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By: Tammy Sassoon, M.s.ed

We all know people who seem to have such a great quality of life. Their redeeming characteristics are a happy and relaxed demeanor. At first glance, people think that they have such a great quality of life because they are privy to unlimited wealth, children with calm demeanors who always listen to them, and the ultimate spouse. But we all know that every human being comes to this world with a unique set of gifts and challenges. We may not know what the challenges are of these people who present as having a great quality of life, but we can be assured that challenges they do have. So, what exactly sets them apart from the rest of society who seems to be suffering from a more harried, lower quality of life?

Many people think that quality of life comes from the circumstances we experience. But actually, we don’t need to search any further than to look in the Torah, which Hashem gave us as the blueprint for life, to know that happiness comes from being truly satisfied with one’s lot. This means that whatever one’s unique set of circumstances are, happiness is available to anyone. The truth is that our circumstances do not create our experiences, our thoughts do.

Let me outline several examples for you: A person can be sitting on a couch in a great mood, and without anything in their environment changing, they can suddenly experience a low mood. How could this be if nothing at all changed in his or her environment? The answer is that suddenly the person’s thoughts changed. Let’s take the example of two people who experience similar tragic events. One feels a deep pain, and continues to lead a productive life, and one feels a deep pain, and rarely engages in day to day tasks. The experience was the same for both people, but the thoughts were different.

So, how to we bring ourselves to experience that awesome quality of life, given that we all have negative thoughts sometimes, which ultimately affect the way we experience life?

The answer is that we need to know that thoughts are transitory. They come and go all day long, and many of them are unhelpful. While we may not be able to control a negative thought that pops into our head such as, “It’s terrible that my children aren’t listening to me right now!”, we get to decide whether or not we will engage with negative thoughts.

I like to classify the thoughts that pop up into my head as either “helpful” or “unhelpful.” If a thought is “unhelpful,”
I just wait for it to pass. My true nature is unchanging.
We all came into this world happy, secure, confident, resilient, and warm and loving. Those are our default settings. Negative thoughts don’t change that. I don’t have to DO anything to be happy. It’s who I am as a human being, created by Hashem.

Negative thoughts can cloud our essence, just as clouds block the sun. The sun doesn’t go away when clouds pass over it, even if you can’t see the sun temporarily. My true happiness also doesn’t go away, even if it gets clouded by negative thoughts. Eventually, all thoughts pass. Instead of fighting negative thoughts, if you wait for them to settle, you can experience what we call this great quality of life.

So, the next time you start to think that your children’s behaviors are disastrous and unacceptable (which leads to us yelling and screaming), recognize that you are having an unhelpful thought, and just wait.
See what happens.

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If you are a frustrated mom or dad looking for answers to a specific problem at home, or want to improve your parenting skills in a certain area, please send an email will suggest new and effective parenting strategies that actually work!