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How do you want to start your New Year? Could this be the best year of your life?

The years go by so fast. Why not make 2014 the best year of your life by becoming unconditionally happy? That means deciding to be happy without needing a reason or external circumstances. Even people who struggle with anxiety and depression can learn to become happy. Research studies tell us that lasting happiness can be cultivated by focusing attention on positive states of mind like compassion, loving- kindness forgiveness and acceptance. A truly happy new year can be achieved by practicing these 3 simple steps every day:

o The first step is to be fully present in your life, by cultivating mindful nonjudgmental awareness. Decide to be mindful of momentary experiences in your life and pause periodically to regroup and remind yourself what is important and what matters the most. Regular meditation practice is the key to increase awareness.

o The second step would be inclining the mind toward joy. Your mind can be trained; you can learn to incline the mind toward the states that give rise to joy.

o The third step is to develop and increase positive thoughts and behavior.  When you are kind, generous, appreciative, at ease and calm, you experience genuine happiness and well being. This step includes understanding and practicing healthy activities that support these wholesome states.

This is the year you can transform your life. Before moving forward, take some time to think about the past year. If negative memories come up, make a list of lessons learned. Then ask yourself where you see your life going. Start by choosing your most important goal, and visualize yourself actually achieving that goal. What do you need to do every day to achieve your goals? Once you start living “one day at a time” your perceptions will shift. With increased awareness you will discover your internal blocks to achieving your goals. Once you’re aware of limiting beliefs and self-doubts, try this meditation:

     Recall the times when you felt the most confident and resourceful in your life. Once you welcome that feeling of previously experienced confidence, imagine yourself in near future achieving your goals. For example, if you are single and want to meet a mate this year – picture yourself being confident and feeling relaxed while going on a date. If you want to lose weight and get in shape – visualize yourself doing your favorite exercises and eating well balanced meals every day.  Remember the universal truth: “If one person can do this, I can do it.”

      Remind yourself frequently: “I already have all the resources I need.”

     In this New Year, ask yourself what you need to change old habits of thinking and behaving? We know from mindfulness practice that through radical acceptance of our present circumstances, we prepare ourselves for lasting change. We also know that anxiety and depression result from negative, self-destructive patterns of thought, belief, and behavior. Perhaps you need to acknowledge the reality of your life with its gains and losses. Recognize and accept your vulnerability – and your fears. Accept yourself for who you are – accept all of your strengths and weaknesses. You are human – only human. Open the door to “unconditional happiness” – the sense of being at peace with who you are, with life, and with all of the people around you.

Try this meditation on a daily basis:

1. Close your eyes gently and create an intention to “go within” and connect to your inner wisdom.

2. Take few deep mindful breaths and soothe your nervous system by simply breathing in (you can count 4 counts) and breathing out (6 counts) – make your exhale a few seconds longer.

3. Ask yourself what really makes you happy. Focus clearly on that experience – what makes you happy. Can you feel happiness that is not based on anything material, or on any specific situation or person?

4. Ask yourself what you can do to support your own health. What changes will you make to move toward being healthier?

5. When do you feel a sense of ease in your life? What will you do to create that feeling every day? What will living with ease feel like?

Make this year the most important year in your life. You can do this by living mindfully, moment by moment – create moments of ease, healthy behavior, self-acceptance and happiness. Your happiness results from the choices you make every day. Your happiness is in your hands – and your mind.

For more information on these and other powerful meditation practices contact Ivona Jancickova, LCSW – facilitator of the Happy Mind Therapy Group that combines mindfulness teachings, neuroscience research and cognitive therapy.