Everyone wants to be happy; you’d think that we would have figured it out by now. What is the key to unlocking this ever elusive state of mind we call happiness?
The Jewish tradition teaches that when the Hebrew month of Adar begins, we can access a higher level of happiness. What is it about this month that teaches us what happiness really is?
The word Adar comes from the Hebrew word "adir" which means strength and power. What does that have to with happiness?
Adar is also the month in which the leap year takes place. Unlike the Gregorian calendar which adds an extra day every four years, the Jewish calendar adds an extra month. That extra month is called the "second Adar", and in the language of the Jewish sages is called "a pregnant year". Why?
There is no coincidence that the "happy month" is the "pregnant month". Happiness is something that comes from within. It is something that we have to give birth to, that we have to nurture and look after. Studies have shown that people who trigger happiness, either by recalling moments of great joy, or by regularly expressing thankfulness, experience more happiness in their daily lives. Thankfulness literally rewires the brain to lower stress levels and allow a person to more easily enter the happy mind set.
Triggering happiness is no easy task. That's why this month is called "strength". It is something that requires hard work and dedication. We give lots of our time and attention to enough things that don't make us happy. With determination we can choose to put our focus on thoughts that will actually make us happy. Imagine if we expressed thanks for everything that happens to us, all day, all the time. How much happier we would be?
I have practiced thankfulness exercises with many groups and the hardest area for people to say something good about is themselves. Try it. For the next week, every day, take a moment to think about what you love about yourself, and then say it out loud. Shout it from the rooftops.
The first thing we say when we wake up in the morning is "Modeh Ani," we thank God for giving us life. Before anything. Before checking your phone, before seeing how many conversations you’ve missed, before swiping right. Take a moment for yourself and nurture that child of happiness growing within you and say thank you.
That trains us to access the joy latent within us and to live with the awareness that happiness doesn't come to you, it comes from you.
Rabbi Ari Kayser is the Director of Online Education and the Editor-in-Chief of Perspectives magazine. Ari leads the Aish Online team in producing a wide range of media and publications, including short inspirational videos, podcast series and developing online courses. He relishes the challenge of conveying authentic Jewish teachings into the language of the 21st Century. Aside from qualifying as a rabbi, Ari also has a BSc in Economics from UCL and certification as a professional cocktail bartender. His interests include backpacking across the world, writing poetry and meditation.