To recap, last time I wrote about self-examination, the distinction between the pursuit of (suspect) pleasure and true happiness, and identified seven sources of the latter: family and friends, voluntary service on behalf of others, creativity, challenge, mastery, performance – and reflection.
Although we are all too easily seduced by the ‘three Hs’ (our habits, the herd, and pleasurable ‘highs’) creating a programme for the pursuit of real happiness helps to keep us straight. (I write poetry and serve as a Samaritan, for example.)
For most of us (reasonably) good health feels like a prerequisite for happiness. Our lives, and our health, are determined by three influences – for better or worse: genetic inheritance, upbringing and education, and personal choice. The first two are given to us by others: the third is our responsibility. To pursue protect and preserve good health, we should heed the ‘seven Ss’: Sustenance, Sleep, exerciSe, Stimulants, Stress, Simplicity – and Sex (enjoy it, but mind your manners). Eat a sensible, moderate (Mediterranean) diet; sleep eight hours a night; walk (at least) a mile a day; avoid all stimulants; beware of stress (defined as ‘a challenge one can’t control’: if you can’t escape it, the answer is to choose to adopt it as a voluntary challenge); simplify your life – jettison the clutter: things, ideas, regrets, friends, projects, duties, desires… Note that what gets in the way of the adoption of this lifestyle is (always) the ‘three Hs’.
I have no doubt that a secure lifelong partnership like marriage is a fundamental factor in the search for good health and lasting happiness. But the habit of self-reliance also helps, alongside a strong and supportive family – as does the learning habit (not all habits are bad!).
For my wife and me, these are some of the sources of our well-being. We have recently discovered that difficult jigsaw puzzles provide an effective way of (at least) postponing the onset of dementia – and have altered our life according. Learn as you go along.
In the last instalment I shall write about the challenges of wealth – for those who have it, or lack it – as a key component of well-being.