The Newsweek columnist Julia Baird writes about happiness:

“Is this endless pursuit of happiness just making us all miserable? We’ve said or affirmations, drunk coffee out of mugs with nonsensical quotes, and bought millions of tomes on getting rich quick while thinking positive thoughts.”

She claims that Americans outwardly say they are happy, even when they are not.

In fact, she writes; “The more overtly we have studied and pursued it, the less happy we have become and the more confusing it gets.” She quotes a study that states despite decades of economic growth in America, men and women are no happier than they had been.

Perhaps we need to examine what happiness is all about. We can’t control everything, however, what really matters will be under our control. Will we behave honorably, graciously, generously? Will we enhance other people’s lives?

For it is not what happens to us on which our happiness depends. It depends on how we respond to what happens to us.

A Rabbi’s top ten are:

  1. Give thanks
  2. Praise
  3. Spend time with your family
  4. Discover meaning
  5. Lift your values
  6. Forgive
  7. Keep growing
  8. Learn to listen
  9. Create moments of silence in the soul
  10. Transform suffering

It is not sugary promotions. It is not the power of positive thinking. It is not to be beautiful, wealthy and successful. It is to be involved in a life filled with values, meaning and significance. It is to recognize all the gifts that have come your way and appreciate those gifts and those around you. If you always want more, to be richer, more beautiful and more well known, you are missing the bigger picture. Be satisfied, be grateful for what you have, for the love you receive, and for what God has given to you. That is what happiness is all about.

The Talmud asks “Who is wealthy? The people who are satisfied with their lot.” May we be joyous and may we be satisfied and pleased with our lot. And may we make the most of our lives here on earth.

Rabbi Hirshel Jaffe, a cancer survivor, is a motivational/inspirational speaker on the theme NEVER GIVE UP! He authored “Why Me? Why Anyone?” which chronicles his rescue from leukemia and his spiritual triumph over despair. Known as “The Running Rabbi” for competing in the NY Marathon, he received the “Award of Courage” from President Ronald Reagan in a White House ceremony. Rabbi Jaffe was one of the clergy who visited the American hostages in Iran to offer them comfort and hope and was asked by the President to greet them at the White House upon their return. He received an honorary Doctorate from his seminary for “his work with the sick, and his noble influence upon all people. You can find more information on his website.

Image courtesy of Gabriela Chiloni.