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How Philosophers Define Happiness Differently

How Philosophers Define Happiness Differently

Happiness.

It’s something we all want.

But what exactly is happiness? Could you describe it in one sentence?

If you’re unsure about the exact definition of happiness, you’re not alone. Many philosophers have very different ideas about what happiness is, and how it can be attained.

Want to find out how different philosophers define happiness?

Read on.

Aristotle’s view of happiness

Aristotle said, “Happiness depends on ourselves,” and believed that happiness was the ultimate goal of human existence [1].

Rather than viewing happiness as something that you might experience after passing a test, or while out having fun with friends, Aristotle thought happiness was a measure of your entire life, and how well you had lived it.

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He thought that happiness was an end goal, not just a momentary feeling.

Aristotle believed that all of the following were important when trying to achieve happiness:

  • Health
  • Money
  • Friendships
  • Relationships
  • Knowledge

According to Aristotle, the decisions you make are extremely important.

So, he thought that instead of choosing options that give instant gratification, we should try to behave in ways that provide long-term benefits. For example, going for a jog instead of sitting on the sofa all evening.

Kant’s view of happiness

Kant said, “Happiness is the satisfaction of all our inclinations”.

But what exactly are these inclinations?

Well, Kant also acknowledges the fact that we don’t always know what’s best for us, saying that human beings:

are not capable of determining with complete certainty … what will make him truly happy

It might sound counter-productive, but Kant believed that the more you tried to be happy, the more unhappy you would be. [2]

Have you ever tried so hard to enjoy something that you ended up feeling disappointed?

Then you’ll understand this theory.

Instead of constantly trying to attain things that we believe will make up happy, Kant says we should focus on acting in the way that we believe is right.

This could involve:

  • Doing things to help others.
  • Doing things out of a sense of duty.
  • Trying to be as rational and moral as possible.

It wouldn’t include:

  • Trying to get rich.
  • Working towards material possessions.
  • Becoming too focused on selfish goals.

So, the basic message is to stop obsessing over happiness, and to try and be a good person instead.

When we do the right thing, happiness will naturally follow.

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Nietzsche’s view of happiness

Nietzsche said, “What is happiness? The feeling that power increases, that resistance is being overcome.”

Nietzsche believed that happiness was a kind of power that people could exert over the world around them.

This might sound a little sinister, but it could manifest in many innocuous ways.

For example, to be happy, you might want the power to:

  • Live in the location you want
  • Work at a job you enjoy
  • Have relationships with people of your choice
  • Spend your time in the way you want

When the power to do these things is taken away, we feel unhappy and attempt to take back control.

This could be by looking for a better job, leaving an unhealthy relationship, or moving to a new geographical location.

Nietzsche believed that happiness was strongly connected to personal agency and the ability to live life the way you wanted to.

Socrate’s view of happiness

Socrate’s believed that many experiences we might describe as pleasurable, like feeling better after a long illness, were not true happiness – only the absence of suffering.

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He thought that happiness should not be based on external things, but on how they are used. [3]

For example:

  • Using money to donate to a good cause.
  • Using intelligence to solve problems.
  • Using strength for good, and not to manipulate others.

So, it’s not about what you have – it’s about how you use it.

The key to happiness

So, with all these different opinions, how can we achieve happiness?

We’ve listed some key ideas below:

  • Don’t become too focused on the pursuit of happiness.
  • Try to live in a moral, rational way.
  • Take control of your own life where possible.
  • Don’t base happiness on external things, like money.
  • Use your strengths, like intelligence, to do good.
  • Happiness is an end goal, not a fleeting moment of pleasure.

Ready to feel happier? Try following the theories above in your own life.

Reference

[1]Pursuit of Happiness: Aristotle and Happiness
[2]Big Think: Kant’s Foolproof Recipe for Happiness
[3]Pursuit of Happiness: Socrates and Happiness

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Eloise Best

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Published on November 28, 2018

How to Do Meditation at Home to Calm Your Anxious Mind

How to Do Meditation at Home to Calm Your Anxious Mind

The woman in yoga pants sitting in a lotus position atop a rocky cliff, overlooking a valley draped in fog — this is the glamorized version of meditation you’ll come across as you search. Yet if you’re seeking meditation to calm your mind, a fantastic setting with no distractions is rarely available.

So how to do meditation?

The truth about meditation is it’s an everyday practice for anybody. You could be a mountain climber or you could be an accountant — either way, your home is just as good a place for meditation as any.

Are you seeking to corral your racing thoughts and relieve a sense of unease, awkwardness, or uncertainty? Look to home meditation to cultivate a laid-back, creative, confident, and organized frame of mind. According to extensive scientific research, meditation relieves stress and anxiety, decreases blood pressure, improves sleep, and improves your ability to pay attention. [1]

From start to finish, this article will give you quick, easy steps to follow so that you can meditate at home regularly. You’ll begin by assessing, identifying and altering things that need to change in your home environment. You’ll end by understanding the basics of meditation so that you can let yourself do what you already know how to do deep down in the hidden reality of your mind.

You’re ready to let your mind be, and just be, in your own home — let’s begin.

1. Find the Right Space in Your Home

Where is your right space for meditation at home? Is it in your basement, your bedroom, your living room, or your study?

The right space will be one with the least distractions built in to its purpose. In that case, it may be your bedroom. If you’ve set up your bedroom to be a place for sleep and only sleep, it will lend itself well to meditation.

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The right space will also be a reasonably spacious one. Although comfort is not your goal, you need room to sit. Choose a space that is private, spacious, and quiet. If you don’t have a space in your home like this, create one. Free it from clutter and get it ready for you to meditate there any time.

Ultimately, your right space is one you feel comfortable meditating in, the space you can enter with no other expectations.

2. Improve the Feng Shui in Your Home and Meditation Space

Feng shui means “wind and water.” It’s the ancient Chinese art of placement.[2]

Feng shui improves harmony with nature. Adherents to the principles of feng shui believe all things have energy (chi). The focus of feng shui is to send negative chi (sha) out of the space and attract positive chi (yun).

Here’s the truth about feng shui: it’s not complicated or hard. The following will influence feng shui positively in your home and meditation space:

  • Living things, such as plants
  • Beautiful objects, such as sculptures or even a well-polished piece of driftwood
  • Mirrors in symmetrical placement with the lines in a room
  • Mellifluous sounds, such as trickling water or wind chimes
  • Furniture away from walls
  • A centerpiece, such as a small table with books or an ornate lamp on it
  • Incense or something else that smells good
  • A lack of clutter and an attention to organization that emphasizes the usefulness, purpose, and essential being of each item in your house

Given that feng shui is connected to Taoism and Buddhism, it will complement the meditative atmosphere you want to cultivate in your home.

3. Eliminate Pervasive Distractions That Can Harm Your Wellbeing

In part, meditation is about accepting the existence of distractions. When you meditate, you don’t judge and assign a positive or a negative value to distractions — the ticking of a clock, an itch, the barking of a dog — you let them occur and let them dissipate like waves.

However, in the same way that feng shui removes objects that attract negative chi, there are certain types of distractions that don’t belong in your meditative space. You must remove them.

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In a survey of 1,700 people who visited social media sites at least 30 times per week, 30 percent reported high levels of sleep disturbance and 25 percent presented symptoms of depression. [3]

Those individuals who experience sleep disturbances or mental health issues due to social media are not setting boundaries between themselves and their connected devices.

Part of learning how to meditate at home is learning how and when to set boundaries between yourself and your connected devices and social media accounts. If you need your phone for a timed meditation practice, but you normally receive social media notifications on your phone, set it on Do Not Disturb or Airplane mode during your meditation time.

4. Flow into Meditation Through Time

Next, set aside a time for meditation each day. It’s right to be structured and disciplined about your meditation time.

Buddhist monks whose lives revolve around meditation are very structured and organized with their tasks each day. Structure provides the balance your being needs. Once you are meditating, your mind has no need for time. Outside of your given meditation time, you are completing tasks essential to the wellbeing of yourself and your home.

Consider meditating as the sun rises. This is a quiet and contemplative time of the day when it is natural to set your day’s balance through meditation.

5. Recognize the Rightness of Doing Nothing

At home, you’re probably used to always doing something. When you do meditation at home, you are being, which is doing something and nothing simultaneously.

Maryville University points out that successful people unplug by doing nothing. [4] Not only this, but they set the right expectations for the time during which they will do nothing.

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We oftentimes look forward to the future by expecting something to happen and by expecting something of ourselves. To meditate from home, look to that time and that space by expecting nothing. You will not do any chores. You will not catch up on work. You will do nothing but meditate for a certain amount of time each day.

This might sound crazy, but in taking on meditation from home, you’re not expecting yourself to improve and become a better person. As Ram Dass put it, you are expecting yourself to be here now.

6. Choose from the Incredible Variety of Meditative Practices

As I outlined in my post on types of meditation, there are many different and not-so-different types of meditation from which to choose.

Many beginners find it right to choose guided meditation, for which there are apps, videos, and audio tapes available.

If you are not necessarily a beginner but are merely moving your meditative practice into the home, you can facilitate a practice such as Nada Yoga — sound meditation — by placing a fountain in your space or listening to ambient alpha wave music.

If you’re used to meditating outside of your home — perhaps you are drawn to the outdoors because of the sounds of nature — a practice like Nada Yoga can help you transition into your home space.

7. Understand You Can Meditate Any Time at Home

What if I told you to throw out all of the tips that came before this? Sounds crazy but that is how radical mindfulness meditation really is. We don’t think of it as radical because it is now ingrained in our popular discourse.

Mindfulness meditation does start as a sitting meditation practice. It goes like this:

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  1. Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
  2. Focus on breathing. Inhale through your nose slowly and exhale slowly.
  3. As distracting thoughts arise, don’t judge them and don’t hang onto them. Let each thought go as you focus on breathing.
  4. Treat all physical sensations and feelings in the same way you do thoughts: register them, then let them go, returning to breathing.
  5. Extend this practice to everyday activity, remaining “in the moment” of the body’s activity with each new breath.

As you practice mindfulness around your home, note the physical characteristics of the things in themselves. Note physical sensations: sounds, smells, textures, appearances, tastes. Stop now and then and do a body scan from head to toe, noting what each section is doing and how it’s feeling.

Note thoughts that come and the emotions attached to them: let them go. Concentrate on the breath and the physical activities — including the details of the objects with which you’re interacting.

You’ll notice that your home will lend itself to a meditative state when things are in order. This is where true feng shui originates. You will naturally sense how the arrangement of things affects the energy in a room.

Clutter will disappear because mindfulness tells you to dispose of unnecessary things. Plants will bloom. Birds will make their nests in your backyard. Your home will smell pleasing and people will naturally be attracted to it and your presence.

You’ve Reached the Beginning and the End

Once you are able to do mindfulness meditation even as you are attending to the normal and abnormal requirements of your home, the mundane and the unusual, you are at both the beginning and the end.

You are at the beginning because meditation never ends. Continue setting aside time each day to do sitting meditation in the space you’ve set aside. Continue practicing mindfulness as you attend to the energy of your house, your own energy, and the energy of those around you.

You are at the end because you grasped what it means to do meditation at home: it means letting go of cares and concerns and being in your home as you attend to the right tasks. The right tasks are those necessary for being in your home.

As you sit in your home, rise, open the door and you leave, you are calm in your mind because you are home.

Featured photo credit: Simon Rae via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Healthline: 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation
[2]Marquette University: Feng Shui: The Wind and Water
[3]Rutgers University: Social Media and Well-Being
[4]Maryville University: How Successful People Unplug

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