(To dedicate a table talk in honor or memory of a loved one, send an email.)
Or maybe a little of each?
(What sort do you suppose call or email their rabbi the most often? Sometimes the phone rings off the hook. Other times it's quiet. No news is good news? Or are they too stressed to call?)
I don't know if it's a trend, or maybe we've entered a particularly unhappy period of human history, but happiness courses are now packed at Harvard and Stanford.
But I'm sure you know some people who are "happy people" and others who are "unhappy people".
Here's the first question for your table:
What do happy people do (differently from unhappy people)?
After everyone has a chance to answer, you might want to share with them this excellent post by blogger Jacob Sokol. Worth printing the entire thing, but here is my abridgement of his main points, called "12 Things Happy People Do Differently — And Why I Started Doing Them":
- Express gratitude. -- When you appreciate what you have, what you have appreciates in value. We're gonna have a hard time ever being happy if we aren't thankful for what we already have.
- Cultivate optimism. -- People who think optimistically see the world as a place packed with endless opportunities, especially in trying times.
- Avoid over-thinking and social comparison. -- Comparing yourself to someone else can be poisonous. If you feel called to compare yourself to something, compare yourself to an earlier version of yourself.
- Practice acts of kindness. -- Performing an act of kindness releases serotonin in your brain. Selflessly helping someone is a super powerful way to feel good inside. (The job of most anti-depressants is to release more serotonin.)
- Nurture social relationships. -- The happiest people on the planet are the ones who have deep, meaningful relationships. Did you know studies show that people's mortality rates are DOUBLED when they're lonely? We feel connected and a part of something more meaningful than our lonesome existence.
- Develop strategies for coping. -- How you respond to the tough moments is what shapes your character. It can be hard to come up with creative solutions in the moment It helps to have healthy strategies for coping pre-rehearsed, on-call, and in your arsenal at your disposal.
- Learn to forgive. -- Harboring feelings of hatred is horrible for your well-being. Your mind doesn't know the difference between past and present emotion. When you "hate" someone, and you're continuously thinking about it, those negative emotions are toxic for your well-being.
- Increase flow experiences. -- Flow is a state in which it feels like time stands still. It's when you're so focused on what you're doing that you become one with the task. Action and awareness are merged. You're not hungry, sleepy, or emotional. You're just completely engaged in the activity that you're doing.
- Savor life's joys. -- Deep happiness cannot exist without slowing down to enjoy the joy. When we neglect to appreciate, we rob the moment of its magic. It's the simple things in life that can be the most rewarding if we remember to fully experience them.
- Commit to your goals. -- Being wholeheartedly dedicated to doing something comes fully-equipped with an ineffable force. Magical things start happening when we commit ourselves to doing whatever it takes to get somewhere. Counter-intuitively, having no option -- where you can't change your mind -- subconsciously makes humans happier because they know part of their purpose.
- Practice spirituality. -- When we practice spirituality or religion, we recognize that life is bigger than us. We surrender the silly idea that we are the mightiest thing ever. It enables us to connect to the source of all creation and embrace a connectedness with everything that exists.
- Take care of your body. -- Taking care of your body is crucial to being the happiest person you can be. If you don't have your physical energy in good shape, then your mental energy (your focus), your emotional energy (your feelings), and your spiritual energy (your purpose) will all be negatively affected. Did you know that studies conducted on people who were clinically depressed showed that consistent exercise raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft? Not only that, but here's the double whammy... Six months later, the people who participated in exercise were less likely to relapse because they had a higher sense of self-accomplishment and self-worth.
2nd Question for your table - Is happiness a matter of nature or nurture?