10 September 2015
“Happy New Year!”
It’s a phrase we’ll hear often as we usher in the year 5776. We wish each other a sweet, healthy, prosperous, peaceful… and happy, year.
But what exactly makes us – or a year – “happy?”
Researchers have been studying this for years, trying to Identify, quantify and predict indicia of happiness. After all, if we could do more than just wish for a happy year, wouldn’t it be great to actually make it happen?
It’s not so easy. Life has a habit of surprising us – in good and not so good ways – that are beyond our control. Bad things happen to good people, after all, and good things as well.
At a recent conference in England, a panel of researchers discussed behaviors that are correlated with happiness, and I was struck by one in particular. Elizabeth Dunn, psychology professor at the University of British Columbia in Canada, studies happiness. Her conclusion? People who donate money to charity tend to be both happier and healthier than others.
“Money doesn’t seem to buy quite as much happiness as many people assume,” she said. In experiments where subjects were given money and asked to spend it on either themselves or others, she reported that givers were happiest afterwards.
The results were similar in both Canada and Uganda, two vastly different countries. “People who donate mone to charity are happier in poor and rich countries alike,” Dunn said. “You don’t have to have a lot to experience the emotional benefits of giving.”
In addition to the link between happiness and altruism, Dunn said her more recent research suggests that giving money away can tangibly improve one’s health. By measuring blood pressure before and after giving, she found that it fell when her subjects gave to other people or causes, but the blood pressure did not change when they spent money on themselves. Giving is “not just heartwarming, it may be quite literally good for our hearts,” she said.
Tzedakah – righteousness – is the foundation of a strong Jewish community and a cornerstone of Jewish tradition. It is one of the three actions in the Unetanneh Tokef High Holiday liturgy – along with repentance and prayer – that can reduce the severity of the Divine decree.
At Federation, we invite you to “Make it Yours:” to live your passion, voice your hunger for change and support Federation’s work. Together, we can address critical needs and build an even stronger local and global Jewish community. And who knows, your gift might even make you both happier and healthier!
Best wishes to you and yours for a shana tova u’metukah – a good, sweet and of course, happy, New Year.
Make a Difference
Every day in the headlines we learn of the worsening plight of refugees from Syria and instability throughout the Middle East and North America. Learn more about the crisis by reading this article by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Click here to donate to the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief fund.
Ways to Make it Yours
Register for winter ‘16 Birthright Israel trips with other DC young adults ages 22-26.
Volunteer with us at N Street Village on Sunday, October 4 as we cook, prepare and serve nutritious meals to local women in need.
Make a difference with Mitzvah Mavens at our first volunteer event of the New Year on Monday, October 19 in partnership with the Jewish Council for the Aging (JCA).
Join us in wishing a mazel Tov to our partner, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School on the celebration of their 50th Anniversary! Over the years, CESJDS has become a premier Jewish day school with an international reputation for academic excellence and a vibrant pluralistic community guided by Jewish values.