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Have a ‘Happy New Year’ by Not Searching for Happiness

Jan. 13, 2023 Psychology Today

Hurray, it’s a new year! At least symbolically, this change is a great relief as the last three years have left an indelible mark on many people who are still trying to come out of an existential abyss. Although the recognizable signs of spring are not yet in the air, at least not in terms of the weather conditions, the emergence of 2023 portends spring-like conditions ahead as we wave goodbye to the trials and tribulations of the recent past.

Spring, as we know, is seen as a time of new life (both plant and animal) being born, as well as a time of growth and renewal. More generally, however, the spring season is perceived as a metaphor for the start of better times. So let’s begin spring—in our spirit, mind, and body—early this year. And let’s proclaim “’tis the season” to be optimistic and enthusiastic about the future. 

To be sure, wanting people to be happy throughout the year is a meaningful resolution for the New Year that is well worth keeping. Good intentions notwithstanding, “happiness” has become sort of a buzzword these days. For instance, besides a plethora of books and other publications on the subject, the happiness theme can be seen in advertising campaigns by businesses intent on squeezing out as many dollars as possible from consumers. It is as if buying a particular product or service will make people happy as a result, no matter what their personal circumstances.

Now don’t get me wrong, I would like very much to see everyone be (and remain) happy. And, yes, I’m a true believer that the key to authentic happiness lies within all of us, and therefore is within reach. However, I just don’t believe that true happiness is a commodity that can be purchased, no matter what the price. Nor do I believe that happiness comes from simply embracing the lyrics of the 1988 Grammy Award-winning song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” by musician Bobby McFerrin. As much as I like this song, I think that there is more to it than that. Much more.

Against the backdrop of the events of the past three years, there are still warning signs on the horizon that warrant serious concern, in society at large as well as in the American and global economies. Even people who are fortunate enough today to be gainfully employed are not necessarily “happy” in the face of so much change taking place, coupled with the uncertainty of what may lie ahead. And this sentiment applies not only to their personal lives but also to their work lives.

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