When we know that we will never have the necessary conditions for happiness – health, love, money, etc. – for very long, why not simply decide to be happy, as an inner resolution?
Happiness has its history
For a long time, it was considered random because it depended on good fortune (which is what its etymological meaning is: “good luck”). It became a right with the revolutions of the 18th-century (to the point of being written into the American Constitution) and finally almost a duty, as some advocates of personal development would have us believe.
But can we imagine that being happy can now only be a matter of personal decision? Aristotle, Descartes and Alain show us that the road between deciding to be happy and actually being happy is longer than we think…
You can decide to be Happy…
For Aristotle, one can decide to be happy – but one has to be a bit lucky, and above all very patient. In a sense, not wanting to be happy (or refusing to be happy) is impossible. According to him, nature has made the happy life the goal of all human existence – this is what classical philosophy calls eudemonism.
More precisely, as Aristotle shows in his Nicomachean Ethics, happiness is a human attribute, since it can only be attained by a rational and sociable being, which is why it will not be attributed to “an ox or a horse”.
Nevertheless, being happy does not depend on reason or goodwill alone. External factors come into play: according to Aristotle, if you are unattractive or poor, it is more difficult to achieve it. But above all, happiness can only be achieved at the end of a fulfilled life, when all our faculties have been developed. This implies that a child cannot know happiness despite his apparent joy. To make this paradox clear, Aristotle used an image that became proverbial: “One swallow does not make a spring, nor does one day of sunshine.
Without a slow maturation, happiness would be confused with a passing pleasure: “It is neither a single day nor a short interval of time that makes bliss and happiness.” But once achieved, happiness does not disappear easily because the experienced man is no longer subject to “reversals of fortune”:
“The being who possesses happiness […] is neither a chameleon nor a weather vane.” Aristotle’s conception of happiness is both elitist and voluntarist, and he reserves it for the wise man who has “succeeded in his life”. Between deciding to be happy and being able to say that you are, you must have lived a lot and meditated a lot.
Another way to claim to be happy is to know one’s limits and make thoughtful choices. Descartes made a painful diagnosis, but one that we experience regularly: one of the main sources of our unhappiness is unfulfilled desires, unattainable aspirations (for example, wanting to marry Brad Pitt or to go to Pluto). But in real life, some obstacles are insurmountable. The real resists.
Hence his advice, given in the Discourse on Method (1637): “Always try to change my desires rather than the order of the world. With this formula, one might think that Descartes renounces all happiness, thus bending to the world around him rather than to a supposed element of his happiness.
But the philosopher, himself a bon vivant, is no fatalist. Rather, Descartes enjoins us to control ourselves better, so as not to go from disappointment to disappointment, that is, to know our own limits better. And for this, we have a magic instrument: the will. But what does it mean to use one’s free will well in order to claim to be sincerely happy?
In his Metaphysical Meditations (1641), Descartes notes that “the will being much wider and more extensive than the understanding,” I often “extend it to things I do not hear. Deciding without knowledge is the best way to make mistakes, and thus to make ourselves unhappy by suffering the unpleasant effects of our bad choices. To be happy, then, we must equalize our power and our knowledge, for only then can we experience the power of our freedom without abusing it.
Finally, deciding to be happy is possible if we take our destiny into our own hands and change the way we look at what affects us: heir to Descartes, the philosopher Alain apparently outbids us in our ability to decide to be happy: “There is more will than we think in happiness,” he wrote in his Propositions on Happiness (1925).
But, perhaps more inspired by Spinoza, he argues that it is through action rather than thought, from which the decision emanates, that one can experience lasting joy: “It is impossible for one to be happy if one does not want to be; one must therefore want one’s happiness and do it.” This is because “every man who lets himself go is sad. Also, when one indulges in unhappiness, it is good to act in order to regain a taste for life: “The first remedy for the ills of thought is to saw wood,” we read in the last Propos.
But can’t we also alienate ourselves in action, at the risk of being haunted by the tragedies we pretend to ignore, with our heads down on our work? Alain is aware of this, and that is why he points out that acting only allows us to reconnect with happiness when we worry about relative, not so serious, problems.
If there is an art to being happy, it can do nothing “when misfortune falls on your head. Alain does not claim that one can remain indifferent to the tragedies of life (“I leave that to the Stoics”). But he does argue that one can teach “the art of being happy when circumstances are fair and all the bitterness of life is reduced to small annoyances and discomforts.
Deciding to be happy every day is then possible and even desirable, especially in order to be likeable. For we bore others by telling them of our misfortunes: “It should be considered impolite to describe to others a headache. It is important not to play the superman by pretending to succeed in everything, or to never be affected by what hurts other people. Because, in a society that only wants “winners”, we would be ashamed to have a bout of blues. If happiness is an art of doing, it is also a way of living, which does not put us above the common man.
Wellness: at what age are we most likely to be happy?
A study conducted by a Spanish researcher reveals that the age most conducive to happiness is between 30 and 34.
Scientific studies of all kinds come and go. But one of them has attempted to answer a complex question, to say the least: at what age are we most likely to achieve happiness?
Begoña Álvarez, the Spanish researcher who carried out this study published in the journal Social Indicators Research, reveals that the period between 30 and 34 years of age is the one in which people are most often settled professionally and with their families. And therefore happier.
According to this research, which involved 28,000 people, happiness is more difficult to achieve between the ages of 10 and 14 and after the age of 70.
The 5 most effective and indispensable tips to be happy
A sometimes elusive concept
If you’re looking for a definition of happiness, the recently deceased Jean-Paul Belmondo gave his version in the film Itinerary of a Spoiled Child directed by Claude Lelouch. In this film, the actor said: “Happiness is when the bastards are resting and you have to be careful not to wake them up”. If this sentence can indeed correspond to a vision of a life far from worries, all the greatest philosophers have asked themselves this question throughout the ages. How to define happiness and how to achieve it? If for some, it is the absence of annoyances, for others, it will be represented in many other forms.
To achieve happiness, some of us will aim for social and financial success, others will look for a fulfilling love relationship, while the simple joy that family brings will be enough for some of our contemporaries. In short, happiness would be multiple according to our own expectations and our most secret wishes.
However, everything is not so simple and, moreover, should happiness be imagined in the singular? Wouldn’t it be the accumulation of small daily feelings of happiness and not the result of a kind of contemplative state of grace? In any case, an American-Israeli academic by the name of Tal Ben-Shahar has now decided to take an interest in the subject in a book entitled Les 5 Clés du bonheur, recently published by Robert Laffont.
“5 fundamental keys”
In this book, this internationally renowned specialist in positive psychology decides to deliver the results of his research on happiness through studies based on disciplines such as psychology, but also neuroscience. According to this eminent scientist, there are indeed simple tricks to try to live better and feel happier.
He has therefore defined a method which Objeko offers you today to discover the main lines. Indeed, Professor Tal Ben-Shahar seems to have found what everyone has been looking for since the dawn of time: “My colleagues and I have identified 5 fundamental keys – spiritual, physical, intellectual, relational and emotional – which together form the Spire spiral. Objeko tells you more.
An initiatory journey
In this book, this specialist in happiness asserts that this feeling is easily attainable provided that one shows perseverance and determination. As for a great sportsman, it would be a question of a daily training that would allow becoming a true specialist of this sometimes elusive concept. To illustrate the point, let’s imagine a beginner sportsman who would like to beat the world record in the marathon. In this case, his failure is assured.
To achieve happiness, there is a method that consists of moving forward step by step, learning each day to exceed its limits without burning the stages: “For each key, you determine your level of well-being on a scale of 1 to 10, before reflecting on the reasons why you have given yourself this score. The objective is to indicate in the most concrete and precise way possible how to improve this score, not by 5 or 10 points, but by one.
The steps to follow
In order to determine your level of happiness, it will be necessary to measure your spiritual well-being, your physical, intellectual, relational and emotional well-being. As for spirituality, Professor Tal Ben-Shahar offers some explanations: “Spirituality can be experienced in two ways. First, when we have the feeling that our actions have a meaning and a purpose, and second, when we are fully aware of the present moment.
Regarding well-being, he reminds us of the importance of regular activity, which acts as a real antidepressant. For him, stress is a false problem because our body is built to fight it.
A not so unattainable happiness
On the subject of intellectual happiness, the scientist recalls a basic rule of thumb: “It is a way of satisfying our inquisitive nature. But one of the worst curses of the modern world is that deep learning gives way to superficial knowledge.
On the subject of relational well-being, it is essential not to get attached to false concepts: “the relationships that nourish us are not those where everything is perfect, but those where we show generosity and kindness, where we learn to manage conflict and grow together.
So to find the fifth key, we need to look at emotional well-being. In this case, it is important to deal with painful emotions like anxiety and sadness. Burying them is actually worse! A study to be discovered in this book that our editorial staff highly recommends.