Contact Us

How Can I Be Happy?

How Can I Be Happy?

 Email

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.
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
70 Comments
1000 characters remaining
Joe Palm Beach September 14, 2014

Don't trivialize the ease of happiness for children Not all children are happy. Some never have enough to eat to be healthy. Some are homeless and they are cold and sick all the time. Some are terrorized and terrified or blamed and ashamed. Or all of the above. Some children have plenty of reason to be unhappy, especially if they dread encountering one or both parents, or some other persistent disparaging hurtful presence in their lives. Some children are expected to cheer up their unhappy parents, and try desperately, but they can't do it. Some children's parents threaten to commit suicide, and they dread that the parent will do it. And some parents DO do it. Some children are threatened at school and at home by criminals who make horrific demands or else their families will be killed. There are plenty of children for whom something is wrong, and it's more serious than needing a diaper change.

But even these, once reaching a certain age, can make a list of things to be grateful for. Can they see? Can they hear? Walk? Breathe? Reply

marcia September 10, 2014

To my amazement - gratitude & joy someone spoke of my exact challenge in this article. To me this does feel like a miracle . Of all the challenges in the world - of all the websites on the internet - of all the articles & comments on this website - someone talks about my specific challenge
...... I have asked someone on this website to give me the exact palms to recite.. Someone was nice enough to do so. And now I see someone mentioning my exact challenge. This gives me a lot of hope to persevere . I look forward to writing about my positive outcome . Thank you.


Reply

Saul Cinncinnati July 16, 2014

Eat nourishing food. Get 5 minutes of exercise every day. Take time to laugh and cry. Nourish your soul selfishly.
Nourish others too.
Be close to others.
Try to care for them without "taking" care of them.
Face up to the traumas of your life up to now. Acknowledge that you have good reason to grieve. And do grieve, without resentment, without self-pity, and without self-blame. Acknowledge that you had a right to be treated decently, but avoid wallowing in blaming others.
Claim your right to offer your gifts to others now.
And when you find your gifts are valuable, acknowledge the value and rejoice.

I know this is difficult. But this is the general direction to try to go.
Get help, but be sure that this is the direction they are helping you to go.

Serve GD with joy. Close your eyes and then take 20 minutes to write a long list of blessings. Can you breathe? Can you see? Can you walk? Do you have a place to live? And so on. Wow! Lots to be thankful for! Thank GD! Focus there.

And avoid beating up on yourself. Reply

Chaim Denver June 30, 2014

How to be happy--see below from Belize. Also try this.... First,acknowledge that you are a decent person and you have as much right to life and joy as the average person.

Next, offer a friendly hello to everyone you see.

Be on the alert for opportunities to be helpful.

If you can't think of anything helpful, try this: Ask your local congregation to assign you a list of people in the hospital and offer to visit one person (or more) every week.

If you're a pack rat, spend one minute every hour opening your heart to Gd's love. Then say Thank You to Gd for the love. Pray that this love will inspire you to sort through the stuff you've saved and throw some of it away. You have a right to a free environment.Stop buying stuff just to buy stuff. You don't need stuff.

If you are estranged from a parent or sibling, reach out to them. Tell them you forgive them. Ask them to forgive you. If nothing comes of this, at least you did your bit. But maybe a caring relationship will emerge. Don't be a victim, but do take a chance of reclaiming love. Reply

Anonymous Belize June 26, 2014

I keep getting the urge to advise my friends who say they are miserable to search for ways to give of them selves. Not just on an occasional impulse, but to find a programmatic way to involve one's self in some kind of helping endeavor. We all have some kind of talent or interest or opportunity that we can plug into to be a habitual giver. Maybe all my problems won't disappear, but as I change from miserable about myself to finding out I can be happy to be of service, maybe my own problems start to look less tragic, more solvable. At any rate I am giving someone else material help or at least letting them feel that some one cares, and that alone is a good reason to feel better. Reply

Barbara Wynnewood, Pa 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! Reply

JDV 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. Reply

Margo Grace Ridgecrest 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. Reply

Mark Bockstein Plantation , FL February 9, 2014

Happiness You are as happy as you allow yourself to be.
Abraham Lincoln Reply

Judea I. Lawton Washington, DC 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! Reply

Neshama Simcha Florida 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. Reply

Shulamit Melbourne,Australia February 12, 2013

Children Yes, children are naturally happy. We must be careful not to crush their spirits while we are teaching them discipline. Reply

Ron Tam Canada 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 Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell River, CA, USA 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. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, 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. Reply

Anonymous Lusaka, Zambia February 12, 2012

I want to be happy but can't I do appreciate that happiness is a choice but it is not as easy as it looks. I have had a tough life, rejected by my father, rejected by my ex husband and his family. Everyone wants to be my friend as long as I can give them money so I do t have friends. I thought making money would make me happy sadly it hasn't. So here I am rich, young and miserable. I have no idea how to hear, someone help please Reply

Beverly Kurtin Hurst, TX November 20, 2011

My seder of sorrows I was depressed. I sought help. I discovered that my brain lacked a neuro-transmitter that was causing the depression. I was prescribed a medicine that worked and I returned to "normal."

Last month was spent in and out of the hospital with intolerable pain. I have spinal stenosis and a group of nerves managed to get pinched. All I could do was SCREAM. I am now on Morphine 24 hours a day but I still have pain. I just discovered that in addition to that I have a hernia AND I woke up this morning with cellulitis in one eye (infection of the skin cells) that is painful as anything else I've been through.

Am I still HAPPY? You BET I am. Hashem willing, I will be 71 next month, I am in a wheelchair most of the time.

HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE! I choose to be happy. If YOU want to be happy and are not because you are depressed, get thee to a doctor and get CURED. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA November 20, 2011

Beverly Kurtin, I totally admire your courage. Thank you, also, for the quote. It was so very inspiring to me. I had begun to get really super depressed over my physical conditions (and this contributes to a psychological condition too), but reading your post today is really cheering me up. Thanks. G-d bless you and I hope you find relief from your pains. Reply

Anonymous london, britain November 18, 2011

I've been facing difficult challenges in my life and have no friends, I felt tht my life had no meaning. But suddenly after a couple of years my life flipped 180 when I found the one who brought all the happiness in my life and tought me how to smile even in my hardest situations. So never lose hope to find happiness. Because tomorrow might be your lucky day. Reply

Beverly Kurtin Hurst, Texas July 10, 2011

You are the ONLY one standing in your way. For my friend in Birmingham, UK, The Rev. Harry Fosdick inspired me when I survived five heart attacks, open-heart surgery, and a massive hemorrhagic stroke that almost killed me. I live with chronic, intractable pain, nothing can stop the pain. He brilliantly said, “Rebellion against your handicaps gets you nowhere. Self-pity gets you nowhere. One must have the adventurous daring to accept oneself as a bundle of possibilities and undertake the most interesting game in the world - making the most of one's best.”
What happened to you was tragic indeed! Obviously, you are no longer seven, what can you do to move beyond that event? Why did it happen to you? You will never know; what are you getting from rehashing what happened over and over again? NOTHING. You can do anything you want. Millions of people have lost limbs and they move on, why not you? I’ll be praying for you and so will others. You can do ANYTHING—just DO IT! You can do anything you want to do. Reply

Related Topics