Psychologist and author Ken Pope has offered a recent article from The Atlantic “Aristotle’s 10 Rules for a Good Life—An ancient Greek recipe for happiness” by Arthur C. Brooks.
Many people say they are looking for happiness. They spend a lot of time and resources searching for the secrets of well-being, like old-time miners prospecting for gold. But for some sages throughout history, this is the wrong approach. Happiness isn’t something to be found; it’s something to attract.
Perhaps the most famous proponent of the second path was the Greek philosopher Aristotle. He defined happiness as eudaemonia, which means “good spirit.”
The philosopher meant that happiness was a divine state that would visit each of us as it pleased. Our only responsibility was to open the door to it. And we do so by living well.
To live well, we should practice specific virtues and make them into habits.
Here are 10 of the virtues he recommends—which, as modern research shows, do generally attract the good spirit.
Aristotle wrote about courage in the context of the willingness to sacrifice one’s life, such as in war. Whether he would recognize the virtue in our modern settings is hard to guess—who knows what he would say about the fear of being canceled on social media? But the question at hand is not the source of fear but whether courage—to act in the face of fear rather than give in to it—invites happiness. And the research suggests that it does: Scholars have shown that courage can lead to resilience after adversity, and resilience leads to greater happiness.
By this, the philosopher means self-control in the face of one’s appetites and base impulses. He would classify the hippie motto “If it feels good, do it!” as a recipe for misery. Modern researchers investigating self-control agree, but with a twist. Scholars writing in the Journal of Personality in 2017 found that as impulse control among college students increased over the course of a day, positive affect initially fell. As self-control kept rising, however, negative feelings decreased; happiness rose to its highest levels when self-control was at its highest as well. In other words, a little moderation isn’t so good for well-being, but immoderate moderation may be great.
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