Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Happiness is...

This article reports on a new school of thought within the mental health field: Happiness is overrated. According to several researchers our society has stigmatized sadness so much, labeling it “depression” and something to be treated, that we have discarded the value of sadness as a healing and creative power. Happiness, they say, has become an all-consuming passion in western culture.

I think it depends on what you define as happiness. In a consumer culture such as ours, people define happiness as getting everything they want. If things are lacking within their lives, the pursuit of happiness is the pursuit of whatever we perceive as lacking. I would go so far as to say that the extreme pursuit of happiness is the very cause of much of the unhappiness. If your goals are always to attain something else then you always feel something missing. (Not to mention the issues that accompany the obsession, such as debt and destruction of relationships.)

If we view happiness as satisfaction, contentment, and acceptance of one’s lot then it becomes so much more attainable. That kind of happiness is within everyone’s grasp.

As Ben Zoma said in Pirkei Avot, (4:1) :

“איזה הוא עשיר, השמח בחלקו”

“Who is rich? One who is happy with his lot.”

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