Saturday 17 March 2018

The secret to happiness is...

What's the secret to happiness? It's a question that has been asked thousands of times by thousands of different people, and if truth be told, I'm sure each of us have asked ourselves that question too.

Many answers have been proffered, and through the ages many of Earth's most enlightened minds have offered their own insights and wisdom - Jesus gave us the Beatitudes; Buddha gave us the Four Noble Truths; Zoroaster, Socrates and Mohammed all gave their own suggestions.

Only last week researchers at UCL in London came up with a scientific formula for happiness - basically happiness is dependent on rewards and expectations that were met or exceeded in their experiments. Reading the reports, I think they have a while to go yet to cracking this particular mystery!

To celebrate his first 500 days in office, Pope Francis gave an interview for the Argentine magazine Viva where he outlined a ten-point plan for happiness. The Pope drew on his personal experiences to come up with his own lifestyle guide with a humble, non-materialistic ethos, and these are his suggestions...

1. "Live and let live." Everyone should be guided by this principle, he said, which has a similar expression in Rome with the saying, "Move forward and let others do the same."

2. "Be giving of yourself to others." People need to be open and generous toward others, he said, because "if you withdraw into yourself, you run the risk of becoming egocentric. And stagnant water becomes putrid."

3. "Proceed calmly" in life. The pope, who used to teach high school literature, used an image from an Argentine novel by Ricardo Guiraldes, in which the protagonist - gaucho Don Segundo Sombra - looks back on how he lived his life.

4. A healthy sense of leisure. The Pope said "consumerism has brought us anxiety", and told parents to set aside time to play with their children and turn of the TV when they sit down to eat.

5. Sundays should be holidays. Workers should have Sundays off because "Sunday is for family," he said.

6. Find innovative ways to create dignified jobs for young people. "We need to be creative with young people. If they have no opportunities they will get into drugs" and be more vulnerable to suicide, he said.

7. Respect and take care of nature. Environmental degradation "is one of the biggest challenges we have," he said. "I think a question that we're not asking ourselves is: 'Isn't humanity committing suicide with this indiscriminate and tyrannical use of nature?'"

8. Stop being negative. "Needing to talk badly about others indicates low self-esteem. That means, 'I feel so low that instead of picking myself up I have to cut others down,'" the Pope said. "Letting go of negative things quickly is healthy."

9. Don't proselytise; respect others' beliefs. "We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyses: 'I am talking with you in order to persuade you,' No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytising," the Pope said.

10. Work for peace. "We are living in a time of many wars," he said, and "the call for peace must be shouted. Peace sometimes gives the impression of being quiet, but it is never quiet, peace is always proactive" and dynamic.

So there you have it. The secret to happiness is that it is up to us. Viktor Frankl said that Everything can be taken from a person but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

New Ross Standard