There are times in your life you feel low and not high
But please don't waste time with a sad 'oy va voy'
when you could be now in a state of pure joy!
How can we bring joy and happiness in our lives?
How can we bring joy back into our lives if we have lost it for a while?
Forget yourself for a moment. Do something to make someone else feel good. Is your neighbour lonely? Do you know someone who doesn't get many callers? Even a bright cheery e mail with a joke and a smile or a compliment can be so important to the other person, it can make their day! Compliment your spouse, your child, your neighbour. Do a little kindness. The more the merrier! Listen to them and laugh at their jokes. (Even if they're not funny)
You will lift their spirits and yours in turn will be lifted.
That's also a very good time to daven.
Think of any goal you can handle at the time- something worthwhile, something good, it doesn't have to take a lot of effort but it has to be something good for the world at large or for your own wellbeing at large. Write it down as a goal, then just do it! (I will plant those magic beans today, I mean, I'll set up my sprouts today for the first time in ages...) This is wonderful for your self esteem. Then set yourself a slightly more ambitious goal. This fulfils and builds your sense of self worth and your overall sense of contentment.
Take a shower, use your most fragrant bath oils and lotions.
Buy some fruit you haven't eaten in ages and really take your time eating it, savouring it.
Take a walk. Enjoy the breeze on your face, enjoy the beauties of nature. Take time to smell the flowers.
At low times G-d has never failed to treat me in this respect. I find a lovely flower, or a bird I haven't seen before or in ages, or hear an exquisite bird song or catch the aroma of the pine trees in the air. Keep your eyes and ears open, the wonderful beauties of the universe are all around us to lift our spirits and heal us.
A vigorous walk, for at least half an hour, or even a run, will cause endorphin release into the system and make us feel good.
We can enjoy music on a tape or radio in the kitchen as we work. I tend to be on the move a lot around the house but if I have to be on the spot for a while of relatively mindless labour - washing dishes, ironing, sewing repairs - that's a really good time to listen to something you really enjoy. If your music is annoying to others, either because you like it louder than they are willing to stand or you're playing a style which is not their mood right now, then there are all kinds of gadgets you can buy to clip onto your belt, wasteband, whatever, and headphones are cheap.
Sing along! If the music gets to you you can take three minutes off the dishes to dance spontaneously to the music- it's more than worth the time out.
Be spontaneous! Sometimes when you finish working on a project or you finish learning something really inspiring you might feel like breaking into a tune, a 'nigun'. So do it! Many wonderful nigunim have been created at such moments. Sometimes you hear people say "I could have danced for joy!". So do it! Don't let it be 'the time I almost danced', let it be the time 'I danced and my kids laughed at me', no, I mean, 'I danced and my kids joined in'.
Reb Nachman advised us all to dance every day.
Please avoid *using* heavy carbohydrate food, chocolate and alcohol to cheer you up. You may truly believe you will never have a substance abuse problem but none of these methods can really help you and in too many cases they have led to serious health problems. (You can use chocolate to treat yourself for using all the other methods successfully!) Seriously, I find chocolate a delightful confection. I'm opposed to using it for emotional needs
Shopping is often used by women as a route to happiness. It works for a little while and it can be a lot of fun, especially if you go with a friend and make it a social event, but it can be an expensive route and the novelty tends to fade.
Why is shopping pleasurable? We enjoy the process of acquiring new possessions, the hunt, the acquisition, the novelty, the feel of totally new, beautiful, unspoiled goods. You can tell I'm a woman!
The sages were smart.
'azeh hu ashir? hasameach bechelko' -
'who is wealthy?
he who rejoices in his portion' (ethics of the fathers)
Before you head out with your pocket book, take a look around your place. Focus on enjoying all your possessions you have AS IF they were new. This can motivate you to take care of the things you have, to treasure them, to 'honour' them even if you've had them a long time. Especially if you've had them a long time. Sentimental value is often more meaningful than novelty. Give everything you have sentimental value! Wash your curtains and rehang them- don't they look great now? Polish the candlesticks till they gleam back at you. 'This mug the kids got me for my birthday five years ago, and this plate was one of my wedding presents, and this I bought when I just moved into this apartment as a newly wed... and this chachke was complimented by my best friend and so on and so on Be creative! '
Housework can be a drudge or it can bring huge pleasure and satisfaction. As in all things: *It all depends on your attitude.* 'I'm creating a pleasant environment for my family and fully appreciating all the blessings I have' or 'I'm just a servant around here and they're all slobs, this is menial and my mind could be better engaged elsewhere, besides, it's not cool for a modern lady to like this stuff...'
If you still don't believe you can learn to derive any satisfaction from it, even so much as the satisfaction of stoically fulfilling an irksome obligation, for your emotional wellbeing do stuff you do enjoy that makes at least enough money to hire someone!
WE MUST DO WHATEVER WE CAN TO REMOVE BLOCKAGES TO JOY
Joy is a natural state of a healthy living being.
If we are not feeling joy, we can assume that SOMETHING is blocking it.
(esp if the 'treating symptoms didn't work'. And don't tell me they won't work if you didn't try them yet! There is no substitute for experience. Now go back up to the top of the list and try them and then come back and say 'uh uh, I'm still miserable'. Yes? ok, now I believe you, you are depressed and your taste for life has been damaged and my heart goes out to you. I really hope the following can help you )
We could still have damage to our psyches if any or all of the above methods DID work. It's a matter of degree.
Here is the time to pray for wisdom and clarity -
'please Hashem, please reveal to me why I am hurting!
I want to know what I should do!
Please give me insight!'
This kind of prayer cannot be underestimated, it is very powerful. Pray to break down those walls!
If you are feeling sad, your psyche is in pain!!!
When our bodies are in pain we are either injured or we are sick.
If our psyches are in pain it's often pretty much the same story. Your pysche has been injured OR it is afflicted with some kind of illness, usually a negativity infection of some sort. It's no stigma, just as catching a cold is no shame.
Just as a body feels pain if it is damaged, your psyche feels pain if it is damaged. You need to identify the injury and take care of it. We feel lousy if the toxins of a bacteria are messing up our blood. Similarly, we feel lousy if our psyche is filled with toxins from some foreign source.
We should never sweep these things under the carpet and just try to be jolly in other ways. The consequences could be serious.
It's relatively easier to deal with injuries. Most of them are actually small though painful, and have to be just left to themselves to heal over time. They will. We must not PICK at them! 'You know what so and so did to me, she......' Talking to others and brooding about it over and over will just keep the wound open- and make it worse!
They're very like skin wounds. The skin has many nerves and even a prick or a stubbed toe is felt keenly, though the real damage is minimal.
Other wounds can be much deeper. If they reach down and expose our 'vital organs' - our very inner sense of self worth - we can be in deep trouble. We can bleed to death in our psyche. We MUST not let that happen! Being dumped in a relationship is one such agony, being rejected or resented by children or stepchildren is another, being fired after long service, being criticized and inadequately praised by someone important to you... I'm sure you can come up with more.
We have to protect ourselves from the cause of injury. If someone is chronically abusive to everyone we should either find a way to prevent that person hurting us so much or, if that is not possible, simply keep away, even if that means quitting our jobs or divorcing or moving out. Where possible we should discuss the words or actions which caused the hurt. In many cases, often to our great surprise, it will turn out to be a misunderstanding. Reaching peace heals our inner pains most effectively.
llness in the psyche. There are many causes of this. Some things we can help, other things we sadly cannot help. We're talking about complexes deep in the psyche, negative patterns of thought caused by earlier negative patterns of thought especially in terms of our self esteem and sense of self worth. Too many people are literally mind sick in this department. We all need healing to some extent.
This brings me to an issue about which I have very strong feelings - and I especially address parents here.
PLEASE don't get into the habit of using your child's NAME if you ever have to pull him up for doing something wrong.
I've seen it too often and it's very easy to fall into this trap. The child's name is almost invariably used, loudly and repeatedly, when summoning him for some wrong doing and *forgotten* when we're praising him.
It doesn't seem a big deal. It is a huge deal! The child naturally associates his name with his inner identity. He's going to associate his negative deeds with his identity. This is going to be reinforced every time his name is used in a negative context. The result? A negative self image. He'll emerge from childhood with a bitter taste to his own name, (and will probably change it to a new Sanskrit name when he moves to an Ashram) AND a great deal of subconscious garbage about his belief in his self worth.
When we have to point out that our child has done something inappropriate we must do so gently and firmly, with the message that such behaviour is not fitting for the person. This is the way of the great rabbis. When we praise him: 'Moshe! I saw the job you did in your room, it's beautiful!'
Illness in the psyche often goes back to childhood, to treatment by parents, relatives, peers or teachers. For this we need to go through a long conscious process of LETTING GO, SHEDDING our old hurts like old skins. We can do this as a ritual. Whenever we feel the pain we tell ourselves "I let go, I leave this behind, I'm not going to shlep this burden"
In the Jewish prayer before retiring the FIRST item is a prayer which begins 'hre ani mochel' - 'behold I forgive.... This is a shedding, letting go prayer. So what if the dude doesn't deserve to be forgiven! That's his/her account with heaven! The prayer is for YOU, so that the pain that person caused you does not continue to eat your insides.
We scar ourselves by any negative behaviour. If we deceive a friend we scar ourselves. If we hurt someone, accidentally, and all the more so deliberately, we scar ourselves. If we lose our cool with a family member we scar ourselves even as we damage others we damage ourselves because deep within we know we're doing something against our higher values of love and truth and peace. We may succeed in denying this consciously but we cannot avoid the inner violation of our own integrity and we will face the consequences in our deeper psyche. If we are not at peace with another we are not at peace with ourselves. Everyone we know is as if a part of us- we are like a little cosmos. If the person is very close to us we are all the more damaged if we are not at peace with that person. Bit by bit wee create our own Gehinnom on earth! We can create our own barriers, our own blocks and that is a tragedy.
We must do all we can to mend and heal those blocks. We must chase after peace with family members, neighbours, estranged friends, even if we have to lose face and suffer even excruciating humiliation for a little while, we will feel good amazingly soon.
Simply put, this is tshuva- literally 'returning'
In regretting our blockages and seeking reconciliation we return to the path of our higher values. We keep G-d's will in the centre of our vision.
We do it for our own mental, emotional health at the very least!
I wish you, us, all much success!
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