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Epicureanism: The pursuit of happiness

Throughout human history, both philosophers and psychologists alike have deliberated the notion of happiness. Epicurus, a Greek philosopher, believed happiness to be our ultimate human pursuit. Many philosophers in turn suggested that experiencing pleasure and happiness referred to overindulging and enjoying things to excess. Epicurus, on the other hand, suggested that pleasure was found in simple living. Today, this philosophy is referred to as Epicureanism.

Epicureanism refers to three factors needed to fully attain happiness:-

  1. Tranquillity;
  2. Freedom of fear; and
  3. Absence of bodily pain.

It is this combination of factors that would, ultimately, allow people to experience happiness at the highest level. The philosophy of Epicureanism is known as an ethical doctrine that strongly advocates in life that pleasure is the highest good, and it requires moderation and wisdom to attain. The doctrine further explains that some pleasures can lead to experiencing pain in the future if they are not moderated or if they are blindly pursued. From the above it is clear that one might want to rather spend time focusing on all life experiences and achievements rather than living a life focused on meaningless short-term pleasure.

Epicureanism identifies two types of pleasure, moving and static, and describes two areas of pleasure and pain: physical and mental. The Moving pleasure refers to actively being in the process of satisfying a desire – one example of this could be eating food when you feel hungry. In those moments one is taking active steps toward ones intended goal of pleasure. On the other hand, static pleasure, refers to the experience we have once our desire is met – for example, eating food when we are hungry, the static pleasure would be what we are feeling once we have eaten. The satisfaction of feeling full, and no longer being hungry, would be a static pleasure. Physical pleasures and pains, in Epicureanism, this is refers to the present. Mental pleasures and pains, on the other hand, deals with the past and future.

Epicureanism in our day-to-day lives

Life is uncertain and we cannot avoid pain or vulnerability. While the Epicurean philosophy suggests that the goal of life is happiness, it also recognizes that sometimes pleasure can lead to pain and that sometimes pain is necessary to achieve happiness.

It is important to embrace growing older and looking back at all your experiences and the wisdom gained during your life lessons.  Physical pains and pleasure are short lived and has to do with the present.  It is important to live your life and embrace who you are.  Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow may never come.  Embrace growing older with all the stages that you go through.  The wrinkles and the body aches are part of life. 

Epicureanism may be an ancient philosophy, but it can be applied to modern life as well. Minimalism, moderation, simple pleasures, cognitive reframing, and positive thinking are all strategies that can help you incorporate an Epicurean perspective into your everyday life.