How to be happy? Advice from Epicurus, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and more.


Picture by Leonardo Valente  from:

What is happiness? What is it linked to? Why are we not happy, even now when we have more than a king could have hoped for 100 years ago? Is there a secret formula to happiness? Does any of the 621,000,000 advises from the web actually work? To be happy do we have to be more, give more, struggle more, fight more, work more, or just feel more? Let’s look at the answers that some of the brightest minds in history have come up with for this question.

Epicurus, the famous ancient philosopher, believed that we need 3 main things in our life to be happy.

  1. Deep friendships, surround yourself with friends and live with them all the time, do not only get together once in a while for a drink. In his view, in order to be happy it is more important who you eat with rather than what you eat. So never eat a meal alone and spend as much time as you can with friends. Since most of our time is spent at work, you can see how important it is to be friends with the people in your company. In a recent study based on this idea, it was found that people who had a large group of friends where not only happier but also more likely to recover from illness.
  2. Freedom, especially financial freedom or the freedom of not having a boss that can give you orders and a status to prove to others. This does not mean being extremely wealthy but rather being self-sufficient and working on things that bring you joy instead of things that are forced upon you. He anticipated that if your basic needs are met you will not get happier by accumulating more wealth and this assumption was found out to be true in an experiment consisting of  600.000 Americans.
  3. An analyzed life = Meditation, take time off to reflect on your worries and analyze what is troubling you. Epicurus believed our anxieties quickly disappear when we start to challenge them.

But if it is so easy to be happy, why are not more people happy and why are we buying so much to keep us happy? Epicurus believed the reason for this is that the commercial world associates things they want to sell us with the things they know we actually need, for instance drinks with friendship, the sense of freedom with a holiday or a car and many more examples that I am sure you are very familiar with.

To overcome this propaganda, Epicurus suggested, it is very important to have constant reminders around us of the truly important virtues and things we wish to have in our lives.

One of this reminders could be the words of another famous philosopher, Seneca, who said that “True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not“.

If you are a fan of documentaries : The Century of the Self is a must watch that validates Epicur’s ideas about the commercial world. The movie offers a great view on how and why the consumer society was founded, starting with the ideas of Sigmund Freud about the subconscious mind from the early 1900 and moving on to the individualism revolution of the 70′ and 80′. (You can find the intro at the end of the article)

Tony Robbins, a well known american motivational speakerin a modern approach of the subject, says that there are 7 basic human needs, and if they are met we experience happiness.

  1. Comfort, meaning the comfort of being certain that things will happen our way and that tomorrow we will be safe.
  2. Variety, we want to know what is going to happen tomorrow but we also want to be surprised and go on adventures.
  3. Significance, we want to feel that we are important, that we are not here in vain.
  4. Love, we want to be cared about and also we want to care for others.
  5. Growth, we want to grow our minds, our body, our happiness. Because if we are not growing we are dying.
  6. Contribution, we want to make the world a better place and help others around us.
  7. Belonging, we want to feel connected with other like-minded people.

If you are a fan of A. Schopenhauer you might not agree that love belongs on the list. He claimed that the biggest mistake people make is to associate love with happiness. He said that nothing is more important than love because the survival of our species depends on it, but he saw love as a proof that biology is stronger than reason. So, in his opinion, we fall in love not because it makes us happy but because we are programmed to do so and because we have to for our specie to survive.

If Schopenhauer’s point of view does not appeal to you, there is a new and radical idea based on the theory of the holographic universe. It suggests that, only when we stop judging things as being good or bad and start accepting events for what they are, without being attached to the need (and illusion) of controling them, we can be free and happy. They suggest that, only by letting go of judgement, we can truly feel gratefull for every events in our lives. Because without judging we will finally feel like in paradise, and we will have the same expirience as Adam and Eve before they ate from the apple of knowledge.

But maybe the most impressive example of a man who found happiness, even in the face of the biggest atrocities humanity has ever faced, is Victor Frankl. Friedrich Nietzsche said that hardship is essential on the road to happiness, and that this is the only way to build a strong character. He compered our journey in search for happiness with climbing a mountain: in order to reach the top and enjoy the view you must first be willing to make the effort of getting up there. And Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist and a Jew, seems to be the perfect example of this theory. During the Second World War, Frankl was closed in a concentration camp with inhumane conditions that can’t be described in this post. He lost his parents, his brother and his wife in the concentration camps. He was tortured and suffered terrible humiliations. Every day he would wake up not knowing if he will be sent to the gas chambers or if he will be left to live.

One day, when he was naked inside his cell, he felt in his conscious the last freedom of men, something that the Nazi could not take away from him. Although they could torture him and keep him locked, they could not take away his freedom of thought. His fundamental identity was intact. He could decide, inspired probably by the stoic philosophy, if he would let this affect him or not. Between what was happening to him and his response stood his freedom of choosing how to respond. So from that day Frankl started projecting himself in different situations, for instance into a classroom teaching to his students, after his release. With the eyes of the mind he was in that classroom, although his body was incarcerated. By using mental discipline and by using his memory to alter his emotion, he started to become more and more free in himself. And soon this reflected outwards, he became an inspiration for those around him and even for his guards. He also managed to help others find their purpose in the hardship they faced.

Faced with a terrifying prospect, Victor Frankl remembered that no one can be in control of our emotions, unless we allow them to be. Stress does not exist in nature, it is a product of the mind, and if the mind creates it the mind can also destroy it. Our thoughts are our final freedom and the only place where no one has access without our consent.

Of course everyone is different, people fulfill their needs in diverse ways and this is what determines most of our dissimilarities. That is why we would like to find out what makes you happy. Let us know your thoughts in the comment box bellow.

F.M.B. in collaboration with Irina Popa

Carul rasturnat


Cand eram mic, de fiecare data cand ma plangeam de o sarcina aparent imposibila, mi se spunea:
‘Nu sti? Te invatam! Nu poti? Te ajutam! Nu vrei? Te motivam!’
Citind povestea de mai jos mi-am reamintit de aceasta zicala si am realizat ca poate fi transformata usor intr-o reteta foarte buna pentru a-ti indeplini obiectivele.
‘Nu stiu? Voi invata! Nu pot? Voi cere ajutor! Nu vreau? Voi regasi motivatia! Si imi voi aminti mereu ca totul se intimpla cu un motiv.’

Martin Buber a istorisit, in Gog si Magog, povestea unui om care s-a pomenit, pe cand mergea undeva, in fata unui car rasturnat de-a curmezisul drumului. Taranul care mana calul l-a rugat sa-l ajute sa-l ridice.
Cum oare ar putea doi oameni sa ridice o greutate atat de mare? s-a intrebat calatorul. A raspuns, asadar:
-N-are nici un rost. Nu pot.
Taranul s-a maniat si i-a zis:
-Poti dar nu vrei! asta-i adevarul: nu vrei!
Miscat calatorul s-a pus pe treaba. A gasit niste scanduri si l-a ajutat pe carutas sa le vare sub roti. Apoi cei doi barbati au incropit o parghie si au impins cu toate puterile. Carul s-a clatinat, s-a miscat si, pina la urma, cei doi au izbutit sa il ridice.
Carul cu boi a pornit indata la drum.
Calatorul i-a spus taranului:
-Ingaduie-mi sa merg o bucata de drum alaturi de tine.
-Cu draga inima. Pofteste si ma insoteste.
Au pornit, unul linga altul. Dupa o clipa de tacere calatorul intreaba:
-Cum de te-ai putut gandi ca nu vreau sa te ajut?
-M-am gandit fiindca mi-ai spus ca nu poti. Nimeni nu stie ca nu poate sa faca ceva daca nu incearca.
-Dar cum te-ai gandit ca te pot ajuta?
-Ce inseamna uite-asa?
-Ce pisalog esti! Vrei sa sti cu tot dinadinsul? Ei bine, mi-a trecut prin cap cand am vazut ca mi-ai fost trimis in intimpinare.
-Prin urmare, crezi ca ti s-a rasturnat carul tocmai pentru ca eu sa te pot ajuta?
-Dar pentru ce altceva, frate? a raspuns taranul.

Poveste e extrasa din cartea: ‘Cercul Mincinosilor’- de Jean-Claude Carriere
Daca povestea nu va motiveaza suficient sa renuntati la scuze, puteti incerca metoda promovata de Tim Ferris pe blog-ul personal:


Cultivate your mind


I would add that we are what we repeatedly Think and Do…

“As you believe so shall it be done to you. If you have fait you can move mountains.”

It is said from ancient times that our mind contains riches beyond our wildest dreams and will return anything that we will plant in it. We can choose if we plant anxiety or courage, wealth or poverty, happiness or sadness, health or sickness. But it can’t be so easy. It has to be more complex. And even if that is true why don’t people just use their minds more?

Our mind is a standard equipment on birth and things that are given to us for nothing we place very little value on them, on the other hand things that we pay money for or have to work hard for we value more.
The paradox is that the opposite is true. Everything that is really worthwhile in life came to us free: our minds, our souls, our body, our hopes, our dreams, our intelligence, our love of friends, family and children all this priceless possessions are free. But the things that cost us money are cheap and can be replaced or lost at any time. A good man can become completely broke and regain his fortune several times. Even our home can be rebuilt if it burns down. But the things we got for nothing we can never replace. The human mind is not used because we take it for granted. We use our mind on little jobs instead of big ones because we take it for granted and we do not have goals that mean something for us. Not for someone else but for us.
A mind without goals is like a ship without a steer. It will drift endlessly without reaching anywhere.

Everyone is the sum total of his thoughts. He is where he is because this is where he really wants to be, even if he admits it or not. So before moving on ask yourself:

What do you value more?

What are you often thinking about?

What do you really want?

And what do you do to achieve it?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments bellow.


And for some mind boggling thoughts check out the video bellow.