Happiness has always been an interest of mine, since the media and training work I do is about finding joy, happiness, the opportunity in the obstacle and solutions to the problem.
In a recent article posted at Aish.com, “7 Steps to Increase Happiness,” Rabbi Dr. Benji Levy lists the steps, along with the biblical reference.
Here are Levy’s words, in italics, followed by my comments.
1. Rid your heart of hatred
Hatred hurts the hater. The Torah instructs us not to hate your brother in your heart (Vayikra 19:17).
Resentment and hatred are not constructive emotions. Resentment has the potential to prevent relationships from moving forward. Although some people thrive on resentment, because it makes them feel powerful and vindicated, it most often prevents relationships from moving forward and continually brings negativity into the sphere of the resentful person. Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for improved health and peace of mind. Forgiveness can lead to healthier relationships.
2. Work to resolve doubts
Our sages teach that there is no joy like resolving doubt (Proverbs 15:30). … Let go of doubts that are out of your control and resolve those that are within your control.
We cannot change things out of our control, but we can change our attitude about them. There are also things we can do, such as support what we believe, volunteer and offer assistance for a cause – even if, ultimately, we won’t be making the final decision. When we can alleviate doubt and do what’s within our control, it makes life easier and happier.
3. Sometimes expect less (Yirmiyahu 45:5)
…When you expect less it is more likely that the outcome will exceed your expectations. … This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive for more, it just means that being realistic and expecting less in certain areas can lead you to greater happiness.
I think there is a fine line here. The more grateful we are for what we have, the more opportunity we have to bring abundance into our lives. When we are always seeking what’s next, we sometimes miss what is in front of us. Appreciating what we have can bring more joy into our lives, while moving toward our goals brings us joy as well. It is a balancing act.
4. Give more
When you give – be it of your time, money, expertise or self – even a small gift, gesture or compliment, your body responds by producing “happiness” chemicals, such as dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin. … As the Torah says, “You shall surely open up your hand to your brother” (Deut. 15:11).
There is a joy in giving, especially when it is something you love to do and you know it will bring joy to others. Whether the gift is intrinsic or extrinsic, the effect is often the same for both the giver and the receiver.
5. Choose life and live (Deut. 30:19)
Choosing life doesn’t just mean maintaining consciousness, it means doing the things that make you feel alive, that challenge and empower you ….
Having a purpose helps you prioritize and simplify your life, gives you meaning, focuses your energy and motivates you. Having a purpose can also promote physical health, mental health and happiness, and could be a key to healthy aging.
6. Don’t covet (Exodus 20:14)
Jealousy and unhealthy comparisons are the thief of joy. When we focus on what others have, we lose sight of the good we have ….
We see comparisons everywhere. All of us have strengths as well as challenges. We can proactively work towards something we want, something that others might have already achieved. The key is to not stay stuck in a comparison-thinking loop, so that we can move forward.
7. Focus on what you have
… The Mishna teaches, “Who is the rich person? The one who takes pleasure in his lot” (Ethics of the Fathers, 4:1).
We often take for granted what we have and the gifts we have been given. When we take the time to focus on what we have, by remembering and honoring our strengths and gifts, connecting with old friends, telling our stories and having celebrations, we bring all of these gifts into the forefront.
PATRICIA RASKIN, owner of Raskin Resources Productions, is an award-winning radio producer, business owner and leader. She is on the board of directors of Temple Emanu-El, in Providence, and is a recipient of the Providence Business News 2020 Leaders and Achievers award. Her “Positive Aging with Patricia Raskin” podcast is broadcast on the Rhode Island PBS website, ripbs.org/positiveaging.