Happiness is a choice; you can choose to be sad when everything is going well for you and you can choose to be happy even when nothing seems right. To be happy at all times, you need to make happiness a habit and not just an act. I believe that the following points will show you how to stay happy no matter what happens
Gratitude is a sign of appreciation and you ought to show appreciation for life. Always wake up every morning in acknowledgement that someone died the previous night but you didn’t, someone did not wake up but you did. Let me give you a little exercise, next time you feel as if everything is working against you and there is nothing to be thankful for, pick up a pen and a piece of paper and make a list of things you should be thankful for, for example, I woke up this morning, I have food on my table, I have clothes to wear, I have a good paying job even though my boss is a jerk, the skies are beautiful and the atmosphere is great. By the time you finish this little exercise, I can assure you that you will feel better already.
Unhappiness can result from stressing our bodies and minds. Scientists believe that 20 minutes of exercise can make you happy regardless of how sad you may be. Exercise raises your heart rate and triggers a surge of hormonal changes. As your heart begins to pound, certain hormones are released which create a sense of total well being and you begin to feel well again, the mind stress is gone and everything is under control. Another thing you can do is take a walk, this works for me all the time. When you take a walk, you are able to think over matters that are bothering you and come up with solutions to them.
Make somebody happy
“The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer somebody else up.” – Mark Twain
When you sow happiness, you reap happiness. Mother Teresa knew this secret so well; she devoted her life to helping others even if it simply meant putting a smile on someone’s face. Here is a sum of two of her famous quotes: “A life not lived for others is not a life; let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.”
Change is inevitable and no situation is permanent. Whenever you are feeling sad or depressed, always remember that it’s temporary and that tomorrow will be better, tough times don’t last but tough people do. Develop a positive attitude, be optimistic.
Act as if you are happy
Smile always, even when you are feeling blue. When the body acts, emotions follow. A smile costs nothing but it creates much, it enriches those who receive it without impoverishing those who give. Learn to smile at all times, it won’t only make you happy, it will also win you happy friends.
Stay Close to Friends
I was feeling very sad and depressed at work one Friday morning, I didn’t know what to do so I approached a friend and we got to talking, I shared my burden with her and we had a brief talk. By the time I finished pouring out my heart to her, I already knew why I was not happy and what I had to do as well. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings with friends, it works.
How do you stay happy no matter what happens? Share your experiences with us and your opinion on any of the above points.
Are you depressed and feel like happiness is impossible right now? You couldn’t be more wrong! As long as your depression is not due to a chemical imbalance, (which is often not the case), the following easy steps will show you how to be happy by reducing your negative thinking and the hold it has over you and your mind.
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Steps to being a happier person
Think of your life right now. What good things are there to be thankful for? Stay with me, because even if you are very depressed as you read this, there is always something to be thankful for. OK, so now start listing these positive things on a piece of paper or just go over them in your head. The fact that you can find many positive things in your life no matter how depressed you may feel is comforting and will change your mood. I tried this exercise when I was depressed and it is amazing how we ignore just how many good things are present in our lives. Reminding yourself each day is a really positive boost. Try this every day for at least a week and if possible do it twice a day. Doing this regularly will gradually change your focus from the negative to the positive and your depression will start to weaken.
Pause in the Moment
If you stop for one moment and forget the future and the past and concentrate on now, I’m sure you’ll see that right now everything is OK. Look around and ask yourself what is everything like now, you will see that there are no problems or worries in the present. Bring yourself into this present and forget everything else at least for as long as you can. You see, any stress you feel is mainly about the past or the future and it is wrapped in worry.
It is a surprise to understand this simple rule: if you are worrying it is almost always about the future or the past and you can’t change either of them. The only control you have is over the present, so why not put your attention there? If you do your future will improve naturally.
Any changes you make in the present can change your future. Worrying changes nothing and usually stops you from changing anything. So stop worrying about what might happen and change what you can right now.
What if you get that job you want? What if you make a new friend? What if everything goes well? What if and then something positive is mind changing! Instead of thinking negatively you will begin to expect something positive. Change can be good… And what you expect usually comes true, so expect better.
No matter how bad things appear you can always find a positive. Try adding at least to the end of your sentences when you hear yourself begin to complain.
“I am fed up with my job but at least the hours are flexible. He talks too much but at least he is honest.” This also will help you to think more positively. Depression makes everything black and this technique can help bring in a little light. This is a small yet significant step towards living more positively and believe me it will change your life.
Stop saying “I can’t”
Realize that there are few things you can’t do. Mostly what you are saying is that you don’t want to do something. Examine why this is so – is it fear? Start correcting your statements and also those you tell yourself. Take responsibility for what you say and what you choose and you will be more happy as a result.
Decide to be happy
Sounds very easy but yes you can decide to be happy or unhappy now! Decide to change what you can and accept what you can’t and decide to be happy and more positive. You will weaken the grip that depression has over you.
If you are unhappy and down you will think negatively and all your energy will be drained. This is no way to change things for the better. If you are happy you are more likely to make positive decisions that will improve your situation and take you closer to what you desire.
Start imagining things improving
What you can see as possible, is possible. If you dream something you can make it real. Nothing ever happened in this world without there first being a dream. The only thing stopping you from achieving what you want is your thinking and your fear. As soon as you think things can improve, they will.
Only you have the power to change your mood and if you do, happiness will be your new reality.
You don’t have to become a fitness freak or become obsessed, just get up and do some exercise each day. There are many different forms of beneficial exercise from walking to swimming, going to the gym, playing a sport, it doesn’t matter which you choose. Exercise actually fills your brain with happy chemicals and will give you an almost immediate lift in your mood.
The forms of exercise that involve getting out and about in nature can also inspire you and make you happier. The fresh air alone can fill your brain with oxygen and make you feel better. Don’t forget that while your exercising or even going for a walk, negative thoughts will leave you. many people have had their best ideas while out for a walk or when exercising in the gym so there are many benefits both physical and mental.
Being unhappy or depressed can cause you to focus on your problems so much that you may become isolated and forget about others. One of the best ways to feel happier is to do something to help others. This will help you to feel useful and the kind act will make you feel more positive about life. You could help someone you know or volunteer but consider this as a wonderful way to contribute.
So much happiness can be gained from interaction and communication with other people and when you see that someone has benefited from your actions this will certainly make a big difference to how you feel.
I hope that these easy to use techniques will help you become happier and whether you use them as part of your depression cure or your main strategy then I wish you luck. You can be happy and beat your depression. Know that you are not alone. Millions suffer every day and most recover, so can you.
Website Author Bio
Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach, Teacher and Author of Self Esteem Secrets . He has overcome severe depression and now helps others to do the same. His qualifications include Masters and DipLC . He has taught at various universities including Durham University , University of Leicester and Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge . He is a member of Mind . He founded Depression-Helper.com in 2001 and is an expert in Depression and Self Esteem.
Expert advice for people-pleasers looking for a new approach.
This blog curates the voices of the Division of Psychoanalysis (39) of the American Psychological Association. Dana Charatan, Psy.D., licensed psychologist in Boulder, Colorado submits this post.
I can’t tell you how many times a new client has walked into my office and told me, “I don’t understand why I am so lonely. I bend over backwards to make everyone else happy. Why is it that no one seems to care how I feel?” It is a common phenomenon in which, in order to feel safe and secure in our relationships, we can easily stop focusing on our own needs and wishes and put all of our energy into accommodating everyone else’s.
The problem: Most of the time, this strategy backfires on us.
Logically, the behavior makes a lot of sense: If we can prove to others that we are willing to make them our priority, our hope is that they will in turn appreciate our efforts, bask in the glow of our love, and give that love back to us.
Taking a step back to childhood and even infancy, it is essential for our survival to do whatever we can to get in the good graces of our caregivers. As children who cannot fend for ourselves, we need to be assured that our caretakers will take good care of us. Part of ensuring that we are fed, cleaned, and cuddled happens through taking stock of our caretakers’ moods and cues and learning what activities are most likely to be rewarded. For example, smiling is a good way to show one’s adorableness as an infant, and therefore receive praise, attention, and coddling. Babies learn to recognize emotional states and can demonstrate these feelings from a very young age, far earlier than their ability to use language through thought or speech. Many of us learn through years of practice that the best way to receive love is to give it.
There is nothing wrong with this idea, and the most rewarding, mutual relationships are comprised of spontaneous gestures of kindness, love, support, and acts of service. Things tend to go south, though, when one person finds himself or herself continuously giving much more than they receive. This pattern can unfold in any kind of relationship—not just romantic partnerships but friendships, office relationships, within families, and so on. In fact, the more strongly we feel pushed to act out a particular pattern in a relationship, the more likely we are to stick to these patterns in multiple relationships, as opposed to feeling able to choose which style is most likely to work to our benefit.
Procedural memory, the same idea that explains how once you learn how to ride a bike you will always remember, applies just as much to our understanding of the world and relationships as it does to riding a two-wheeler. Once we learn how to secure love in our childhood environment, those lessons stick with us as we get older, even if they are no longer are our best option. Another way of saying this is that when people come to therapy, they tend to feel “stuck” in a certain pattern of feeling or relating, even if they know that these old ways no longer work; they just can’t quite articulate why or how to make change.
To use the example from the beginning of this article, most adults don’t like being around people whom they experience as pushovers. There are many reasons this is true; even if at first it feels nice to have someone going out of their way for you, it often feels insincere or creates feelings of guilt for taking advantage of that person. Some people become angry because they think something is expected of them in return, while others would just rather be around someone who seems to be more secure in themselves.
Ultimately, I have discovered after much work with accommodators that they wouldn’t want to spend time with someone who acted like them, either. It takes time and effort, but once we can trace back how people-pleasing behavior developed; respect that at one point in time it was likely a brilliant strategy for feeling loved and safe in the world; and figure out other ways of feeling securely attached that are better suited for late adolescence and adulthood, letting go of the need to put everyone else first becomes much easier. Relationships start to feel more mutual and satisfying. Other negative emotions ease up. Individuals can start to feel more assertive and voice their needs to others—and they are more likely to feel heard. Being a people-pleaser at that point starts to feel like a choice and not a chore.
Ultimately, I know my job is done when people start to see themselves as free agents in the world, and not as indentured servants!
The last six months of my life have been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. to say the least! After my Breast Cancer diagnosis in November 2015, my life fell apart in an instant.
Suddenly, everything I loved was under threat. Family life, relationships, my health. Actually being here.
Over the past six months, my blog, lovefrommim.com became my therapy, my outlet and my solace. I documented much of my journey and the many varied emotions that have played out in my mind – fear, anger, gratitude and humor to name but a few.
It hasn’t been easy and I certainly haven’t always felt happy but I’ve done my best to display a positive attitude outwards, in the constant hope that I would convince myself to feel positive too. “Fake it ’til you make it” works for me and I wanted to share my thoughts on ways to fake being happy with you too.
1. Find an outlet
When bad times hit, keeping it bottled up inside is one of the worst things you can do. Find an outlet.
That might be a family member, a best friend, a diary, a blog or a psychologist. Find a person or place where you can share everything that’s going through your mind, all the good, bad and ugly. Someone who won’t judge you, that will let you vent, overshare, get it all out.
Of course I’m not suggesting that you use anyone as a ‘punching bag’ but with their consent, lean on them. They do not need to have all the answers or have the right things to say. They just need to listen.
2. Find something to laugh at
Whether it’s your favorite comedy show, funny YouTube videos or hanging out with a friend who always has you in stitches, laughing is the best therapy for some.
When you’re feeling sad, upset or overwhelmed, it can be so hard to clear your mind of those negative thoughts so try and find something to completely take your mind off it.
Think of a funny story or event that has happened in the past and make that your go-to happy place.
3. Create a Happy Playlist
You know there are some songs that just uplift you, make you smile or make you want to dance on the spot? Well why not pull them all together into a ‘happy playlist’ so you have an instant happy soundtrack to play whenever you need to feel better!
If music isn’t your thing, consider meditation. I meditate often and the process of focusing on my breathing really calms my mind.
Whilst we’re on the subject of music, crank up that happy playlist and sing along at the top of your lungs!
For me, this is in the shower, doing household chores or on a rare trip to a karaoke booth! Singing is such therapy and you don’t need to be any good at it to feel the benefits.
So pick up your hairbrush and sing, sing, sing!
5. Make someone else happy
Although it’s sometimes hard to stop focusing on whatever is making you feel down, try and think of a way to cheer up a friend who might also be going through a tough time.
Give them a call to see how they’re doing or pop round with their favorite treats. Or create a Happy Playlist just for them!
Doing lovely things for others is often a great way to start feeling better about ourselves and in turn, feel much happier.
All of the above have helped me feel happy when I’ve been at my absolute lowest. I was so aware in the beginning that I was forcing myself at times to put a smile on when I wanted to cry.
Then one day, I realized I just wasn’t pretending any more and I was genuinely happy. There are times when I wane and I revisit the tips above.
If I pretend to smile, fake a laugh or say I’m feeling positive, I might not feel that way on the inside. However I try to accept that whatever I’m going through is just a phase that will pass and genuine happiness is just around the corner.
What are your tips for making yourself feel happy when you’re not?
Edmond Shaftesbury was the ne plus ultra of grandiose 19th century self-help kooks. I first heard of him because he invented a language called Adam-Man Tongue, but he produced dozens of works on everything from personal charisma, to brain training, to immortality. He is perhaps best known under his pseudonym, Dr. Ralston, for a health food cult he started called Ralstonism. (The Purina Company asked him to endorse their wheat cereal, and consequently became Ralston-Purina). Actually, Edmond Shaftesbury was a pseudonym too. His real name was Webster Edgerly. He had tons of crazy ideas, and no shortage of self-regard.
He had a particular passion for the theater, and once wrote, produced, and starred in his own play about which a New York Times reviewer said, the “originator, concoctor, and financial backer of this forlorn enterprise is a misguided person, who evidently labors under the triple hallucination that he is a poet, a dramatist, and an actor.”
No doubt Shaftesbury/Edgerly was undeterred by such unknowing opinions. After all, he had developed a system for “the management of the body and its members” that if carefully studied and committed to memory would turn anyone into “the PERFECT ACTOR.” Here are explicit instructions from “the Shaftesbury Method” on how to perform 11 tragic emotions.
1. Silent Sorrow
This attitude is made by raising the folded arms to the forehead.
“I must e’en submit.”
The Honeymoon, Act III, Scene IV
2. Mental Pain
This attitude is made by the weight on the right foot, placing the left hand upon the heart, the right upon the forehead, and inclining the head backward, the eyes looking upward.
“Why, how is this? What sudden change has come upon the world?”
Ingomar, Act IV, Scene I
This attitude is made by inclining the head right oblique downward, allowing the right arm to rest over the top of the head, and the left arm to hang down.
“Farewell, sweet dreams.”
Parthenia, Act I, Scene I
This attitude is made by inclining the head slightly forward; the eyes looking off; the shoulders elevated a little; the hands clasped, palms downward.
“Well death’s the end of all.”
Romeo and Juliet, Act III, Scene IV
This attitude is made by placing the palms of both hands to the temple. The face looks up.
“Oh, now forever farewell to the tranquil mind!”
Othello, Act III, Scene II
This attitude is made by retiring the weight upon the left foot; placing the tips of the fingers of both hands back of the neck, the head falling back upon the left shoulders.
“O Antony! Antony! Antony!”
Antony and Cleopatra, Act IV, Scene I
7. Unpleasant Sounds
This attitude is made by placing the crooked fingers to the ears and showing facial disgust.
“There is a passing shrillness in her voice.”
The Honeymoon, Act I, Scene I
This attitude is made by folding the arms, and looking down, the face being nearly concealed, and the body turned obliquely.
“And dogs bark at me as I halt by them.”
Richard III, Scene I
This attitude is made by standing with the weight on the left foot retired; the hands down and clinched; the face looking right oblique.
“Thou rascal, thou art worst in blood to urn.”
Coriolanus, Act I, Scene I
This attitude is made by standing with the head thrown back, the face looking right oblique, both hands up and vertical in the right side, the left hand protecting the face, the weight on the left foot and the shoulders raised.
“Hence, horrible shadow: unreal mockery, hence.”
Macbeth, Act III, Scene IV
11. Hatred in Horror
This attitude is made by standing with the weight on the left foot retired, the shoulders raised; chin forward; crooked fingers raised to the mouth.
“An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth!”
Leah the Forsaken, Act IV, Scene I
Whew! That was exhausting and sad wasn’t it? Here’s a palate cleanser to dispel all that gloom. Be sure to practice it every day.
This attitude is formed by taking a No. 1 Oratorical position, the arms hanging down at the side.
“I am ready, so please your Grace.”
Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I
You’re with someone you’ve just met, and within seconds you feel that there’s something wrong with you.
Up until meeting this person, you were having a pretty good day, but now you’re starting to question everything from the way you look to the accomplishments you’ve racked up over your life so far. Let’s say the person is the mother of one of your children’s playmates. Not only does she seem perfectly outfitted, but in simply introducing herself, she’s made it clear that she’s got an important job and a perfect family life, and that she associates with all the right people.
It’s easy to get thrown into a personal purgatory of self-doubt in these situations. Whether it’s a social contact or a business interaction, people who want everyone to know how big they are can make the rest of us feel pretty small. Just think how much better you’d feel if you could brush these situations aside and go on about your day without doubting yourself and your life.
It turns out that when armed with a simple set of detection tools, you can not only help yourself feel better but also recognize the weaknesses in the façade of those practically perfect people.
The psychology behind this process stems from the theory of the Viennese psychoanalyst Alfred Adler, who coined the term inferiority complex.
According to Adler, people who feel inferior go about their days overcompensating through what he called “striving for superiority.” The only way these inwardly uncertain people can feel happy is by making others decidedly unhappy. To Adler, this striving for superiority lies at the core of neurosis.
We now think of this striving for superiority as a feature of narcissistic personality disorder, that deviation in normal development that results in a person’s constant search to boost self-esteem. The two kinds of narcissists are the grandiose (who feel super-entitled) and the vulnerable (who, underneath the bravado, feel weak and helpless). Some may argue that at their core, both types of narcissists have a weak sense of self-esteem, but the grandiose narcissist may just be better at the cover-up. In either case, when you’re dealing with someone who’s making you feel inferior, there’s a good chance that narcissism is the culprit.
Narcissism doesn’t always reach pathological levels, but it can characterize people to more or less of a degree. Using the concepts of “overt” and “covert” narcissism instead of grandiose and vulnerable, some personality researchers believe that they can learn more about the type of narcissism you might spot in everyday life. University of Derby (U.K.) psychologist James Brookes (2015) decided to investigate the way that people high on these tendencies actually feel about themselves in terms of both self-esteem and self-efficacy, or confidence in one’s ability to succeed.
Using a sample of undergraduates—an important point to keep in mind—Brookes analyzed the relationships among overt and covert narcissism, self-esteem, and self-efficacy. The two forms of narcissism were not related to each other, supporting the idea that these two subtypes have some validity. Examining which was more related to self-esteem, Brookes found that those high on overt narcissism in fact had higher self-esteem: Their need to feel “special” seemed to play the most important role for these self-aggrandizing individuals. Covert narcissists, for their part, had lower self-esteem scores.
- What Is Narcissism?
- Find a therapist who understands narcissism
Looking at self-efficacy, the overt narcissists also won the day compared to their more hypersensitive and insecure counterparts. In particular, for overt narcissists, the need to have power over others seemed to give them the sense that they could accomplish anything.
Signs of narcissistic insecurity
The Brookes study provides some clues, then, into what makes up the narcissistic personality. It can also offer insight into the ways you can interpret the actions of narcissistic friends, coworkers, or partners through examining their insecurities:
- The insecure person tries to make you feel insecure yourself.
When you start to question your own self-worth, is it typically around a specific person or type of person? Is that individual always broadcasting his or her strengths? If you don’t feel insecure in general, but only around certain people, it’s likely they’re projecting their insecurities onto you.
- The insecure person needs to showcase his or her accomplishments.
You don’t necessarily have to feel insecure around someone to conclude that inferiority is at the heart of their behavior. People who are constantly bragging about their great lifestyle, their elite education, or their fantastic children may very well be doing so to convince themselves that they really do have worth.
- The insecure person drops the “humblebrag” far too often.
The humblebrag is a brag disguised as a self-derogatory statement. You’ve all seen these on Facebook, as when an acquaintance complains about all the travel she has to take (due to the importance of her job), or all the time he has to spend watching his kids play (and, by the way, win) hockey games. (The “Facebook gloat” is a bold-faced brag which is easier to spot but may very well have the same roots.)
- The insecure person frequently complains that things aren’t good enough.
People high in inferiority like to show what high standards they have. You may label them as snobs, but as much as you realize they’re putting on an act, it may be hard to shake the feeling that they really are better than you. What they’re trying to do, you may rightly suspect, is to proclaim their high standards as a way of asserting that not only are they better than everyone else, but that they hold themselves to a more rigorous set of self-assessment criteria.
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Returning to the Brookes study, there can be aspects of overt narcissism that actually do work in helping the insecure feel more confident in their abilities. However, this comes at the price of making everyone else feel less confident. I wouldn’t recommend bolstering your sense of self-efficacy by putting down everyone else.
To sum up: Being able to detect insecurity in the people around you can help you shake off the self-doubts that some people seem to enjoy fostering in you. Taking the high road, and not giving in to these self-doubts, may also help you foster feelings of fulfillment both in yourself and in the insecure people you know and care about.
I think it’s safe to assume that “normal” people want to be happy. We want to be around happy people, in happy environments, feeling good and doing things that make us happy. So, if happiness (and happy experiences) is our goal, what can we do to reach that goal? If happiness is a common goal for so many people, why are so many people unhappy? There’s got to be a way for each of us to attract the happiness we seek; but how?
The Law of Attraction is not a tool that can be used to create or attract something – not even happiness. But, the Law of Attraction explains how we can attract happiness with our thoughts and emotions. If we work “with” the Law, we can create a happier emotional state and create and attract happier experiences. The Law of Attraction essentially tells us that, if we want to attract happy people and experiences, we must simply be happy; you cannot attract happiness with sadness, grief, worry, fear, or anger.
That’s easier said than done, for most people; because most people simply don’t even know how to act happy, much less be happy. You see, if you constantly act unhappy, unsatisfied, put-off, etc, you will have a hard time finding people who want to be around you; on the other hand, happy people are a joy to have around – and they are sought out by others. A happy person always has friends! And, good luck often falls on those who are open to it and actively seeking it. By simply being happy, you are seeking, and open to, a completely different set of opportunities, possibilities, and “chance” encounters – all of which can lead to new experiences and fortunate outcomes.
Besides making you more “attractive” to happy people, conditions, and situations, being happy also helps you by improving your health. Study after study has shown the ever-growing list of health benefits that accompany being happy; you can be fitter, live longer, stay more active, and be more adventurous with a healthy body – and all of these things make you more attractive to happy people and conditions, as well. But how can we just, “Be Happy?”
A popular song tells us, “Don’t worry; be happy.” “Don’t worry,” is good advice for anyone who wants to be happy; in fact, it’s on my list of the Three-Easiest Ways to Be Happy. Though the things on this list seem relatively simple, it will probably take a great deal of thought and attention to truly master these three-simple methods for staying happy. As you think about the things on this list, just make the decision to be happier; and you’ll find yourself paying more attention, and putting more effort into your own happiness. Here’s the list:
1. Don’t worry. Fear not. Think about good, happy, or positive things rather than things that worry you, or put you in a foul temper, bad mood, or low-spirits. Unhappy-thoughts create unhappiness; replace them with “happy-thoughts” to create happiness.
2. Talk about happy things; “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything. ” If you’re thinking happy thoughts, it’s easy to talk about happy things; if you aren’t, listen to a happy conversation and join-in as soon as you have something positive to add. Talking about unhappy things is not attractive.
3. Do things that make you happy while helping others, or while making you stronger, healthier, and happier. Helping others is a great way to be happy.
If you’re ready to let-go of stress, worries, negative thinking and self-talk, and any other reasons you have for being unhappy, try learning EFT; it’s quick, easy, and FREE!*
*To download your FREE, Illustrated Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) Manual, go to: http://www.ExploreExpandEvolve.com/free_download/ (It only takes about 10-seconds to get your Free EFT manual and start erasing fears, worries, doubts, unhappiness, and limiting beliefs!)
Pete Koerner is the author of The Belief Formula: The Secret to Unlocking the Power of Prayer. The Belief Formula is a look at how you can use ancient wisdom and modern scientific awareness to learn how to use your mind to reclaim your health and create the life of your dreams.
Plato, left, and Aristotle, right, as depicted by Raphael.
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While most of us ask “What should I do?” when we think about ethics, many philosophers have approached it by asking, “What kind of person should I be?” These thinkers often turn to virtue ethics for answers. Aristotle, one of the most influential philosophers of all time, developed a comprehensive system of virtue ethics that we can learn from even today.
Why be virtuous?
In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle proposed that humans are social, rational animals that seek to “live well.” To that end, he proposed a system of ethics designed to help us reach eudaimonia, a world that means living well or flourishing.
Eudaimonia is reached by living virtuously and building up your character traits until you don’t even have to think about your choices before making the right one.
Such a person will be happy, but not in the same way as a hedonistic person. They will strive for self-improvement and will live their lives to the fullest. They will be the kind of person that others want to be like. Above all else, they will flourish.
What are virtues?
Aristotle sees virtues as character traits and tendencies to act in a particular way. We gain them through practice and by copying ‘moral exemplars’ until we manage to internalize the virtue. We become temperate by practicing temperance, courageous by practicing courage, and so on. Eventually, the virtue becomes a habit.
He further explains that each virtue is the “golden mean” between a vice of excess and deficiency. Taking the example of temperance, if we have the vice of deficiency we will be intemperate but if we the vice of excess we will never drink at all. Aristotle sees both traits as vicious. The virtuous person will know how much they can drink without having too much or teetotaling.
What are Aristotle’s virtues?
The virtues he lists in his Nicomachean Ethics are:
Courage: The midpoint between cowardice and recklessness. The courageous person is aware of the danger but goes in any way.
Temperance: The virtue between overindulgence and insensitivity. Aristotle would view the person who never drinks just as harshly as the one who drinks too much.
Liberality: The virtue of charity, this is the golden mean between miserliness and giving more than you can afford.
Magnificence: The virtue of living extravagantly. It rests between stinginess and vulgarity. Aristotle sees no reason to be ascetic but also warns against being flashy.
Magnanimity: The virtue relating to pride, it is the midpoint between not giving yourself enough credit and having delusions of grandeur. It is a given that you also have to act on this sense of self-worth and strive for greatness.
Patience: This is the virtue that controls your temper. The patient person must neither get too angry nor fail to get angry when they should.
Truthfulness: The virtue of honesty. Aristotle places it between the vices of habitual lying and being tactless or boastful.
Wittiness: At the midpoint between buffoonery and boorishness, this is the virtue of a good sense of humor.
Friendliness: While being friendly might not seem like a moral virtue, Aristotle claims friendship is a vital part of a life well lived. This virtue lies between not being friendly at all and being too friendly towards too many people.
Shame: The midpoint between being too shy and being shameless. The person who has the right amount of shame will understand when they have committed a social or moral error but won’t be too fearful not to risk them.
Justice: The virtue of dealing fairly with others. It lies between selfishness and selflessness. This virtue can also be applied in different situations and has a whole chapter dedicated to the various forms it can take.
Aristotle sees ethics as more of an art than a science, and his explanations purposely lack specifics. We have to learn what the right approach to a situation is as part of our moral development.
He also doesn’t mean to say that we can’t break the rules. Just because a person is honest, for example, doesn’t mean they can’t lie when they need to. This makes virtue ethics more flexible than deontological systems of ethics but also harder to use since we have to determine when we can lie, get angry, or be prideful on our own.
This list seems a little strange
Keep in mind that this list was designed for upper class, Greek men who had a decent education and a fair amount of luck. The virtue of magnificence, for example, would be impossible for a person of limited means to practice.
Most of the virtues on the list always have relevance to us though. As philosopher Martha Nusbaum explains, “What [Aristotle] does, in each case, is to isolate a sphere of human experience that figures in more or less any human life, and in which more or less any human being will have to make some choices rather than others.”
We must all face danger at some point, so we must ask how to be courageous. We must all deal with other people, so we must ask how to be friendly. We all get angry, so we must ask how to be patient. The virtues Aristotle lists remain relevant even if the world they were created for has long vanished.
While the exact nature of what the good life is and how to reach it is subject to never-ending debate, the ideas of great minds are always relevant. While some of Aristotle’s views may not be as relevant now as they were 2,000 years ago, they can still inform our efforts to live better lives. While not every person that tries to live up to the virtues will succeed in every case, wouldn’t we be better for trying?
There are a lot of unhappy people trudging around these days. After all, the 21st century had a bit of a rough start. It began with the whole Y2K computer scare, followed shortly after by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Then, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq started. And then there’s the global economic meltdown that’s affected nearly every nation on the planet. Good times.
Yep, there are plenty of reasons for all of us to be unhappier than ever, but we continue to crave happiness. Luckily, we can actually whip up a bit of our own when our lives and surroundings are short on it. By creating happiness strategies, a term that University of California at Riverside psychology professor and happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky came up with, we can instill happiness in ourselves.
In the spirit of good feelings all around, we did some digging and found 10 ways to drum up a little happiness of your own whenever and wherever you like.
10: Hang Out With Smiling People
When you see someone smiling, what emotion do you imagine he or she is experiencing? Is it safe to assume that person is happy? Sure it is. We humans associate smiling with happiness, and if we hang out with happy people, we can become happier as well.
One heart study has been following 4,700 people in Framingham, Mass., for the past 20 years. It’s churned out all kinds of data, including a report that showed happiness is contagious. Happy people tend to be at the center of social networks that are made up of other happy people. As it turns out, the emotion appears to radiate and spread throughout the group.
The study also discovered that knowing another happy person increases your own happiness by 15.3 percent. It found that friends of the same gender top the list of potential happiness spreaders. So the next time you could use a happiness boost, find a friend in a good mood. Just be sure not to turn your friend into a Debbie Downer, too.
9: Be a Smiling Person Yourself
It can really sap positive energy to be constantly nitpicking another person all the time — and dealing with his or her potentially negative resulting reactions — so lay off any nagging you might feel like dredging up and see what happens as a result. It can prove to be a serious mood lifter. Not all close relationships will see felicitous outcomes, but many will. Constantly worrying about every little thing in life (especially if a mile-high to-do list is involved) can trigger negative emotions that are easy to transfer to the people you love in your life.
To get things rolling, why not take a second look at the dynamics of your relationships and your goals for them, whether those relationships are with your partner, siblings, children, parents or roommates? See if there are areas where you could lighten up a bit and work in a little happiness instead. Will it really matter if the laundry/dishes/dusting is accomplished this exact second? Could you both squeeze in a few minutes together laughing on the couch or companionably going for a walk? Most chores can wait — up to a point. Spending time with the people you care about is precious indeed. Not only will these people tend to be happier, you won’t be expending so much energy trying to micromanage your own expectations. And those two factors can definitely help lift a person’s mood.