September 13, 2007
12 thoughts on happiness for the 10 Days of Awe
"It's a great mitzvah to always be happy."1. Happiness is not always easy: You work out to be fit, and you have to work to be happy. It's also easier to be unhappy (stuck) than happy.
-- Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
2. Happiness is a choice: Anyone, from prisoners to paraplegics, can become happy. It's a state of mind, having a sense of mastery over your life.
3. Happiness has little to do with external factors: Money, power and fame rarely bring happiness. If you choose your goals based on internal values, not external, they can bring you happiness.
4. Happiness does not come from doing nothing: We all have control of our leisure time. Use it to engage in challenging things you love: gardening, creating, exercising, being with loved ones. Sloth usually brings unhappiness.
5. Happiness doesn't mean avoidance of pain: Everyone in life will have pain. But, to quote the Dalai Lama, don't add suffering to the pain.
6. Perspective is the key to happiness: Rabbi Nachman Gamzu said, "Gam zu l'tovah: "This is all for the best." In the game of life, if you learn life lessons from painful situations, you get to move one step further.
7. Practice gratitude: It's hard to be thankful and unhappy at the same time. "Abi gezunt," is the Yiddish phrase of old: "At least you have your health." Everyone has something to be grateful for.
8. Happiness doesn't mean the end of achievement: You can be dissatisfied with somethin and not let it make you miserable. You can be happy and still want more. You will probably always want more.
9. Be engaged in the world: Relationships, true connectedness, bring lasting joy.
10. To thine own self be true: Our sage Hillel said, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me?" Take care of yourself: your body, your health, your mind, your spirit.
11. Give to the world: "And If I am only for myself, what am I?" -- that crucial component of Hillel's famous three-part quote. President Bill Clinton, in his new book, "Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World," presents many reasons to give, one of them being it is the best way to make yourself happy.
12. Decide to be happy now: As Hillel said, "If not now, then when?"