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How Can I Be Happy?

How Can I Be Happy?

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Question:

I know that a Jew is supposed to always be joyous, but when I look at myself and my life I see no good reason to be happy. On the contrary, I have plenty of reasons to be miserable. Am I supposed to be able to just switch on happiness at will?

Answer:

Yes, we face some heavy challenges in life, and feelings of despair are understandable. But we can turn our situation around. Happiness is never beyond our reach.

Children don't need to learn strategies for positive living That's because happiness is the natural human state. Just look at a young child. Children don't need to learn strategies for positive living, and they don't need a reason to be happy. They need a reason to be sad. If a child cries, we ask, "What's wrong?" If a child laughs and plays and dances around the room, we don't ask, "What's the big celebration about? Why are you happy?" A child is happy by default; if they aren't happy there must be a reason, like they need to be changed, they are hungry or thirsty or tired, or need attention, or just had a Bris. But as long as nothing's wrong, a child is happy for no reason at all.

Somewhere along the line things change. We grow older and become more demanding, harder to please, and we lose this childish contentment. As we become jaded by life's disappointments, we feel that we need a reason to be happy. If you see an adult walking around with a big smile, you ask, "What's wrong with you, why are you smiling?"

The difference is, a child is not self-conscious. They are free to be happy because they are not yet aware of themselves. It is only when we mature and become more self-aware that we also become more self-absorbed. We have worries and concerns, unfulfilled desires and unrealized dreams. None of us can honestly say we have it all, and we can always find reason to be upset. But a child isn't bothered by what he is "missing," so he does have it all. The child's lack of self-consciousness leaves her free to enjoy life and be happy.

As soon as we forget about what we need and instead focus on what we are needed for - our natural joy comes flowing back The more we are concerned with our own happiness, the farther we are away from achieving it. As soon as we forget about what we need and instead focus on what we are needed for--the good we can do for others rather than the good we can get for ourselves--our childlike joy comes flowing back and we are happy.

This is the focus of the joyous holiday of Purim: a time to give gifts to friends, donations to the needy, to say l'chaim, loosen our grip on our self and thank G-d for the opportunity to be alive. Even in the darkest times, by becoming mission-focused rather than self-focused, we can access our inner joy.

Happiness is not somewhere out there; it rests within, in that part of us that is forever young and forever giving--our soul.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
About the artist: Sarah Kranz has been illustrating magazines, webzines and books (including five children’s books) since graduating from the Istituto Europeo di Design, Milan, in 1996. Her clients have included The New York Times and Money Marketing Magazine of London.
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Discussion (65)
March 5, 2014
This was just wonderful!
Thanks for enlightening us.
I try to live my life as the child, always thanking HaShem for the good!
Barbara
Wynnewood, Pa
February 9, 2014
Happiness
What a beautiful concept - it's not what you need but what you are needed for. having worked with children and the dying, I see that humanity is one big circle and happiness can be found in the middle of it.
JDV
February 9, 2014
One thing to remember
Depression is a real disease, and if you find that you are depressed you need to seek help for that. There are many great ways to help you with feeling happy, but if you are in a real clinical depression none of those things will do you any good. As a sufferer of Bipolar Disorder I know that many well meaning people will tell me many things, but as well meaning as they are, if your brain is not well none of those matter. Depression is not a sin of the soul, it is an illness just like diabetes or any other long term illness that needs to be cared for. Blessings to you, and I hope that you can find the help you need.
Margo Grace
Ridgecrest
February 9, 2014
Happiness
You are as happy as you allow yourself to be.
Abraham Lincoln
Mark Bockstein
Plantation , FL
February 13, 2013
Judea I. Lawton
Judaism is happiness, if it is taught by the right person. We wake up loving the moment we open our eyes. We thank G-d for all He has done for us. We look at our challenges, and turn them into a play time. We see the pain of others, and know that it is a teachable moment. There is a reason why we are present to see what is before us, and ask, What can I do to help? And as the Rabbi's have always taught, "Jews know that we are responsible for one another." We are supposed to be happy. We are G-d's children, and He gave us a Holy People unto ourselves. Judea, very happy!
Judea I. Lawton
Washington, DC
February 12, 2013
Happiness is......
At the age of 74, last August, I was so unhappy that I was miserable with the challenges that Hashem had given me in this life. I knew that with these challenges came blessings from HaShem. On my birthday, I decided that every day that I left my house I would look for and find at least one good, joyous person.

First day, I met 3!!! since then, everytime I go out, I meet no fewer 6 beautiful souls. We never speak of religion, but speak of how great HaShem is to us. My challenges at home have disappeared, My happiness is expanding to others around me. My neighbor & I resolved our differences and we're both happy.
Neshama Simcha
Florida
February 12, 2013
Children
Yes, children are naturally happy. We must be careful not to crush their spirits while we are teaching them discipline.
Shulamit
Melbourne,Australia
December 10, 2012
Good answer. Someone who is unhappy cannot be expected to just switch to happiness at will. But it CAN be done gradually. Happiness is definitely within. And any barriers are also ultimately within. The question is, how to regain that natural happiness and effectively remove such baggage as fears, insecurity, anger and apathy that burdens us? There are some good answers to this here ... search the following: How I Can Be Happy - Squidoo
Ron Tam
Canada
February 15, 2012
Lusaka in Zambia, please come to America.
You would be so loved here, and if you live among other rich people, you'd just blend in. We have pockets of places where rich people choose to live.
Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell
River, CA, USA
February 14, 2012
Anon in Zambia, I think you have...
Something most people don't have, which you can share with the less fortunate, and it is NOT money. It is health, abilities, and probably, compared to my age, youth. So, take the moments you spend in feeling bad for yourself and go out and help the elderly in rest homes, or the handicapped in hospitals. Offer to volunteer there. Or, volunteer working with animals. I think in one of those areas, you will find happiness. Also, joint the Toastmaster's International speaking club nearby and give speeches. People will applaud you, not for money but for your talent in speaking! It always amazes me when people who have lots of money aren't happy. I think they aren't because they spent too much time focusing on getting rich and not enough on their spiritual, intellectual, and social development.
Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell
Riverside, CA, USA
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