem and beyond, and then returning home to find friends and family as wonderful as I left them, I can confidently say that I’m feeling pretty happy.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the work is over. As soon as some questions are resolved, others pop up. Being happy requires maintenance and ongoing reevaluation. Plus, I realize that it’s important not to confuse a sense of general contentment — which I have in excess these days — with a satisfied sense of purpose. Happiness isn’t always the point. I can only hope that 2012 will be a year of even greater curiosity, challenges and rewards, and that I manage to stave off complacency. I hope to feel happy, most of the time, while not being fearful of change. And so, after wrapping up a very good year, the never-ending puzzle remains: What else?

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