The recipe to a happy life

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“Happiness,

How’d you get to be happiness? 

How’d you get to find love, real love?

Love, love”
Goldfrapp ‘Happiness’ 2008

As a therapist I’m often asked by clients about how one has a happy life. My normal response is when was the last time you felt happy? And then I move on to unpick this a bit further with the client, to find out from there what being happy would look like?

Think to yourself for a moment, what aspects of your life make you happy?

With my culinary background as a chef I’m well versed as my friends and family know, in throwing together a mixture of ingredients and making sure that they not only taste good but look splendid as well. If only life were that simple. Though, the people in my family who taught me these traits were my Grandma and Mother.

I recall when my Grandma died we found her recipe notebook which was filled with her lovely recipes. Though, sadly hardly any of these recipes told you the exact quantities of each ingredient you needed. In my mother’s recipe pad it is in complete chaos, where you need to know where she would put the recipe to know the magic ingredients. If I spoke to either of these key women in my life and asked them about what creates a happy life.

They would tell me their recipe to a happy life would look something like this:

Recipe to a Happy Life:

  • Time with family as your family comes first, and then your friends.
  • Home cooked Hamish Jewish dishes in a traditional Jewish home environment.
  • Always look out for your friends.
  • Take good care of yourself and only have good health.
  • Be active in the Jewish community.
  • Always be hospitable.
  • Show gratitude to those in your life.
  • Celebrate every special occasion.
  • Never arrive to someone’s home empty handed.
  • Sprinkle in plenty of happy memories.
  • Always call your mother.
  • Season to taste with: unconditional love, compassion and care in equal measure.

Having a happy life all the time can be a tall order in our modern hectic and stressful world. As humans we need to be able to deal with all the emotions that life throws at us. When life throws obstacles in our path it is important that we utilise not only our own resilience, but be able to ask for help where we need it. I know from my own experience that sometimes I struggle with the latter, as I am so good at looking after everyone else. Though, further to this I know that not getting my needs met fully can leave me feeling exhausted, resentful or isolating myself.

Feelings are feelings; behaviour is a choice, with an effect on ourselves and those around us. So to work towards having a happy life, we have to take responsibility for our worlds. Though, responsibility is not about fault, blame or guilt. It is about the ability to respond to situations and take action accordingly.

What is very clear to me is that having a happy life takes: patience, commitment, practising the art of creating meaning in your life and ensuring you always have a sense of hope. Happiness can be touched by things externally. Though, needs to be sustained by our internal resources and there is nothing wrong with asking others for a helping hand now and again.

Wishing us all please G-d a happy life

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About Author

Joel is a qualified counsellor and psycho-therapeutic supervisor working with both youth and adult clients. He has worked in the LGBT community for over 14 years working in the fields of health, social care and youth work. This has included working in HIV prevention and supporting adults and young people who are living with HIV. Since 1999, Joel has delivered training and workshops in the voluntary and statutory sectors around the themes of sexuality, homophobia and sexual health.

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