Finding Happiness and Finding God:
One of the greatest minds of this era, and one of the greatest thinkers in Judaism is, in my opinion, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (the very recently retired, Chief Rabbi of London). He gives what he believes are the top ten most important things we can do to find happiness. I wish to give his top ten and expand a little on each one through the next 10 short blog posts.
Some research studies have shown the Westerners, despite years of improving economic conditions, are generally no more happy than they were, and continue to seek the answers to their lack of happiness, through the masses of pop psychology offerings.
Research does appear to suggest that the wealthier people are, the happier they are (to some degree at least) and yet, research also seems to suggest that when adults have children they end up being less happy!!?
Given all the significant challenges of trying to quantify such as elusive emotion, or state of being, as happiness, perhaps we shouldn’t rely to heavily on such research!
At the same time, we all can reflect on our own personal experiences and on anecdotal evidence from the life experiences of our closest family members and friends, and how their happiness has changed through various significant life events.
For example, I saw first-hand how someone, very close to me, overcame a life-time of severe depression by taking on a job which involved taking significant responsibility for the welfare of vulnerable members of society.
I believe that these 10 Happiness Principles are 10 action steps which are foundational to a good and happy life.
Happiness Principle #1: Give thanks:
Being appreciate for what we have is always a good approach that demonstrates a good attitude. There seems no question that those who are appreciative for whatever good, no matter how small or great, that comes their way, are generally much more content with their lives, and hence less jealous of others and consequently happier.
Part of this appreciation is the recognition that we normally have no control over the circumstances, or country, or economic state we are born and grow up in, but as adults, we do have control over how we respond to our personal circumstances.
As Rabbi Sacks states it: “For it is not what happens to us on which our happiness depends. It depends on how we respond to what happens to us.”
Of-course, that’s easy for him to say! In reality, the practice of a good attitude is never easy!
To awake and start the day by being thankful that you have the day, that you are alive is a great start. Even being thankful that your normal bodily functions are working helps to engender a sense of calm and serenity.
The first waking prayer of Judaism fits this mold. It states: “I thank You, living and eternal King, who has restored my soul in mercy. Thank You, God, for giving me back my life.”
Giving thanks to the Almighty is a very common refrain in the Psalms. Just a few examples are Ps 7:17. 9:1.18:49, 30:4, 33:2, 35:18. 44:8, 45:17, 53:9, 54:6. 57:9. 75:1, 79:13 and so on.
The wording of Psalm 107:1 is often repeated: “Give thanks to YHVH, for he is good, for his loving kindness endures forever.”
This attitude or thankfulness is also quite common in the Apostle Paul’s writings. For example see 1 Thessalonians 5: 14-18
“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Messiah Yeshua for you.
If you take the time to read through just some of the many Psalms that speak of giving thanks you will also see what Happiness Principle #2 is.
Next: Happiness Principle #2