The Community Synagogue’s new program offers the gift of happiness
Happiness is in the foods we eat, the water we drink, the steps we take. So, why is it so difficult for people to get happy? If it was easy, people wouldn’t be battling depression, anxiety and stress. Our lives in the 21st century are busy, hectic and constantly moving.
When do we ever take a step back, live in the moment and enjoy where we are and what we’re doing? The Happiness Group at The Community Synagogue was started this year to promote happiness and focus on how to get happy. If you’re feeling like you need to find yourself and discover how to become happier, then this program is definitely a viable option for you.
Founded by Rabbi Danny Burkeman, Cynthia Litman, Melissa Halpern, Macha Einbender and Hayley Foster in the beginning of January, this committed team has been endlessly discovering new ways to make people happier. The idea of creating the Happiness Group came to Rabbi Burkeman when he noticed how many people were posting about ways to get happy all over Facebook. He knew that with his guidance and the help of a few women in the community, he could make a difference in the lives of many people.
The Happiness Group brainstormed about what the group would look like and came up with three elements. The first would be to have an active Facebook group, where people could regularly interact and have a conversation about the topic of happiness. Every day, members who Like and follow the page are constantly encouraged with inspiring quotes.
The second element was to have face-to-face interactions with people at specific events. The first event was Happiness in Your Mind, Body and Soul; the second was Happiness in Movement and Body; and the third was Happiness with Our Loved Ones. And, there are plenty more events planned for the future.
The final piece to the Happiness Group was journaling. “We gave out over 100 journals to people to encourage them to journal,” says Rabbi Burkeman. “Studies and the research shows that journaling, whether a gratitude journal or just general reflections, helps encourage people to live a happier life.”
One of the founders of the Happiness Group, entrepreneur Hayley Foster, has been emceeing many of the events. She opens each session with either an article or piece of literature she has read about happiness or discusses a TED Talks video she has watched.
When it comes to self-happiness and fulfillment, Foster takes a personal stand. “I was in an unhappy marriage, an unhappy business partnership and I always say to people that I chose happy because I didn’t want to live a life of unhappiness,” she says.
For Foster, happiness is a choice. “[Some people] choose drama, people choose sadness, people choose depression and anxiety,” she continues. “I believe that the mind is so powerful that if you convince your brain to fake being happy, then eventually
you will be, because then you’re not really faking it. At the end of the day, you will be happier.”
Cynthia Litman, another member of the Happiness Group, feels that everyone deserves to be happy. “Wouldn’t it be amazing if more people spent time focusing on deepening their happiness quotient?” asks Litman. This mission has greatly impacted her own life, because it reminds her to choose happy. “There are many moments of sadness, struggle and challenges we all face and it often takes a lot of work to find happiness,” she says. “The Happiness Group is a monthly return to happiness.”
Meditation expert and certified Gabrielle Bernstein coach Macha Einbender was brought into
the Happiness Group to lead and teach meditation. At the first event, Einbender opened with a meditation, which connected everyone in the room.
Einbender sees the need for happiness in everyone’s life. When people are involved in the Happiness Group, it can help make their lives a little easier after each event. “Everybody wants to be happy,” she says.” With all of this crazy stuff happening in the world, it is just a nice thing to be able to participate in something that is so uplifting.”
Meditation can be difficult for many. One of the biggest misconceptions about meditating is that you’re supposed to clear your mind of all thoughts. However, if people trying to meditate contemplate their thoughts during the process, it can change everything. In Einbender’s belief, “Meditation is an amazing gift and tool that you can give yourself.” It can make a person happier because it can easily decrease anxiety and worries.
Health coach Melissa Halpern was asked to become involved in the Happiness Group by her friends Cynthia Litman and Hayley Foster. “Whenever I was with this ‘happy crew,’ I was actually happier,” says Halpern, whose goal for the project is to “spread the word about how beneficial attending groups like this can be so that other communities might establish their own happy groups.”
The Happiness Group has had many different professionals and specialists speak at meetings, and they have helped the participants become happier. “We have had a date specialist helping people one date at a time,” says Rabbi Burkeman. “We have had three yoga instructors, a wellness coach, a meditation guide, a couple of ladies who are entrepreneurs, a psychologist, a social worker and a range of other speakers who are both part of the community and not part of the community.” The goal of this project is to spread happiness not just to members, but to the community. Rabbi Burkeman adds,“All are welcome to join us and to learn so we can try and make our lives happier.”
The Rabbi feels that religious leaders have a job to make religion relevant in the modern world. “I think people in the modern world are really crying out for happiness,” he says. When he asks people what they want to be, the most frequent response he gets is “happy.” Rabbi Burkeman assures, “We as a synagogue have a role in encouraging that.”
To find out more about the Happiness Group’s upcoming events, Like them on Facebook
at TCS Happiness Group or go to www.commsyn.org.