It’s 2017 and the options for women are vast. Compared to a generation or two ago, women can now pursue powerful careers. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find an area of the workforce women haven’t made their mark on. Our familial roles have evolved as well. We can marry, divorce, or stay single. We can have children or make the decision not to. And, women are now making these decisions based on what is best for them and their families not just on what is considered politically correct. It isn’t a completely equal playing field—but we are freer to pursue our own happiness, whatever that may be.
What does it mean to be happy? Science tells us that happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being. It is positive feelings ranging from contentment to intense joy. And it is something that encompasses living a good life, one with meaning and deep satisfaction. In other words, happiness is not simply enjoying a cupcake or great music, though those things do offer very happy moments in time. Rather, true happiness is the compilation of small pleasures, accomplishments, and—the key factor—meaningful social relationships.
We asked some local women what makes them happy. Here’s what we heard back:
“As a new empty nester, I’m recreating my Happiness List. At the very top of my list continues to be discovery – both for new nature hikes and modern Jewish experiences. Having launched my two children in San Diego and Seattle, I find joying know them as adults as they make their own futures.” –Mary Ann Malkoff, Executive Director,
Temple Beth Emet
“Being in a stable and loving relationship for over 21 years. Realizing that work on one’s self eventually pays off!”
–Lisa Grajewski, Psy. D.
“I am the happiest sitting around a Shabbat table filled with family, friends (old and new), enjoying conversation, laughter and good food. Other things that make me happy include: listening to music with my husband, reading books with my daughter, empowering Jews to live meaningful Jewish lives, and walking at the beach.”
–Rabbi Rachel Kort, Temple Beth El of South Orange County.
“What makes me happy is the ability to infuse my life with purpose and passion. In my professional world, that means supporting people in reaching their fullest potential. And, personally, elevating the mundane – cooking dinner for my family, doing mitzvoth in my community, learning from other passionate and purposeful women, and spending quality time with the people I love. Always trying to be mindful that my greatest happiness is felt when I’m grounded in gratitude.” –Nadine Durbach, LCSW
“What makes me happy? A warm and loving relationship with my husband and entire family. Family means everything to me … it enriches your life in many ways. I love spending time with my grandchildren and watching them grow and being a part of their lives. And a successful career achieving tangible results for my clients and “match making” people—putting people together to collaborate, which benefits everyone. Giving back to my community in any way I can and have the skill to do. Having good health which allows you to do anything you want to achieve.” – Madeline Zuckerman, President, M. Zuckerman Marketing & Public Relations, Inc.
“Besides the obvious (coffee), a stable MRI for my husband who is battling glioblastoma (brain cancer) makes me happy. Watching my kids give him head rubs every night for good luck. Hearing my children sing Jewish songs at the top of their lungs, throughout the house. Seeing my children live their Jewish values by helping others and empathizing with others, especially people in need. Guiding my students on their journeys through Judaism and life, determining who they want to be as adults. And, did I mention coffee?” –Rabbi Corie Yutkin, Campus Rabbi, OC Hillel Foundation of Orange County
“I am happiest when I realize that I have made a positive difference in the life of another. It could mean explaining a Torah portion to an upcoming Bar Mitzvah student, lending an ear to one in need, or showing courtesy to a person in passing during the day. I am uplifted by these holy encounters that make me aware of God’s presence in my life.” –Miriam Van Raalte,
Director of Community
Engagement & Communication,
Temple Beth Tikvah
In these answers, we see a common thread, and that especially key factor to finding true happiness… relationships. As proven in psychological research, close and quality relationships are the best indicator of a person’s happiness. Whether romantic, family, or simply close relationships, the happier you are in your social engagements, the happier you are overall. And besides close relationships, finding purpose beyond oneself—volunteering or other acts of kindness—are important predictors of happiness.
There are opportunities to engage with others and moments to draw inspiration from all around you… you just have to be open to them. Sometimes you just have to get out of your comfort zone to find them. For instance, engaging with someone you don’t know well may be intimidating or trying a new activity may be scary. However, it is in these acts of courage that we find our best selves and discover hidden strengths we may not even know we had. And volunteering, well there is really nothing else that comes to mind that can bring so much joy… both to the giver and the receiver. When you give to others and practice Tikkun Olam you’re actually giving to yourself at the same time. Everyone wins. If you are feeling shy or don’t know exactly where to plug in there are many resources out there for you. In fact, there is a great opportunity just around the corner at this year’s Women’s Voices Luncheon—the largest annual daytime gathering of Jewish women in Orange County and the signature campaign event of Women’s Philanthropy of Jewish Federation & Family Services (JFFS).
Women’s Voices will feature New York Times bestselling author and transformational leader Marci Shimoff. Shimoff’s book “Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps t Being Happy from the Inside Out” offers a comprehensive approach to being happy. It incorporates the latest findings in positive psychology, powerful tools and techniques and moving real-life stories to help people experience more happiness in their lives.
Last year in Orange County, Women’s Philanthropy of Jewish Federation & Family Services raised over $1.2 million—to support the organization’s work to care for people in need, to build a vibrant community, and to sustain and enhance Jewish life. That support in turn had a positive impact on thousands of lives – in Orange County, in Israel, and around the world. Join Orange County Jewish women on March 13 at 10:00 a.m. at the Irvine Marriott. Hear from Marci Shimoff about how you can increase the happiness in your life. Connect with women in our community who are similarly committed to doing good for others here in Orange County, in Israel, and around the world.
For more information on the Women’s Voices Luncheon, contact Eileen Garbutt at (949) 435-3484 ext. 336 or by email: Women@JFFS.org.