Happy New Year! It’s that time again – where we hope and dream and think about all the ways we wish we and the world around us were better. Or fitter. Or different. Or…anything other than what we are right now. Why can’t we just be happy?
Why are we so unhappy with ourselves? Why do we always want something to be different? I think a healthy sense of wanting to be improved is important and necessary for personal satisfaction, but to just throw your hands up in disgust with your life as it is now is absurd.
I still remember the feeling of when I first realized that I deserve to be happy and I deserve the people and the things around me. (It wasn’t that long ago…maybe a year or so after many months of thoughtful reflection and prayer) I also still remember the feeling of walking around everyday not believing that I deserved everything that I had in my life – both the good and the bad. Sometimes I need to be reminded of that realization that I deserve to be happy. I’m not a vain person, but with so many people with so much less than I have and so many stories of suffering I felt uncomfortable with the blessings I have. In response, I try to live a life of gratitude and service to others in any way that I can. I want to be happy.
Over the last few years, I’ve tried very hard to think critically about living a “minimalist” lifestyle and have actively tried to pursue such a way of living. Now some of you may scoff at that, but please read on and hear me out. To me, minimalism is not about trying to be cool and stand out from everyone else to show off how great you are because you don’t have any possessions and live in a tiny house with everything organized perfectly in its own little space (although I do love that idea). Quite the contrary actually, minimalism is the act and process of decluttering your life from all the extraneous so that you can truly cherish whatever is left – both possessions and relationships. If your way of being a minimalist is living in a tiny house, go for it! You deserve to be happy.
Minimalism is the act and process of valuing the most important things in life and eliminating everything else. We all need some material possessions to survive, especially clothing and housing. But after those and a maybe a few other small items, not much else is necessary to survive. Society will tell you otherwise, but look inward and your soul will tell you the truth. Sure there are chemical reactions that happen inside the body that trick you into thinking you need all that stuff, but once your shopping hormones settle down, something inside tells you otherwise. You’re still not happy.
The same goes for relationships. It’s very easy to get tricked into thinking that because we’re “friends” on social media, that means we’re actually friends in real life. The nature of online conversations have been well documented as being only surface level and lacking genuine interaction. At least as far as my own social feed goes, most of what I see are game scores (both sports and video variety), fashion (don’t judge), internet memes and pictures of people posing in ways they would never do in real life (maybe I don’t really know them after all…case in point. what?). Sure you might know someone, maybe you even met once before, or maybe you’re just stalking them like any celebrity, ever. Either way, most of the people on your friends list you probably don’t have a deep friendship with and likely never will. You’re still not happy.
So why are we unhappy? I have no idea. It might be all the stuff getting in your way. It might be a few toxic relationships weighing heavy on your soul. It might be that you have no true relationships and everything you live is on the internet. Sure there is a lot of pain and suffering both personally and globally to make us so, but what else?
Ultimately, we have the freedom to choose our own thinking and choose our own happiness. And that’s what I’ve learned and hope to pass on – that happiness is a choice. You have to choose to seek that which will make you happy – and the answer usually isn’t easy to accept.
Will minimalism make you happy? Maybe. Hopefully it might lead you to think critically for yourself about the things you possess and what really matters and what doesn’t.
Getting in touch with the Creator and Spirit will help, and those answers don’t come in our time.
Either way, I think we all deserve to be happy. We all deserve to have friends. And we all deserve to be unhappy at times just so we can appreciate the happy feelings and empathize with those we find who aren’t happy.
Happy new year. Here’s to your happiness journey in 2016.