Happy people live longer

  • RabbiAriShishler
Forget an apple a day; a smile a day is healthier. This Adar, the month when the Talmud instructs us to increase in joy, consider the health benefits of unbridled joy.

Science has proved that happy people live longer. Laughter relieves stress and joyfulness improves the immune system and relieves pain. Be happy and everything will be fine. Your health will improve, your friends will enjoy your company and your family will like you again.

Ah, but where is the happiness “on”-switch? Read the news - local or international - and you will quickly believe that you will need to lose a few brain cells to be happy in today’s world of corruption, anti-Semitism and family breakdown.

There lies our mistake: We believe that happiness relies on external factors. A 2005 BBC study debunks that notion. They found that, in 1957, 52 per cent of Britons considered themselves “very happy”. Half a century later, that figure had declined to only 36 per cent.

Considering that the average Briton is wealthier, more mobile, more connected and entertained than his 50s counterpart, that turns the “if we have more, we’ll be happier” theory on its head.

A 2009 study (by the US National Bureau of Economic Research) found that the “liberated” women of today are generally less happy than their pre-feminism contemporaries were 40 years ago. Apparently, freedom and equality don’t guarantee happiness any more than money and technology do.

I’d wager that the Jews of the shtetl, who lived in matchboxes and had no running water or sanitation, were, on average, happier and less stressed than their great-grandchildren who have two cars, a robust investment portfolio and platinum Voyager status.

Where do we find happiness? Not in possessions, nor opportunities, but in being in touch with, and totally comfortable with who we really are: G-d’s chosen people.

“Two centuries ago, and the Russian authorities had once again imposed a curfew on the Jewish population. A chosid of R’ Aharon of Karlin once felt a strong yearning to see his rebbe. He grabbed a Tehillim and stepped into the cold night, disregarding the curfew. He was soon arrested for having broken the law.

“Despite his failed attempt to visit his rebbe, the chosid refused to feel dejected and began to joyously read Tehillim in his cell. That didn’t last long. A warden summarily snatched away his Tehillim book. Still, the chosid would not submit to melancholy.

“‘They have kept me from my rebbe,’he told himself, ‘and they have taken my Tehillim. But, I am a Jew, and that nobody can take from me’!” With a surge of joy, he began to dance and sing. Momentarily, an officer arrived and escorted him from the prison, explaining that the jail was not an insane asylum.

“In high spirits, the chosid charged off to R’ Aharon and shared what had transpired. Hearing the story, R’ Aharon told him: ‘If one is joyous to be a Jew, a part of the Jewish nation, one is rescued from anything!’”

Shabbat Shalom and happy Adar!


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