GOOD MORNING! What would you say to stop someone from committing suicide? What would happen if after listening to all of the pain and suffering the person has gone through in his life, you asked, "Tell me, what if on top of all of your problems you were blind, too. Then right before you jumped, a miracle happened and you could see. Would you still jump?" Chances are the person would say, "Are you crazy? I'd want to see what my children look like, the color of the sky, to see the ocean, a mountain! No way I'd kill myself!"
Yet, there are lots of people who can see who do kill themselves even though they can see their children, the color of the sky, the ocean and a mountain. Why? We just get used to our pleasures in life. A person can get used to anything - good health, being a multi-millionaire, private jets, beautiful homes, even a loving spouse and children. It's sad. Worse, it's tragic. What can we do to focus on the pleasures in life?
Here's an idea: If you're married, agree with your spouse that at the end of each day you'll share two good things that happened that day. So often we spend our time with our spouse complaining about what went wrong that day. Just share the two good things before going into the trials and tribulations. Each day has to be two new things! And if you're single, plan with a friend to do the same thing each day.
What do you answer when someone asks how you are doing? Oftentimes the people I meet say, "Can't complain." It doesn't do much for me and it does less for the person saying it. Sometimes I'll try to focus him or her that if he or she can't complain, then he or she probably has something good from which to take pleasure. How do I do it? I ask him or her, "Why not? I'm a rabbi. I'll listen to your complaints about life." Most people say that they really don't have anything to complain about. (I am not naive; I know that it just might be possible that the person would prefer not to have this discussion with me...)
Then I suggest, why not train yourself to respond, "Good, thank G-d" - or if he or she really wants to appreciate life to answer "Great, thank God." And if he or she really wants to thrill with life, answer "Fabulous, thank God" or "Magnificent, thank God." It not only uplifts the person responding, it uplifts the one who asked!
Why do I always suggest ending with "Thank G-d"? It is important in life to have gratitude and to show gratitude. Everything we have in life is ultimately a gift from the Almighty. By focusing on that fact and responding in kind, it not only makes one happier, but also a better person.
On an even deeper level, the Talmud (Brachos 54a) teaches that a person is obligated to bless the Almighty for misfortune with the same joy as when one blesses for good fortune. How is it possible to fulfill this obligation? If we appreciate that the Almighty loves us and only gives us what is good for us - for our spiritual growth -then we can work on focusing that what seems "bad" right now will be ultimately for the best.
In addition to the long-view philosophical approach, each of us has a choice as to what we focus on in the immediate present. The old question: "is the glass half full or half empty?" applies on a daily basis and a moment by moment basis. (By the way, maybe the glass is just too big? Or, maybe it depends upon whether you're pouring or drinking?) Happiness in life is a matter of focusing on the present. If you appreciate the good in every moment, then ultimately your life is filled with millions of moments of happiness and is a happy life.
If one focuses on the past, it is often with regrets for missed opportunities or lost benefits. (You can focus on the past, but there's no future in it!) If one looks to the future with expectations or wishes that things should be different, he misses out on appreciating what is going on now and is probably focusing on what is "missing" now.
I once saw a beautiful quote that sums it up, "The past is history, the future a mystery and now is gift - which is why it's called the present." Appreciate the present!