However, there is one hindrance in our pursuit for happiness. Epicurus believed that worrying and being anxious about our future is a guaranteed way to ruin our inner peace and happiness. Clarke adds “Although he suggested this has more to do with not fearing gods or death, the idea that we would be fearful about anything in our future was considered an obstacle to our experience of pleasure, tranquility, and happiness.”
What makes you happy
According to the Epicurean philosophy, the are 3 primary aspects of happiness:
- Self-sufficiency & freedom
- Philosophical Thought
Enjoying the company of good friends is one of the secrets to happiness, believed Epicurus. However, with our chaotic personal lives it is often difficult for us to meet or spend quality time with our friends and loved ones. Hence, seeing our friends occasionally will not lead to happiness. The Epicurean philosophy claims that we must meet our friends on a daily basis and spend enough time with them to be happy.
“Friends and like-minded individuals bring us so much happiness and we need to spend more time with them. Friendship is very different from romantic relationships. Friendships are supportive, positive and fun, while romance can lead to negative feelings,” explains writer L. A. Brandenburg.
Mental health expert Jodi Clarke, MA, LPC/MHSP writes “Epicurus believed that connection with friends offered a sense of safety, whereas lack of connection can lead to isolation, despair, and peril.”
Self-sufficiency & freedom
Everyone wants to live free. Want want to have the freedom to make our own decisions and live our life on our own terms. However, to be free we need to learn to be self sufficient as well. Being free and living self sufficiently with our friends will enable us to experience happiness.
Epicurus himself lived with his friends in his school of philosophy “the Garden”, which is considered as the first community. Brandenburg explains “Looking at the community that Epicurus developed, everyone worked to sustain the community. The work they did was meaningful and needed by others. They, therefore, felt good about the work they did.”
Even though the members of the Garden were not wealthy, their needs were met. They were free to do what they wanted, they enjoyed the company of their friends and they were happy. “They had freedom and self-sufficiency,” adds Brandenburg.
Being involved in rational and philosophical thought is the final aspect of happiness. Accoring to the Epicurean philosophy, we need to think analytically about out thoughts, feelings and emotions. Although we may try to live a temperate life and abstain from desires, we may still feel anxiety about our future.
Engaging in philosophical thought enables us to observe our fears about the future, explore difficult feelings and understand ourselves better. Brandenburg writes “Epicurus knew that many people feared death – a fear of the unknown. But he said if we engage in philosophical thought and really look at death there is nothing to be afraid of.”
According to Epicurus, human beings should not fear death, says psychiatrist Neel Burton, M.D. One of the reasons for this is “The mind is a part of the body, and, just like other parts of the body (and everything else in the universe), is made up of atoms. The death of a person entails the death of both body and mind and the re-dispersion of their atoms. As there is no longer any person to be troubled, death cannot trouble the person after she is dead. And if death cannot trouble the person after she is dead, then nor should it trouble her while she is still alive,” adds Burton.
Happiness is uncomplicated
Although following the Epicurean philosophy may appear unrealistic to most of us, some people actually tend to live a life based on the beliefs of Epicurus. Given the complications of modern life, we may feel that it is impossible to stay happy constantly as life keeps throwing new challenges at us every day. Yet, with a little effort we can experience true happiness if we take every decision to seek pleasure and comfort even in the face of challenges.