Happiness — Day 5

The following is from my daily newsletter, The Pocket Philosopher. Each week we explore a theme, looking at that theme through the lens of a different philosophy each day.

Good morning friends,

Today we’ll be doing our Weekly Rundown, exploring a short review and analysis of all we’ve learned.

But first, some exciting news: a huge congrats to Morgan and Alex for winning our competition last week! They’ll both be receiving some TPP swag in the mail in the next few days.

Don’t feel bad if you didn’t win this round, we’ll have more opportunities to swag up soon!

Now, a review covering what we learned on happiness.

Monday

What upsets people is not things themselves but their judgements about the things. for example, death is nothing dreadful (or else it would have appeared dreadful to Socrates), but instead the judgement about death that it is dreadful-that is what is dreadful. So when we are upset or distressed, let us never blame someone else but rather ourselves, that is, our own judgements.

-Epictetus

We started off the week with the original Stoic himself, Epictetus. His main contribution for us toward happiness was to remain mindful of the way we interpret and approach life-good and bad. He perceived suffering not as what happens to us, but in the way we choose to respond.

This reminds of me of the famous Viktor Frankl line in his book Man’s Search for Meaning

The last of the human freedoms: to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

Mindfulness and purpose will be recurring themes throughout our study of happiness.

Tuesday

The earth is slippery, slick.

-Ancient Aztec Proverb

This concise one-liner contains a constellation of wisdom from the ancient Aztecs.

Though a sprawling empire, they remained intense and scrupulous students-and children-of nature. They lived and breathed by their observations of the natural world.

Their primary message about the good life-root yourself in change.

They saw how nature came and went, died and was reborn each season. They believed a key to being easy with the world was to find grounding-in community, rituals, and within nature itself-and is it cycled through seasons of impermanence.

To put it another way, they viewed themselves as a part of an ecosystem instead of outside of it (as many of us in the industrialized world have been trained to think.)

Wednesday

Ichi-go ichi-e teaches us to focus on the present and enjoy each moment that life brings us. This is why it is so important to find and pursue our ikigai.

-Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles in their book Ikigai

Ikigai is hands down one of my favorite concepts of all time. It’s simple message has been revolutionary in the way I approach my personal happiness.

It’s core message: find the intersection of what we are passionate about, what we’re good at, what the world needs, and what we can get paid to do. This is Ikigai defined, and in the middle is the sweet spot where purpose and happiness converge.

Not to mention, the people who practice this just happen to be some of the oldest, healthiest, and happiest people in the world!

Thursday

In effect, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. That shades “implicit memory” — your underlying expectations, beliefs, action strategies, and mood — in an increasingly negative direction.

-Dr. Rick Hanson

We rounded out the week looking at what neurobiology might have to show us about happiness. The core message: evolution has given us a bent for the negative.

It appears this comes from a survival instinct. Through the course of our evolution in chasing rewards and avoiding danger, it has been much more important to avoid a singular dangerous experience that could end one’s life, than to catch a reward that most likely would come around again.

So, we are left with the task of soothing our primal brains, intentionally cultivating moments of peace and happiness, and leveraging neuroplasticity by retraining our thought patterns.

And as it turns out, there’s no better way to do that than through the ancient contemplative practices of mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and intentional living!

Conclusion

So what’s the key to happiness then?

It appears that there is not one secret, but there are some common themes.

I would say first, we need to accept that happiness is not found but rather intentionally cultivated. Without mindfulness, we’ll default to our primal brains and see the world as largely dangerous, scarce, and negative.

But, once we are operating within this framework, I believe that

  1. Grounding yourself within nature
  2. Eating, drinking, speaking, and living mindfully, being aware of your thoughts and judgements
  3. Practicing Self-compassion
  4. Meditation
  5. Regular Exercise
  6. Balanced, whole-foods diet
  7. Cultivating a personal purpose (potentially the most important)

Appear to be the practices-the practical philosophy-from the ancients that show us how to be happy in a modern world.

In my experience, the hustle of career and capital can often compete with this journey. But at the same time, now more than ever such a lifestyle is possible…if we want it.

I hope everyone has a great weekend, get some rest, stay mindful, take a walk in a nature, and we’ll see you back here next week for a new topic.

-TPP

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West Point Graduate. Former Army Officer. Conscientious Objector. Home for Regenerative Spirituality and The Inclusive Orthodoxy. New Book: repairinghope.com

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Matt Malcom

Matt Malcom

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West Point Graduate. Former Army Officer. Conscientious Objector. Home for Regenerative Spirituality and The Inclusive Orthodoxy. New Book: repairinghope.com