Sunday, June 10, 2012
We would all like to feel satisfied and have a sense of well being. But how can we reach that goal?
Fortunately, a highly respected social psychologist, Dr. David G. Myers, has reviewed thousands of recent scientific studies regarding what makes people happy and he has published his findings in a book called “The Pursuit of Happiness” , Avon Books 1992.
First of all being rich does not make people happy (page 31), so scratch that. Having happy ancestors does have a big influence (page 122); however for most of us, it’s too late to choose our parents. So what can we actually do to become happier?
Well, in a nutshell, here it is:
- Develop a strong faith and trust in God. page 183
- Believe in an afterlife. page 200
- Focus on spiritual rather than material accomplishments. page 188
- Focus on the present moment more than on the past and the future. page 51
- Focus on what you have, not on what you are lacking. page 56
- Focus on what others are lacking, not on what they have. page 56
- Focus on helping others, not helping yourself. page 194
- Develop good relationships with family and friends; try to be part of a supportive community and family. pages 142 and 155
- Try to find employment which suits your talents. page 129
- Maintain a healthy diet. page 77
- Exercise. page 77
- In general, care for your health. page 76
- Get enough rest. Allow quiet time to relax. page 138
This is the true, common sense, scientifically proven path to achieve greater happiness, not the endless pursuit of wealth, fame, sex, drugs, fattening food and alcohol. All of those things bring a brief thrill, but at a high cost and they cannot provide long term satisfaction and well being. (For proof, read the biographies of the rich and famous.) Many people, especially young adults, are distracted by such things, sometimes wasting years and sometimes ruining or terminating their lives in the process. Instead, simply the quiet, sober, healthy, generous, religious life is what really works. Difficult and boring, perhaps. But in the long run, much happier.
It's interesting to note how the attitude of psychiatrists to monotheism and spirituality has almost completely reversed itself over the past century. According to Abraham Verghese, all along, the majority position of Psychiatry has been that Psychiatry has nothing to do with religion and spirituality. Religious beliefs and practices have long been thought to have a pathological basis, and psychiatrists over a century have understood them in this light. Religion was considered as a symptom of mental illness. Jean Charcot and Sigmund Freud linked religion with neurosis. DSM3 portrayed religion negatively by suggesting that religious and spiritual experiences are examples of psychopathology. But recent research reports strongly suggest that to many patients, religion and spirituality are resources that help them to cope with the stresses in life, including those of their illness. Many psychiatrists now believe that religion and spirituality are important in the life of their patients. The importance of spirituality in mental health is now widely accepted.
When we meet an atheist, we should pity him. Not only has lost the next world, which he doesn’t believe exists; however he has lost this world as well. He finds pain difficult to cope with since he believes that disasters happen without reason. He believes that his existence will soon end. He believes that human accomplishments have no permanent or cosmic significance. In light of this, he may try to squeeze out whatever pleasure he can from his fleeting life, with little concern for how this affects other people or even how it affects his own long term future. He may very well become an addict – obsessed with alcohol, drugs or some other substance or behavior, which makes him feel good at first but not for long. Finally, as he grows older and his hopes of pleasure dim, he may prefer suicide. He has nothing to look forward to, so why bother any more?
Richard Dawkins attempts to put this in a positive light when he says, “if you're an atheist, you know, you believe this is the only life you're going to get. It's a precious life. It's a beautiful life. It's something that we should live to the full, to the end of our days, whereas, if you're religious, and you believe that there's another life, somehow, that means you don't live this life to the full, because you think you're going to get another one. That's an awfully negative way to live a life. Being an atheist frees you up to live this life properly, happily, and fully.”
Whatever “religion” he is referring to, it doesn’t seem to be Orthodox Judaism. The life of a Jew is filled each day with immense gratitude to God for all His blessings and with boundless joy for the opportunity to serve Him. The Jew is not on an endless pleasure treadmill, chasing rainbows that turn out to be illusions. He is accomplishing great things each day by studying Torah, praying and performing Jewish rituals. In addition to that, Jews believe in loving each other, which alleviates so much of the isolation and loneliness common in our self-centered world. Tragic stories such as people committing suicide in a park so that they would not “die alone” are unimaginable in the Orthodox community.
It’s also noteworthy that Judaism can help a person develop a tremendous amount of self-control. It’s probably no accident that virtually all addiction recovery programs consider belief in God to be an essential component.
What a gift atheists are throwing away. Someone wishing to “live to the full, to the end of his days” needs to accept God and His Torah.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 6:11 AM