Happiness Hacks

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Grandeur or Humility?

 For an under 2 minute audio version click here 

A healthy self-concept is vital to happiness and the Key to this is humility.  Yet, when humility is misunderstood and one sees themselves and being insignificant, they will stop caring about their actions, believing that they are of no importance, which can ultimately lead to the extremes of inactivity and laziness or immoral behaviour and slavery to ones every impulse.

Authentic humility is when one is completely unabsorbed with themselves.  Humble people keep complete focus on their mission in life, for they recognise that G-d created man not as a “needy” being but as a “purposeful” being.  This is a form of healthy personal grandeur, where one understands that a single act can change the world forever, that something eternal is at stake in every deed we perform, that every human being is a partner with G-d in the story of the universe, and that we each have a unique mission that only we can accomplish. This should lead to a profound sense of responsibility to carry out this mission in the best possible manner.

Reb Simcha Bunim pf Pshischa one gave a Chossid of his two pieces of paper.  One with the statement by Abraham in Genesis, “I am but dust and ashes”, and the other with the words of the Talmud, that everyone must say, “The world was created for my sake”, and told him to place the papers in two different pockets.   Reb Simcha than said that our challenge in life and the secret to purposeful living is to know when to flash which piece of paper.

A healthy “happiness inducing” self-concept, is keeping in mind and blending both the humility and the grandeur of the human being.

The Duty to Bless

 For a 2 minute audio version click here 

It’s human nature to experience an emotional spike of joy when we get something new.  But new ultimately becomes normal and we don’t find happiness in normal. So we look for the new new.  The cycle never ends. When we are so focused on getting more, we lose the chance to appreciate what we already have.
Many see the drive to accumulate more as a result of unhappiness and the need to fill the emptiness that unhappiness brings.  But in truth, the drive for more means that our minds and hearts are focused on something negative i.e. that which we don’t have. This is not just a roadblock to happiness, it is also a path that leads to unhappiness.
A Jewish antidote to this vicious cycle is offered by the Kuzari: “One’s pleasure is enhanced by the duty of saying blessings over everything we enjoy or that happens to us.”
The Jewish morning prayer (Shacharit) begins with several preliminary blessings to thank G-d for providing us with our daily needs and for performing everyday miracles.  Some of these blessings include thanks for waking in the morning, our body functioning properly, our sight, freedom, clothing, strength etc.
These blessings of thanks force us to begin our day with gratitude which is an antidote to taking things for granted and is therefore a key to happiness.
The gratitude we feel then for what we have does not come only from the thing itself but also from appreciating that it is the Almighty who bestowed all these pleasures upon us. This awareness greatly enhances the value of these pleasures.
Here is a practical exercise:
Imagine what your life would be like without some of the things we often so easily take for granted eg your home, family, job, health etc.  Then, recite a prayer thanking G-d for providing you with that gift.

My Every Need

 For an under 2 minute audio version click here 

The Jewish morning prayer (Shacharit) begins with several preliminary prayers and blessings to thank G-d for providing us with our daily needs and for performing everyday miracles.  These prayers are meant to be said at home before one goes to synagogue.  The objective of these blessings are to notice G-d’s favours in the repetitive rhythms of life and to appreciate His wonderful gifts to us. In these blessings, nothing is taken for granted, but as granted.

One of the blessings states: “Blessed are You, …O G-d…who has provided me my every need”.

A story is told of a righteous Jew who, despite living in utter poverty, was always naturally happy.  When asked how he was able to maintain such a positive attitude in the face of such trying circumstances, he responded that each day he prayed to G-d to provide all his needs.  “If I am poor than one of my needs is poverty.  Why should I be unhappy if I have whatever I need?”

It’s not possible for many of us to achieve this intense level of trust.  Still we can work to develop in our personal lives a more sincere trust in G-d. 

Children prefer lollies, but we would rather give them healthy and nourishing foods.   Children cry from injections, but we still immunise them because we know what is good for them.

Sincere trust in G-d means realising that G-d knows our needs better than even we do.  Even some very unpleasant experiences are actually for our good.

A practical take away:  try to handle adversity with less anger and resentment by contemplating that G-d is compassion and he gives me that which he knows, far better than I, what I truly need.

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