By Bracha Goykadosh
First published in the spring of 2006, issue #7.
1. Happiness is a state of mind. Place yourself in it. You know how some days, everything is just going wrong and tumbling madly out of control? It’s those days that you want to scream. Nobody is saying that you have to be happy those days. (Those cheerful, perky people who always have that smile glued onto their face in any situation are…annoying.) But you’re right, if you’re feeling depressed right after you aced a killer math test, that’s when you gotta plaster that smile onto your face. No matter what. Ever notice how actors get really wrapped up in their parts? If you act like a happy person, it’ll lead to true happiness.
2. Exercise. Exercise gives you endorphins and endorphins make you happy. Whether it’s Pilates, yoga, or karate or even joining your school basketball team, working up a rigorous sweat can help get those endorphins, a neurotransmitter in the brain which has pain-relieving properties, working.
3. Challenge yourself. You may be depressed because you are bored and don’t have enough of a challenge. Find a new hobby such as knitting, gardening, or baking, and see what hidden talents you can discover. Set goals, such as reading 20 books by the end of the month, and achieve them! Achievements will make you feel good about yourself.
4. Make new friends and keep the old. Email your friend who just made aliyah, call your friend who just switched schools, befriend the new girl. Even better, get together with a bunch of your friends for iced lattes and donuts (so unhealthy, so delicious…). Then, do something fun afterwards, like scout the mall for psychedelic sunglasses for your younger sister’s birthday present!
5. Volunteer. Tutor a second grader, for free. Help a mother with thirteen young children prepare for Shabbos. Work with special children. When you help other people, you will realize how lucky you are!
6. Laugh. Just take out a stack funny books and start reading. Don’t take life too seriously, and try to find the (sometimes ironic) humor in every situation. This means that even when your little sister is driving you crazy and trying to make you do her homework for her, because it’s just ‘way too hard’ and she ‘can’t do it herself’, you shouldn’t lose your cool. As hard as it may seem, you should try to help her out and make a joke about how you always wanted more homework. A sense of humor is a wonderful thing.
7. Listen to music. Studies have shown that music greatly influences your mood, so if you listen to some hard-core rapper belt out about how horrid his life is, you might not end up being in the best of moods. Listen to light, happy, airy tunes, which inspire you- not deflate you.
8. You time. Have you ever heard of ‘you time?’ As nice as it is to help other people, find a time that is just for you. You can listen to your new CD, read the latest novel, give yourself a manicure and facial… Just find time to bond with yourself. You, after all, are the person you spend the most time with, every hour, every single second of the day! Write your feelings in a journal, and just get to know yourself. Being your own best friend isn’t all too bad…
9. Family time. As beautiful as ‘you time’ is, ‘family time’ is just as fabulous. Family links are great things. Go shopping with your mother, learn a sefer with your father, play chess with your older brother, or help your younger sister with her homework.
10. Pray. A connection with a greater Being is a very powerful thing. When I picture Chassidim, I see a painting with a Chassid with an ebullient smile on his plump rosy cheeks, framed by golden ear locks. Chassidim are known to devote a large chunk of their day to a spiritual connection. Something has to connect to the other. Daven at least once a day with kavanah; you are really having a conversation with Hashem. Place your troubles and worries in Hashem’s hand and have confidence that Hashem’ll really take care of them. Because He will.