Avraham ben Yaakov
Parents' Guide to Teaching Children Healthcare

10 The Joy of Living

"Serve God with joy." (Psalms 100:2)

"And I praised joy" (Kohelet 8:15) - this is the joy of a mitzvah. "And what does joy accomplish?" (ibid. 2:2) - this refers to happiness which is not bound up with a mitzvah, to teach you that the Divine Presence dwells not out of sadness, laziness, frivolity, light-headedness, chatter and idle pursuits but through the joy of a mitzvah, as it is written: "'And now, bring me a musician', and when the musician played, the spirit of God rested upon him" (Kings II, 3:15). (Shabbos 30a)

"It is a mitzvah to bring the Divine Presence to rest upon us" (Rashi ad loc.)

The body cannot survive without the soul. Taking proper care of the body is only one side of a healthy lifestyle. Equally, if not more important is to take proper care of the mind and soul! The best indicator of mental and emotional health is Simchah -- a happy, positive approach to life. This is what gives us the incentive to make the best of life!

Many of us are well aware of the basic rules of healthy living: which foods are good and which are harmful, how important it is to exercise, how dangerous it is to smoke. Even so, we keep on finding ourselves doing exactly the opposite! We eat too much of the wrong foods. We prefer to take things easy instead of exerting ourselves. We ride instead of walking. We smoke. Why???

In many cases, the things that impel us are psychological: pressures in the home and outside, tension, anxiety, insecurity, boredom, anger, and so on. When we continue eating even after we are full, or snack between meals, it is often because of inner tension, depression, anger or boredom. The same factors often make people act carelessly and put themselves in danger. Depression and despair can make people neglect their bodies and loose interest in taking proper care of their health.

If we really want to take care of our bodies and cultivate a healthy lifestyle, first and foremost we must get to the roots of the inner mental and emotional factors that drive us in the opposite direction.

Today there is an abundance of techniques intended to help people deal with problems like stress, anxiety and depression through relaxation, medications, herbal remedies, biofeedback, homeopathy and many others. While these techniques may help, the best foundation of all is an ancient technique that has proved itself throughout history: Faith! When a person has faith, he has a wellspring of inner power that will strengthen his resolve to go and make the effort needed to improve his life.

Who knows this better than the Jews, and especially those who keep the Torah and mitzvos! When we know and believe that the Creator of the World is watching over us at every moment and that He is the one who provides us with all our needs, we know that there is no reason to worry. We have to do our part, but we do not have to be frantic! Our main efforts should be directed at keeping the Torah and the mitzvos -- including the mitzvah of "Guard yourself" -- as our sages have taught us. When we do what is incumbent upon us, we can rest assured that God will not stop watching over us for a single moment - "And he who trusts in God, kindness will surround him" (Psalms 32:10).

As parents seeking to help our children follow a healthy lifestyle, we must keep in mind that developing a positive attitude based on faith and trust in God is the best foundation for cultivating healthy habits. What our children learn in their early years will determine their future approach to the mitzvah of safeguarding their health physically, mentally and spiritually: "Educate the youth according to his way, even when he grows old, he will not turn from it" (Proverbs 22:6). We must inculcate our children with the faith and trust that God never ceases to watch over us, and He promises us:

"If you will serve HaShem your God, He will bless your bread and your water, and I will remove illness from within you." Amen.

Tips for developing a positive attitude

Looking for the good: No matter what you may be up against, try to look on the good side of things. When problems come up, have faith that something good will come out of them. Ask God to help you see the good. Look for the good in yourself. Don't dwell on your shortcomings or on what you don't have. Think about your positive points and what you do have!

Honesty and truth: Be realistic: don't pretend that the things you don't want to confront are not there. Facing problems honestly is better than letting them fester and grow more complicated. Don't deceive yourself about who and what you really are - you will only spend a lot of effort maintaining your illusions. Being truthful with yourself does not mean you have to be harshly self-critical: know your good points and be thankful for them.

A Little: Small, tangible gains are better than swollen ambitions and heavy failures. Instead of trying to achieve too much too quickly, do one thing at a time and be content with steady progress in the right direction. What you do today takes you further ahead than what you dream about doing tomorrow. Live in the present moment and make each day into a project on its own - make a success of today!

Patience: Usually, the more valuable the goal, the greater the obstacles which stand in the way of achieving it. Don't be discouraged if things go against you or your efforts seem to be frustrated. If what you want is God's will, failure is only a preparation for success: nothing will stop you from achieving what you want in the end. If it is not God's will, it would in any case be no good for you in the long run.

Starting: Be willing to learn and change. Nothing obliges you to act out old patterns of behavior just because you followed them until now. The past is gone. Forget about previous failures and make a whole new start. Don't worry if you fall down again. Just pick yourself up and start again, even if you have to do so many times. Every little effort you make is taking you closer to your goal.




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