Ask people what they want and many will simply answer: Happiness. Yet, for many this goal remains allusive.
At Sound-Aesthetics we'll never claim to have all the answers to happiness, but some lessons have crossed our way. As with so many things in life, the answer seems to be much simpler than we tend to think, or only to be found in a different place entirely...
Firstly, a precursor to happiness is surely the absence of — or otherwise the ability to deal with — things that make us unhappy. Certainly, it would be wise to avoid major sources of unhappiness as far as possible — such as toxic relationships. But, by the same logic, why not simply avoid all those things that have the potential to make us unhappy? Because, basically, that would mean avoiding everything in life. Besides, fear has never been a great source of happiness.
That leaves dealing with life. A robust, resilient personality-type would help, but more sensitive souls require some help. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe had a remedy for everyday troubles, and that was simply to "... hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day". (Naturally, we strongly endorse his advice! Learn more about our audio products here.)
A renowned long-term Harvard study has proven that close relationships — quality connections, rather than the quantity — help us live longer, and be happier. This is in-part because these relationships help to protect us and deal with life’s discontents.
Friedrich Nietszche said, "He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how."
Aristotle taught us that, in essence, happiness is not a state but an activity; that it is more a question of behaviour and of habit — of living our lives to the full — than of luck. It therefore follows that a person who cultivates the right behaviours and habits is able to bear the inevitable misfortunes with greater understanding, and thus can never be said to be truly unhappy.
In a similar trend, others claim that the secret to finding happiness (or for that matter, meaning or success), is to not actually look for it. For, the more you aim at it, the more you are likely to miss it. Auschwitz-survivor, Viktor Frankl, recommends this indirect approach — to seek beauty, love, justice, kindness, or a "cause greater than oneself", instead.
Naturally, a lot can be learnt from philosophers, thinkers and survivors. But valuable insights can also be attained by observing everyday life and other people — especially people with a social standing, background, culture and heritage, different from one's own.
Take the Japanese notion of Wabi-sabi, for example. Roughly translated, wabi means “simplicity” and sabi “the beauty of age and wear.” Together, they convey the idea that happiness is achieved by accepting — and celebrating — imperfection and transience. Could this indirect approach also be far better route to happiness than the much more common, recent one feeding the cosmetic industry?
From Wabi-sabi, to Joie de vivre, read more about What Happiness Looks Like Around the World, by AFAR Magazine (Sep/Oct 2019).
(Opening image: Zen garden of Ryoan-jii, Wikipedia)
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