For as long as there have been great civilisations, there have been people looking to break away from the stress of the status quo. The quest for a happy, satisfying life has spawned several philosophies — no two exactly like. Every culture seems to have weighed in on the topic of happy living, combining their values and lifestyles to create the perfect formula to detach from the commotion of everyday life. So if your New Year’s resolution is to enjoy life a little more, why not look around the world for inspiration? These ideas could help you get started.
Suggested reading: Ikigai The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles
Ikigai (ick-ee-guy) is the Japanese secret to living a long and happy life. To find your Ikigai, you need to figure out the one thing that makes you lose yourself. It could be a creative pursuit, physical activity, or even something as mundane as cleaning or organising your workspace. Be curious, try new things, and you may find that your Ikigai was in front of you all along. And once you find it, it’s easy to sort out the rest of your life. To get started, just follow these 10 tips:
- Stay active and don’t retire
- Leave urgency behind and adopt a slower pace of life
- Only eat until you are 80 per cent full
- Surround yourself with good friends
- Get in shape through daily, gentle exercise
- Smile at and acknowledge people around you
- Reconnect with nature
- Give thanks to anything that brightens your day and makes you feel alive
- Live in the moment
- Follow your ikigai
Suggested reading: The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking
The closest translation of Hygge (hue-gah) in English would be “a feeling of coziness, contentment, and comfort.” According to this philosophy, a happy life starts when one creates a warm and cozy environment, which will then go on to inspire contentment. This can be physical, like redecorating your home with coziness in mind, or more intangible. In fact, one of the main tenets of Hygge is to surround yourself with good experiences and good people. In short, the driving force of this idea is positivity — by creating a positive environment, you can encourage the warmth of satisfaction from within. Here are some things that embody the spirit of Hygge:
- The warm glow of candle light
- A hot cup of cocoa
- Cuddling up with a loved one and watching a movie
- Spending time talking and laughing with friends and family
Suggested reading: Epicureanism: A Very Short Introduction by Catherine Wilson
Epicureanism has something of a bad reputation among philosophers, but this reputation is built on the misconception that the concept has hedonistic roots. Epicureanism was built on the teachings of Ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, who believed that pleasure was the greatest good — but there was a catch. According to this philosophy, pleasure is gained by living modestly, gaining knowledge of the workings of the world, and limiting your desires. In short, to reach ultimate satisfaction, you need to live in moderation. But this doesn’t mean you need to give up the things you love. Epicurus believed that pleasure could come from enjoying a rich, delicious meal or even a wild party so long as it was an occasional indulgence. The trick is to invigorate both your mind and body with just the right amount of activity to make you happy, as denying yourself will leave you unsatisfied and overindulgence will leave you lethargic.
Suggested reading: Ubuntu! An Inspiring Story about An African Tradition of teamwork and collaboration by Bob Nelson and Stephen Lundin
Ubuntu (oo-boon-too) has always been prevalent in Southern African cultures but has gained popularity as a philosophy fairly recently. Ubuntu is a Bantu word meaning ‘humanity’, and is often translated as “I am because we are”. It is a belief that there is a universal bond that connects all humanity. This philosophy boils down to relationships — how we interact with each other defines the course of our lives. According to Ubuntu, the key to a happy life is empathy and togetherness, whether it’s with your neighbour or with a complete stranger. When you put effort into building relationships and treating others like yourself, your life becomes a lot less stressful and a lot happier — and it’s a happiness that spreads through an entire community.
Suggested reading: Selections from the Journals by Henry David Thoreau
Naturalism is a philosophical and literary movement that finds joy in nature and the material world. In essence, only what we can observe in the world can bring us satisfaction. While naturalism in its purest form doesn’t provide much of a guide towards happy living, the principles at its core can help steer you in the right direction. Naturalists find pleasure in the here and now. This may mean taking a step back and enjoying nature, or it could be as simple as finding some joy in your morning commute. Through naturalism, you remain grounded in reality, which can help you take your first steps to keeping calm and carrying on.
If 2019 is going to be your year of better living, these ideas make a good starting point — don’t be afraid to try them all out and see what works best for you. So kick off the new year with a new lifestyle and say hello to a happier you!