As we enter a new year—and despite all the resolutions we set—we might realize that we’re still unhappy.
The reason is that we haven’t worked on the root cause of our unhappiness.
Years ago, the Buddha spoke of the cause of our suffering. Applying his teachings to my daily life has helped me deal with the inevitable pain of being human.
Although our resolutions might revolve around our physical and emotional well-being, adding a few Buddhist teachings can turn our entire year around.
Here are some New Year’s resolutions I like to believe the Buddha would have made that can inspire us:
1. I will not rebel against impermanence.
In the past, I tried to hold onto people, memories, places, and time—to no avail. I tried to resist change and force stability. Now, I know that I was only rebelling against the natural law of life. Impermanence must take place or else nothing would grow—including us. We need to not only accept impermanence on the intellectual level, but understand it and anticipate it. It is the only way to not set ourselves up for disappointment.
2. I will not make my happiness conditional.
I spent a great deal of my life being unhappy because I though my happiness depended on outside conditions. Now I know that I can’t always control what’s happening around me—I can only control my own reactions, thoughts, and emotions. We must learn to be happy without needing someone or something to satisfy us. It might be difficult at first, but we can overcome it by learning to train our minds.
3. I will not blindly accept beliefs or dogmas.
I will not believe in anything simply because I have heard it. I shall follow only what I understand after putting words into action and investigation. If the experience resonates with me, then I shall accept what the words suggest.
4. I will be mindful of my speech and actions.
What I say and what I do are a double-edged sword: they hurt me as much as they hurt others. Because of this, I had to learn to not allow my actions to be motivated by anger, desire, or greed, or to let my speech be influenced by jealousy, envy, or hatred. When we cultivate our minds and develop wisdom, we can conquer our egos.
5. I will make practicing metta a priority.
I vow to wish all sentient beings—no exceptions—infinite happiness no matter what harm they have caused me. I seek forgiveness from the people I have harmed in any way and, in return, I forgive the ones who have done me wrong. I wish them wellness, health, happiness, love, and joy. I understand that sending them metta will increase my own happiness and, simultaneously, lead to miracles—big and small.
6. I will develop understanding, not judgment.
I will not judge others, their actions, or they choices. By learning about the conditions in which they have lived, the environment in which they have been raised, and anything else that has made them who they are today, we can limit our judgments and instead find ways to help others. Even when someone hurts us, it’s important to not place all the blame on them or to turn ourselves into permanent victims. The only way forward is to take responsibility for our emotions, actions, and thoughts.
7. I will see reality as it is.
I realize that my mind is the price I pay for being human. I recognize the illusions that this creates and how I grasp on to them. This year, we must see reality as it truly is and not hold on to the expectations of our minds.
8. I will not dwell on the past.
The past is long gone and the future isn’t here yet. I will not dwell on what has naturally departed. I will let it go, trusting that what’s coming is better and crucial for my growth. Holding on to the past just breeds more misery—something none of us need.
9. I will not be anywhere but in the here and now.
The here and now is all we have. When my mind wanders away, I shall bring it back. I will focus on every activity I do and immerse myself in it, completely. I will not let one moment slip away without being aware of it. I will not take my life for granted.
10. I will understand the dangers of attachment.
Attachment is the main cause of my misery—the same is probably true for most of us. Because I have experienced the difficult outcomes of attachment, I know I should be more aware. While we should continue getting involved with the world around us, it’s best if we let go of expectations or blind hopes. We need to love ourselves and make self-care a priority, because when we love ourselves, we don’t need people or objects to fill the void inside us. And once that happens, we can love others mindfully, without needing to hold on to them.
Author: Elyane Youssef
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman
Social Editor: Emily Bartran