Rules of happiness, are there really essential rules of happiness? This is the question I asked myself after browsing pinterest for a couple minutes too long. I think in anticipation of International day of Happiness more people have been starting to think about happiness which meant my feed ended up with lots of pictures containing lists of rules on how to live a happy life. This obviously made me wonder, are there really a given set of rules to follow which will allow us to reach the holy grail of happiness?
To be fair some of the things I have come across I do believe can definitely add to your happiness and, at least some of them, are things I practice myself. Let me give you some examples;
‘’Count your blessings more than you do your troubles’’
‘’Smile at life and life will smile back’’
‘’Make peace with your past’’
Others that I found I do agree with, however I have some issues and thoughts about how they are brought in as rules to be happy, mainly in terms of being universally applicable. To be completely honest I never even knew there were any ‘’official’’ rules to be happy. Yet my interest has peaked, so let’s give some creative thought to the most valuable rules of happiness I could find. Yes, I have done extensive research on this and the rules of happiness below are the ones with the most popularity through time and there has to be value to them when they stood the test of time.
Philosopher Immanuel Kant’s Vision On Happiness
Immanuel Kant’s essential Rules for happiness:
‘’something to do, someone to love, something to hope for.’’supposedly immanuel kant
That quote is what many associate with happiness and with Immanuel Kant. However I haven’t been able to find it appropriated back to him in any of the books I read about him. Au contraire, Kant’s vision on happiness is a far cry from the quote stated above if you ask me.
The bulk of Immanuel Kant’s work has not to do with any form of essential rules of happiness but with morality. In this he does discuss happiness a little but not to extend that, in my opinion, would warrant the popularity of his name attached to a set rules of happiness.
He believed that the more you pursue happiness the less chance you have to attain it, which is quite the irony now isn’t it? This goes greatly against a lot of self-help books that are set up as guides on how to find your happiness, how to become happy, how to live a happy life and other variations of those. Basically against our 21st century way of thinking about happiness. Except for one aspect, The Pursuit Of Happiness the movie.
In it Will Smith playing Chris Gardner says at one point:
All of this didn’t happen all that long ago in comparison to the words of Kant which date from the 17th century. The movie came out in 2006, which is 15 years ago now. We might have started a new decade but not a new century.
Recommended: Your Socks Have To Match, Don’t They?
Kant’s advice or essential rule for happiness is that we should stop searching, pursuing and the rest. Instead we should focus on our deeds, focus on always acting from a place of humanity to others and from others. He calls it ‘’humanity as an end’’. No, not the end goals as many have made happiness no, as a means of doing.
Also not as a means to an end as he does say that when we always act from a place of true morality we would in theory be able to reach happiness. However if your motive to act in a humane way to everyone is to reach happiness you will not. This stems from his theory on morality where the motive, the why, is the most important. You can’t use people to get to what you want, you can aid and help in their life and have this reflect back on you in terms of happiness, as long as your motives were pure.
There’s of course much more to say that has to do with morality and happiness but that is not relevant at the moment. What is peculiar and definitely food for thought is that Kant’s essential rules seem far-fetched and outdated on the surface but if you give them another spin around you might see that we now have different ways of saying the exact same thing. For example ‘’keeping it 100’’?
Rules for happiness in life
7 Rules Of Happiness by Anthony clare written by Gyles Brandreth
These next set of rules don’t come from a philosopher but from someone who has done extensive research on happiness. The late Anthony Clare has converted his work into a book and 7 easy rules for happiness. To do this he had help from Gyles Brandreth, who apparently in his last days asked him specifically about his lifelong work on happiness and what the secrets of happiness exactly are as he himself was on a journey looking for happiness. Gyles Brandreth did include more stories in the book than just the seven rules of happiness.
What I noticed is that on this list of valuable rules of happiness he is the only one that doesn’t call them rules of happiness, no his are secrets of happiness. On his blog he actually actively refers to them as secrets as well and it is also the title of the book. Calling them secrets of happiness instead of rules of happiness makes it seem as if by knowing and following these you have cracked some code of life. Then again I first-hand know how actually being happy can change your life so maybe?
The 7 Secrets Of Happiness
1. Cultivate a passion
2. Be a leaf on a tree
3. Break the mirror
4. Don’t resist change
5. Audit your happiness
6. Live in the moment
7. Be happy
I can’t help but start with the most obvious one which is number 7. I mean this to me falls under terrible advice to give people looking for something. I understand that these secrets of happiness have lifelong research backing them but really? If you are not something the advice is to just start being it? Hmm.. the logic in this one is lost in practice in my opinion. Another that I could see be problematic is number 3. Again it’s obvious but let me tell you anyways, many people believe breaking a mirror brings bad luck, so I can see some hesitation in doing that.
The funny thing is, at least to my understanding, he means to stop being self-obsessed and not actually break a mirror. It’s just a metaphor. However he does say that introspection is something we should stop doing. As someone who believes in properly getting to know yourself is a thing you should most definitely do I, of course, completely disagree. He does say that self-awareness is good. Perhaps it’s a different use of the semantics?
Rule number two is a beautiful way to say to be your own person but still be connected to something larger. This doesn’t necessarily have to be your family, it can also be a club you joined. As for the rest of his rules for happiness they are pretty straight forward. I do wonder, he said they are simple secrets to happiness. Are there people who indeed find them so simple? Especially when considering the potential problems highlighted?
10 Rules of Happiness by Mridula Agarwal
In my search regarding the rules of happiness I kept hearing about the 10 rules of happiness by Mridula Agarwal. Mridula Agarwal is the author of the book 10 rules of Happiness and a psychology and english literature graduate. With a background like that writing books about the two seems to me like the sweet spot of combining both paths. She has actually written more books, one which I like to share the title with all of you as it is remarkably interesting ‘’10 Rules Of Success’’. Unlike the author above she does actually call her vision on happiness, rules of happiness so here they are:
10 Rules Of Happiness
1. Happiness is always possible
2. Spread Happiness
3. Count your blessings
4. Change what you can, and accept what you can’t change
5. Never worry; be concerned
6. Never let small things bother you
7. Do not let criticism upset you
8. The magic of forgiving
9. The magic of gainful occupation
10. Discover the beauty of life
Rule number three is one I told you in the beginning I agree with, I have now found the source of where that rule came from. If you have been with me for a minute it shouldn’t surprise you that I do not see big problems in the acceptability of these 10 rules for happiness. I do have to say that some of them are harder in practice than they are to explain, which also brings me to my starting question for this research; Will following these rules actually bring you happiness?
I think the correct way for me to explain what I mean is that these ones initially make a lot of sense. I mean which one of us has not heard at least two of these when discussing happiness? However that doesn’t mean that they don’t come with their if’s and but’s. An easy example of that is rule number 8, which in some situations could be caught by applying rule number 4. But doesn’t that take the simplicity out?
7 Rules of Happiness In Japan
This is the set of rules that educated me the most. The other ones on the entire list I had either heard about, read about separately or been completely familiar with already. I do not know a lot about Japanese culture but was not at all surprised to find out that there exist japanese rules of happiness and japanese rules for a happy life. I was not surprised about this as in one of my Psychology classes we had spoken about japanese work ethic and how it has come to be. Let’s take a look at the Japanese rules for happiness.
7 Rules For Happiness Japanese Style
1. Do not step on the edges of the tatami mats
2. Honor your ancestors
3. Appreciate simple beauty
4. Respect sacred places
5. See how art reflects nature
6. Wear your slippers inside and shoes outside
7. Enjoy the 4 seasons and the seasonality of life, everywhere and everything all the time
From what I could tell, these rules have come from a japanese woman called Fukiko Yuki Teramachi. She told them to Susan Macaulay who is the founder of Amazing Women Rock. I like the name of her site, simply because it is true.
These rules hold a lot of Japanese tradition which, of course, makes sense. However, apart from rule number 1, these seem pretty easy applicable in a universal sense. They are very open to interpretation but at the same time they aren’t, if that makes sense to you? I am going to let Fukiko Yuki Teramachi explain the rules herself as the way she does it will also bring forward the cultural connection. This is the video where Fukiko Yuki Teramachi explains the seven japanese rules of happiness. I personally love the explanation of rule number 3 and 7 the most and do believe they can aid in creating your happiness.
5 Simple Rules For Happiness By Anonymous
For these 5 rules of happiness I really wish to know who the author is of them. I have searched everywhere but can’t find him or her. These 5 rules are what started this entire post. These were on numerous pins and are also all over google search.
5 Simple Rules For Happiness
1. Free your heart from hatred
2. Free your mind from worries
3. Live simply and appreciate what you have
4. Give more
5. Expect less
Something that I am noticing about these rules is that there is overlap with the japanese style rules and with the rules of happiness by Mridula Agarwal. From all three of them I get a sense that a pursuit of simplicity and sereneness is what might ultimately lead to a happy life. It goes without saying that these 5 rules of happiness are the simplest to remember, perhaps because the exposure of them to the grand public has been the biggest in my perception.
They however bring forward the same problems as the rules of happiness set by Mridula Agarwal. The moment life gets doing what it does, are they still so simple to be applied?
Would it be better to switch from saying rules of happiness to lose guidelines for happiness? We saw five different people who all have different rules of happiness who all find them valuable. I’ll admit some of them do have overlap, not much but it is definitely there. To be fair all have them can add value to your life in different ways depending on a lot of factors as we have discussed. Could it be that the essential rule of happiness is to make your own seeing that none of them make a perfect fit? What do you think?
A list of rules of happiness through time, do they fit your lifetime?