A seeker once asked his rabbi, “How can a person rejoice when bad things happen?”
The rabbi admitted he didn’t know but directed him to a wise master of Kabbalah who lived in another town.
He went to find him, but no-one in that town knew about a great master living there.
Someone finally directed him to the poorest farm on the outskirts of the village.
To his astonishment, the farmer sent him to a tiny, dirty barn, where he found a ragged man eating some moldy bread.
He was baffled, but asked his question: “How can someone rejoice when bad stuff happens?”
The man, actually the great Rabbi Zusha of Anipoli, answered, his eyes beaming with joy: “I’m the last person to know, nothing bad has ever happened to me!”
It’s an amazing story, especially since when I look around, I see many people who seem to have everything going for them, but when you scratch the surface they’re miserable.
That’s why I started exploring the Kabbalistic approach to happiness and contentment.
The Jews are one of the most persecuted people in history, but they’ve found some great ways to cheer up and stay happy no matter what.
In this post, I’ll share with you their best tricks to living a life of gratitude.
1. Have a Morning Appreciation Routine
It all starts by acknowledging the good things in your life.
The first is just being alive! You now get to spend another day as a human.
That’s great, compared to billions of other sentient creatures out there in a much worse situation, like factory farm animals or even humans in war zones or stricken by poverty.
Hey, if you’re reading this you have Internet access and you can read – that puts you ahead of the majority of humanity.
I’m not writing this to make you feel guilty, but to demonstrate what the ancient Jewish mystics discovered: unhappiness doesn’t come from what we have or don’t have, but what we compare ourselves to.
It’s obvious that if you spend too much time reading beauty magazines, you’re going to feel bad about your body.
But if you can appreciate the simple, natural pleasures of life, you’ll be mostly content.
You might worry that being content will make you lazy or underachieving.
That’s not necessarily true.
In fact, Kabbalists claim that if we focus on the good, we bring more good into our life.
So every morning, start the day by making a list of ten things you’re grateful for.
2. Break Your Heart Once a Day
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, a legendary teacher from the 18th century, had a funny recipe for happiness: be deliberately sad for a short period of time every day.
He once said, “There is no heart as whole as a broken heart.”
We now know from modern psychology that the suppression of negative emotions only makes them stronger and more harmful.
It’s much better to give them their space, within limits.
Allow them to come, bring their message and leave.
That way, your mind can be positive, free and happy for the rest of the day.
3. Do Something Good For Someone Else
According to Kabbalah, there are two paths to happiness. One is by selfishness, also called the tree of knowledge.
The other is by love, service and generosity, or the tree of life.
Only connecting to the “tree of life” brings lasting happiness.
You can see that negative mind states are usually self-absorbing.
You get totally caught up in how much you’re suffering, how bad someone treated you, how wrong the world is…
However, most happy states are based on putting the “me” aside.
Remember going to a theme park as a child?
You were so caught up in the fun, time flew by and you only noticed yourself when it was over.
Doing something good for someone else is kind of unnatural when you’re in a bad mood, but it shifts the focus off yourself and brings a sense of meaning and self-worth.
You can appreciate yourself more when you realize you are valuable to someone else.
It doesn’t matter who, life just feels better when you make someone else happy.
Kabbalah comes from Judaism but, as an ancient mystical path, it contains universal wisdom.
You don’t need to have faith or adhere to any form of spirituality to apply these tips, as they’re firmly supported by modern psychology.
They’ve proven helpful and inspiring for me, and I hope they will do the same for you.