Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just snap our fingers and be happier?
It may not be quite that easy, but finding out how to be happy is something that’s definitely within our reach. In fact, research has shown that only 10% of our happiness is at all related to our circumstances and what’s going on in our lives. So if you want to be happy, you don’t really have any other path besides creating it for yourself.
Sounds nice, doesn’t it? But what does that really look like?
In both Judaism and positive psychology, the key to happiness lies in knowing that your happiness is a choice.
That’s because true happiness, a deep and lasting sense of wellbeing, is something that we create through gradually changing our perspective on what’s going on in our life. We create our own realities by deciding how to interpret events going on around us, and by choosing what to focus on.
Ever drive to work and hardly remember getting there?
I’ve done it. And when I’m on that level of autopilot, there’s a whole lot that exists in the physical space I’m passing through that doesn’t exist at all for me. Because I didn’t choose to focus on it, it’s not part of my reality.
So what happens if instead of naturally focusing on the negative, on the lacking, on the stress… we choose to focus on gratitude, on the things that are going well, and the little joys that we sometimes pass by?
A whole lot happens. A whole lot of happiness.
That’s why, when he was elected to be president of the American Psychological Association in 1998, Dr. Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania called the field of psychology “literally half-baked.” He knew that science had become really great at finding what’s wrong, finding why it’s wrong, finding out all of the bad things that the wrong thing is causing… And he knew that science had never really committed to also studying what works.
When the field of psychology took a turn for the more positive during his tenure, they were catching up to a long-standing tradition in Chassidic philosophy to focus on joy, happiness, love of a fellow, and overall positivity. In other words: simcha, the Jewish state of wellbeing.
It’s a basic tenet of Judaism to “Ivdu et Hashem b’Simcha” (serve G-d with joy), one that has been passed down as an ideal way of living life since King David first wrote those words. And Chassidism takes that one step further by discussing our ability to push away negative thoughts “with both hands” and only dwell on thoughts that actually help us and move us forward.
But in my experience, it can definitely be a case of “easier said than done.”
That’s why discovering positive psychology has made such a huge impact on my life. Finding empirically researched tools that are proven to increase feelings of simcha in under 5 minutes a day? Yeah, sign me up.
If you’re ready to learn more about what simcha really is, and how to be happier in 5 minutes a day or less, I’ve pulled together some of the latest research in the field of positive psychology and meshed it with the wisdom of the Jewish sages. The result is a “Six Pillars of Simcha” workbook that I think you’ll love.