What makes you happy?
Maybe money, power, friends, music, or eating food? Most people spend more of their life worrying about how to be happy, yet most people aren’t very good at acting on what they know will make them happy right now.
This is one of the oldest problems of humanity and philosophy might have an answer.
Epicurus was a philosopher who focused on some of these important questions like what makes us happy and how we can work to make ourselves happiest.
Epicurus knew that the things that make us happy are generally different from the things we seek on a daily basis. He knew that we all place a high value on friendship but rarely see our friends enough. He knew that we all wanted to enjoy what we have but strive for more constantly.
Factors for Happiness
- Freedom from fear
- Absence of bodily pain
If you have all three of these then there virtually should be no reason for you to be unhappy. We need to detach ourselves from the things that don’t matter and unlearn what we’ve felt is important in life but isn’t. The bottom line idea is that if we are fearful about anything in our future, this is an obstacle to our experience of pleasure, tranquillity, and happiness.
The Epicurean Lifestyle
To experience tranquillity, Epicurus suggested that we could seek knowledge of how the world works and limit our desires. For him, the pleasure was obtained through things like:
- Living a virtuous life
- Living a temperate life
- Moderation in all things
This summarizes it pretty well:
On the types of pleasure
Pleasure is a natural urge, but should we chase after everything that offers to light up the pleasure centers of the brain?
Instant gratification is just clickbait with x10 glorification.
Humans are animals. We have certain needs. For example, we need food and we need water. These natural desires are generally impossible to live without. We are also social creatures. Without friends we suffer. If you try to ignore desires which are both natural and necessary the only result is pain.
If we get fully meta, feeling pain isn’t that bad. It’s a mindset. For example, ever since I was a little girl I had a fear of dogs but that stems from the fact that it might bring and cause me some pain. That pain doesn’t matter and we can usually deal with it.
In the same way, we can probably stay days without eating but our body tells us it needs food. Of course, biology has proven that we need food and water to survive long-term.
It’s all a mindset. Enjoy unnecessary pleasures when they come your way, just do not seek them out. If I walk through a park in spring and see the blossom on the trees I smile. It would be crazy for me to then curse the winter because the branches are bare.
I have the memory of the pleasure within me. In the end, that feeling and emotion is the only thing you will remember. Regardless of what action, you can get that same feeling from other things. Like looking at really pretty mountains, or learning philosophy ;)
The unnecessary and unnatural pleasures are the ones you should cut out entirely. Like drugs, smoking and sex.
Pain is bad in itself but painful acts can lead to more pleasure. Learning a language is difficult, but having learned it we have a whole new world to explore. Goal: Invest in yourself. Find pleasure in learning, knowledge and pursuit.
Our soul, like everything else, is made of atoms and dispersed on death. Most people understand that when the brain is destroyed so is the mind.
But still, people spend most of their life fearing death. The crazy thing is we can never experience death. We don’t what it feels like, yet we have an idea and we fear it. When we are gone, the soul scattered after death, we cannot feel pain, so how can that hold any terror for us? In freeing our minds from all fears, death removes even the fear of death. Neither should we fear to live.
The Unhappiness Cure:
- Death is nothing to worry about
- It is easy to acquire the good things in life
- It is easy to endure the terrible things
Strong Communities, and participation in Society
Epicurus felt that emerging yourself too much into politics and public life would only cause you mental stress and that should be avoided. Participation in the social life of the Garden was a substitute for involvement in society at large. Due to this community became very important since reliance on it increased. His POV on this might be very limited compared to our world today.
Today we can see a strong correlation between happiness and social involvement. Happiness is typically higher among employed people, etc.
So the key here is to be involved in society but also create a sick community of like-minded, high powered people around you.
Focus on friends
Good relationships with friends are strongly correlated with happiness. This came from a sense of belonging, safety and reliance. Some of these things might not be seen as the best in our world today but his importance on close relationships still stands true.
‘Friendship dances around the world announcing to all of us that we must wake up to blessedness’ (Epicurus, 1994, p. 52).
4-Step to Apply This Into Your Life
- Minimalism: remove all the unnecessary garbage from your life. Freedom is key here. When you have freedom from unnecessary things allows greater freedom of fear, freedom from worry, freedom from depression or regret, and freedom from expectations.
- Find or create a supportive community: having a support system of like-minded individuals is one of the most important steps for feeling a sense of happiness.
- Minimize or remove unnecessary pleasures.
- Get rid of insecurities. I really do think that insecurities are the number 1 reason why most people haven’t achieved their full potential yet. A lot of fear comes from insecurity which is generally stemmed from some sort of social validation. If you can identify and get rid of these, you become a super-powered human.
- Instant gratification is just clickbait with x10 glorification.
- Figure out how to live a simplest and minimal life.
- Optimize for having freedom and a lot of control in your life.
For the past few months, I’ve been learning about philosophies just like these. If you have any interesting ideas or questions, I’d love to connect: email@example.com.
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