In this podcast (episode #534) and blog, I share 3 mental health tips from one of my favorite philosophers, Epicurius. These tips are not earth-shattering ideas; rather, they are basic, grounding ideas that we all would do well to remember, especially amidst the fast pace of our technology-driven lives and the ever increasing levels of burnout and toxic stress that so many of us live under.
Epicurius was an ancient Greek scholar and sage who founded Epicureanism, a highly influential school of philosophy. He highlighted three elements that made for a good and fulfilling life, mentally and physically, all of which can help us live a healthier and happier life today:
1. Spending time with good friends:
I cannot emphasize enough the powerful link between happiness and community. Research has found that people with the strongest social connections tend to be the happiest. Our brains and bodies respond positively when we become active members in a community. For example, the mesolimbic dopamine system, a system linked to addiction, lights up when we give to others, giving us a deep sense of pleasure. We are essentially hardwired to engage with and love others! One study even found that strong social relationships matter more than being a healthy weight when it comes to longevity, and the benefits of strong relationships are comparable to quitting smoking!
This doesn’t mean we need to be surrounded by people all the time; rather. In fact, research shows that there’s a limit to how many deep friendships we can sustain. However, the key here is “deep friendships”— these are an intrinsic part of a fulfilling life, whether we are more extroverted or introverted by nature.
Interacting with those we care about also triggers the release of oxytocin, a hormone often referred to as the “love hormone” or “bonding hormone”. It plays a crucial role in forming social connections, trust, and emotional bonds, and enhances feelings of trust, comfort, and social connection that lead to positive emotions and improved mental health.
2. The right to enjoy meaningful and purposeful work:
This tip is an interesting one! It goes beyond seeing work as an economic necessity. Meaningful work provides individuals with a sense of fulfillment, satisfaction, and a deeper purpose in life, all of which contribute to better mental and physical health. It allows individuals to express their talents, skills, and creativity, fostering a sense of self-worth and fulfillment, while work that is devoid of meaning can be psychologically and emotionally taxing, leading to dissatisfaction and even mental health issues.
3. An “examined life” built around a core value system:
Epicurus encouraged individuals to critically examine their beliefs, values, and desires. This self-examination was essential for understanding what truly brings someone happiness and contentment. By questioning and reflecting on one's own life, people could identify and eliminate unnecessary desires and anxieties that might disrupt their inner peace.
This means being intentional about what we want and believe in. We should be open to exploring the world and learning about the meaning of life, as well as willing to question the beliefs we hold and how these interact with the way we have chosen to live our lives. Do these beliefs reflect who we are and who we want to be? If not, what needs to change? It is important that we take the time to question what guides our thinking, feeling and choosing, as research shows that living a life that doesn’t align with our core values can be very detrimental to our brain health and longevity.
For more tips for a fulfilling life, listen to my podcast (episode #534). If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
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2:45 What we can learn from the past
3:15 What the ancient philosopher Epicurus can teach us today
4:10 Why relationships are an integral part of a more meaningful & fulfilling life
14:40 How meaningful work can support our mental & physical wellbeing
19:00 The importance of examining our core beliefs & values
This podcast and blog are for educational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional.