10 things I've learned to help me (and you) have a happy new year

There are steps to making a new year better than the last. Take a look at yourself and see if these 10 things just might be the key to a happy new year.

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  • It’s a new year, and time to share a few things I, and Joy, have learned. They are from my personal perspective. I hope you find them helpful as you step into a possibility-filled 2015.

  • 1. Don’t waste time worrying over things you can’t control

  • Sometimes my concerns over those I love can usurp my mind and drag me down because there is nothing I can do to make their lives all better. I’ve learned, actually still learning, to trust that they will be OK. I’ve also learned that worrying about things I can’t change takes a toll on my health. So, I choose to be healthy and trust that God will take care of those I love. Whew! That feels so relieving.

  • 2. Speak with a soft voice

  • I never did like yelling. When I see or hear parents screaming at their kids it makes me sad. It only teaches children how to scream. I’ve learned that a soft voice brings peace into my home. I like that feeling. Did I always get that? No. I’ve had my moments. Like most other parents, I had to learn it by experience, and by watching others who seemed to be born with the gift of a soft voice. Or maybe they just cultivated it. Lets me know I can, too.

  • 3. Respect others, regardless of how they treat me

  • Everyone, at some point, needs to decide what kind of person they want to be. Some say, “I’ll respect (so and so) when they respect me.” That’s not how it works. If you believe in being a respectful person, then you will show respect to all people. That doesn’t mean you don’t have boundaries, it just means you are respectful as you set boundaries. Giving respect earns respect. It’s that simple.

  • 4. Pray

  • Several times a day, but especially every morning and night. I love that I can pray to a loving Heavenly Father who knows me and genuinely cares about what I’m going through. Knowing I can tell him all about my deepest sorrows and concerns, and plead for his guidance brings me great comfort. I love knowing that he will help me.

  • 5. Notice the little things my husband does for me, and thank him

  • If I’m not paying attention, so many kindnesses can go unnoticed. I’m working at noticing these sweet gestures, like how he picks up something I dropped, how he helps me with my coat, how he holds my hand when I might slip on the ice, and a myriad of other kind things. When I thank him, he knows I’m noticing and appreciating his efforts in my behalf.

  • 6. Notice the good my children do and be grateful for them

  • It’s so easy to look at your kids and see the things you wish they didn’t do. I find it much more gratifying to notice the things they do that put a smile on my face. Like my grownup baby son who has six kids of his own now. I see him being so patient and having fun with the little ones, and it makes me happy. I tell him so.

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  • 7. Read the scriptures every day

  • Well, almost every day. Sometimes I miss a day or two, but mostly I just love how it blesses my day. It has become one of my favorite habits. I just finished the New Testament, again. I love the four gospels, and the writings of Paul. The book of James is one of my all-time favorites as he reminds me that if I lack wisdom I can ask God and he will give it to me. (James 1:5) I need his wisdom.

  • 8. Be thankful for small blessings

  • On a cold winter’s morning, I am filled with gratitude for a furnace that fills my home with comforting heat. When the sun is shining, I am filled with the joy of life. When I look at the beautiful flowers my neighbor brought me, my heart rejoices. When a grandchild kisses my cheek, I’m happy. When I stand in a warm shower and feel the comfort it brings to my whole body, I’m filled with gratitude. So many small blessings for which to be thankful.

  • 9. Be satisfied with what I have

  • TV ads scream messages that beckon us to want more, get more, live better. I’ve decided to be happy with what I have. Satisfied. I don’t need a lot of stuff. I have so much stuff I’m starting to give it away.

  • I don’t have a beautiful voice to sing like some of my family and friends. But that’s OK. I love to hear them sing. I can join in if the group is large enough and drowns me out, or if I’m alone, or with a grandchild. Then I can sing my off-key style and no one cares. The 23rd Psalm teaches “The Lord is my Shepard, I shall not want.” I’m satisfied. Still striving, but definitely satisfied.

  • 10. Be forgiving

  • Don’t waste another minute carrying a grudge against another person. It’s a parasite that will eat your happiness. Forgive the woman who broke your son’s heart, forgive the driver who pulled out in front of you, forgive your spouse for doing or saying something that hurt you. By so doing, you bring new light into your life. I like what Elizabeth Smart’s mother told her when she was rescued from her evil captor, “The best thing you can do is move forward because by feeling sorry for yourself and holding on to what’s happened, that’s only allowing him more power and more control over your life, and he doesn’t deserve another second. So be happy.” (From Elizabeth Smart’s memoir, “My Story”)

  • Good advice for all of us. Be happy. I hope these 10 things can help that happen in your life, starting today.

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Gary Lundberg is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Joy is a writer. Together they author books on relationships.

Website: http://garyjoylundberg.com

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