Beating Depression from the Outside In by Sara (Chanukah Semifinalist #8)

Beating Depression from the Outside In by Sara (Chanukah Semifinalist #8)

I had been feeling very down, winter blues. It was after my article appeared on my many miscarriages and my husband was out of town for weeks on end and my children were just driving me crazy.

One night I listened to a class by Esther Baila Schwartz about being happy. She asked, “How can the Torah command us to be happy? How can an emotion be commanded?” She answered by teaching about the concept of “hachitzonius meoreres es hapinimius” (the outside wakes up the inside). If we pretend to be happy on the outside, it’ll awaken the inside to be happy.

I don’t know why exactly, but this message really hit home.

Maybe if I pretended to be happy, my household would change. That night I hung up signs all over one main wall, that said: “HAPPY” and I drew huge smiley faces all over them.

Esther Baila also talked about finding the one thing that you connect to, whether it be plants, colors, smells or fresh flowers, and put it all over the house to help bring out the happiness. The next day I bought scented candles, since I have always felt so good when walking into someone’s house that smelled fresh and clean.

The next day, I woke up with a smile and the usually difficult morning rush just went great.

The kids couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, but they clearly liked it! They are young enough, I guess, not to get mad at good changes in mom. When they asked about the signs, I told them it was Happy Day! When my challenging daughter who was born in a bad mood heard this she got so happy and asked: “Really?!” And when the kids complained or fought, it just washed right over me. I just pasted a huge smile on my face and handled everything with happiness.

Sara Chana with her husband and three children

Sara with her husband and three children

For 3 days, this was a difficult task. I felt like I was really pretending, but slowly the household started to change. The children listened more, behaved better. My daughter kept asking every day, “Could we have Happy Day again?” I also instilled a new ritual in our daily routine: at dinnertime, I gave each child a slip of paper that said something that they did really well that day. This was to make sure that they heard at least one positive thing in our daily rush. (Although, hopefully, they heard many more than that!)

My rushing, fighting, intense household had transformed from one day to the next into a happy, family home.

It’s been two weeks since that night that Hashem sent me my personal message and things are just getting better and better. The happiness has instilled itself into my heart and my husband’s and children’s hearts too. We don’t always need reminders to be happy anymore, it’s starting to come naturally!

I know this is small, but in my mind, this has been a HUGE change for all of us.

I know this, because one night while reading our slips of paper, my 7-year-old said, “Can I say one for you Mommy? I’d like to thank you for being extra nice and understanding lately.”

When I questioned how long she thinks it’s been going on, she said about the same time that the happy signs went up.

(By the way, if I win the $100, I want to get a real, big picture that proclaims “Ivdu es Hashem b’simcha” Serve Hashem with Happiness! I’d like my family to be able to see this message and internalize it on a daily basis.)


  1. wow, beautiful! I will try to implement some of these suggestions too! Brought tears to my eyes..

  2. Sara, this message to me was just as timely as Ester Baile’s message to you. I have been getting frustrated much too easily recently. This morning, whenever someone tested my patience, I started singing, “ivdu et Hashem b simcha.” After a few hours, my little one wasn’t looking, and my almost 4 year old could tell it was trying my patience. She came over to me and whispered in my ear, “ivdu et Hashem b simcha.” What a difference !

  3. YES, on the mark! You don’t wait until you are feeling happy to act happy. You help yourself from the outside! I just loved this.

  4. Devorah Leah Gourdji

    Kol ha kavod Sara!!

  5. Beautifully said and terrific inspiration. The only thing in our power is our attitude. So if we choose an attitude of gratitude/happiness it becomes our reality. Keep up the good work and thanks for posting this.

  6. Very hard not to inflict our frustrations on our children. I’m impressed.

  7. I love this! Thank you! I think I need to try to find my happy…

    • You don’t have to find it.. you just need to pretend. It wakes up your happiness!

      Also, Esther Baila did say that this doesn’t work if you’re suffering from clinical depression. That is something to get help with, not to be a martyr and hope it’ll just get better on its own.

  8. Where can you find Rebbetzin Schwartz’s shiur (the one you mention here) online? What is the title? Thank you!

  9. It’s not online anymore:( You can contact her directly probably. I know she speaks at JEP in Monsey.

  10. Thank you for sharing this. With you as my inspiration, I am currently putting up signs around my house to remind me to be happy and not get sucked into post-partum blues…

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