Happiness Hacks

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Transforming Sadness

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Sadness is a normal yet undesirable fact of life. 
Here is a basic strategy in combatting sadness: Transform sadness into action.
There are two kinds of sadness: melancholy and dissatisfaction.
Melancholy is passive.  It’s where a person laments their fate and wallows in self-pity.  Melancholy is where a person surrenders to the mood and resigns themselves to their current state.
Dissatisfaction, on the other hand, is active.  It comes with a certain passion.  It can motivate a person to act and even make major changes in their lives.  Thus while sadness is inherently negative, nevertheless at times it can provide a force and energy for change and thus give birth to positive results.
Practically speaking, think of a personal concern that is causing you sadness, think deeply about which parts of this concern are within your control to bring about change.  Meditate on the fact that with feelings of dissatisfaction there remains vitality. This vitality leads to agitation to the point of doing something to rectify the cause of sadness.

The Power of Perspective

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Simcha (joy) nullifies all internal and external obstacles and impediments…causing them to be repelled of themselves, just as darkness is removed by light.”
-Rabbi Shne’ur Zalman of Liadi, first Chabad Rebbe

Our attitudes are not simply passive backdrops for what happens in our lives.  On the contrary, they are of utmost importance if one wants to live a life of joy.
A practical idea for generating an attitude of joy, even when the circumstances are not conducive to it, is putting things in perspective i.e.  in their proper frame of reference. This way we don’t exaggerate the bad and minimise the good.
Without perspective we tend to:
1. See things in black and white.
For example, if you performance falls short, you see yourself as a complete failure.  This is all or nothing thinking.
2. Dwell solely on the negative.
You pick out a single negative detail and exclusively dwell on it.  As a result all your vison and reality become darkened.
3. Ignore the Positive.
Positive experiences are rejected by saying for whatever reason that “they don’t count”.
4. Personalise Things.
You see yourself as the main cause of some external negative experiences, which you were in fact not primarily responsible for.
The solution to these tendencies is perspective.  Consider: is a small blunder indicative of total failure? Will a single negative event lead to a pattern of never ending negativity? 

Love or Respect?

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Every time a person imposes their self upon others, unhappiness follows.
Often we have this vision of how other people are meant to be.  Actually the closer they are to us, the surer we are that we know how they should be behaving.  But this is investment of emotional energy that will not pay off.
The emotion of love drives empathy and concern.  Love is to give.  In Hebrew, love is אהבה whose root is הב, which means to give.  But sometimes giving when not asked for or not needed is invasive,  such as an unwanted opinion. 
Respect, on the other hand, is withholding.  Respect enables us to take a step back and give others the space they need to operate independently, to make their own decisions and walk their own path. For example respecting another’s opinion even if we don’t agree with it.  Respect is appreciating another’s unique personality that sets them apart from you.
Love is – Going out of my way for you.
Respect is - Getting out of my way for you.
The key to healthy relationships and interactions, ones that avoid disappointment and stress, is to find the proper balance between love and respect.  Because untempered love is smothering and invasive, while untempered respect is distant and uncaring.

Playing G-d

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Many people suffer emotional stress and unhappiness by their attempts to control the uncontrollable.

We are born as unique individuals with a unique soul. This means that we are here to live a specific life, to have experiences particular to us. But when we try to control the uncontrollable, we are attempting the impossible and hence are doomed to failure.

What is the uncontrollable?

It wisely is said that there are three things one cannot change: the past, the truth or another person.
Any time we seek to change any of these three, we attempt to play G-d, which is not only impossible, but also detracts from our ability to deal with those things we are actually responsible for. Inevitably we will experience pain and are bound for disappointment and resentment.
This is particularly relevant to having expectations of others. This is futile and destructive. Love is a powerful emotion that drives empathy for others.  At the same time, too much love can be stifling. It is intrusive love untempered by respect.
A functional relationship is rooted in reality.  Living in the moment as it is.  This is the way G-d wants it to be.
This does not mean lacking compassion. It simply means accepting that I don’t have control and I know it’s not my place.
Our sages teach: when a rooster has wallowed in the dust, a thousand people with a thousand combs cannot clean it; but with a single vigorous shake, the rooster can free himself of every last speck of dust.
A way to negate the wish to control the uncontrollable is to utter a silent prayer.  It’s as simple and succinct as this: “This really hurts right now, but it’s not my problem. I can’t change this.  Amen

Chase or Choice?

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To be happy is a universal desire.  However a common obstacle to achieving a state of happiness is defining happiness as a pursuit.  We imagine we may find it in a new relationship, a new car, a better job or by winning Tatts Lotto.  We constantly make the “if only” assumptions in our mind.  If only I was more successful, if only I was better looking, if only I had a better partner etc I would be happier.

And yet we often see people who seem to have it all, blessed with dream like circumstances but still unable find an enduring state of happiness.  And there are others who struggle and find themselves in difficult circumstances who nonetheless are genuinely happy.
 Thus it’s evident that happiness is not dependent on external circumstances.  Happiness has everything to do with internal choices.
Our sages in ‘Ethics of our Fathers’ clearly teach “Who is rich?  He who is happy with what he has.”  
Events in life are neutral.  Our choice of how we interpret these events will determine our emotional states.
Happiness begins with truly appreciating what we already have.  This does not mean that negative circumstances do not exist.  It means that by counting our blessings, we are able to put the negative events of life into perspective, where they no longer seem so great and overwhelming.
Happiness isn’t a happening.  It’s a choice one makes in the here and the now.
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