What We Can Learn from Ancient Cultures About Happiness

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In a previous post I wrote about Practical Ways to Use the Four Agreements, which was based on Toltec principles. We have lost so much wisdom over the millennia that had been crucial to the well-being of humankind since people began to congregate together. Many ancient cultures did not focus primarily on the emotion of happiness itself, but rather living a meaningful life. They did focus on strengthening their character, which appears to have played a big role in overall happiness.

From Greek to Native American cultures and ancient civilizations hidden from history, we can learn vast amounts of wisdom when it comes to life satisfaction and happiness.


Greek Philosophy

The Greek philosopher Aristotle used a concept called eudaimonia, which loosely translates to “human flourishing” or “a good life.” His recommendation to achieve this “good life” consisted of being kind, humble, wise, and acting with honest intentions. Additionally, developing character traits such as having hopeful outlook, practicing gratitude, being fair and loving would allow one to be “happy” in life.

Aristotle suggested that patience, courage, and living in moderation would greatly benefit your lifelong happiness as well.

By working on being patient with yourself and others, you can avoid turning something that is a minor irritation into something that provokes anger. This will give you time to ask yourself if your anger helping your situation.  On the flip side of that, too much patience can lead to others walking all over you…so balance is key.

Courage must also be in balance; a balance of fear and confidence. Living in fear can be detrimental to our mental and physical health. Be mindful regarding conflicts with others, as you may not be fully aware of their perspective. Jumping to conclusions will prevent you from learning and growing. Be careful what you expose yourself to, i.e., television, gossip, etc. Have the courage to speak and think freely and critically. Being authentic with yourself and those around you might be hard at first, as most don’t want to feel judged by others, but it is a sure path to true freedom and happiness.

Moderation is the way to keep things in check. We have all heard that too much of anything can become destructive. Overindulging may lead to a decline in happiness, particularly if shame, guilt and self-loathing arise.

Native American

Native American Wisdom

Native American wisdom has been passed down primarily through word of mouth and traditional ceremonies. In the U.S. we have such a diverse native population. There are infinite lessons we can learn from these cultures.  One of the best practical ways to live a “happy life” is to again balance the physical world with the spiritual world with meditation or “breath work.” Some say that meditation can help you connect directly to the spirit world. Meditation can help diminish the problems with our fragile ego. Releasing the ego, which is the sense of a separate self, we can transcend fear and realize true love.

Native people are also deeply connected to nature. Realizing that we are all one with nature and everything is connected allows one to feel a sense of “oneness” and provides relief from feelings of loneliness. Human beings share many genetic traits with plants, fungi and animals. Appreciation for all things living can lead to more love, compassion, kindness, and greater peace in life.

Many cultures have the belief that what one does to others is a direct reflection of what we do to ourselves. This includes not only our actions towards others but also the thoughts and feelings we express in our mind towards others. Tribes work together and care for each other as they would themselves.

Ultimately Native Americans took great care to have gratitude in everything they do; from honoring the buffalo they had killed for a meal to rejoicing in the life-giving rains. They understood that everything is cyclical and in perfect balance and therefore should be treated with the greatest respect.

Photo by David Riaño Cortés from Pexels

Mesoamerican Knowledge

Some indigenous peoples in the Latin American cultures (Incas, Aztecs, Mayans, Olmecs, etc.) as well as current Amazonian tribes believe that there is an essential relationship between ethics and metaphysics. These people know that understanding and living out this relationship is a necessary condition for being “wise.” As a wise human being, one is able to live a successfully as a human because one understands what it means to be a human and what is required to live harmoniously with the nature of reality. This in turn requires an understanding of human experience and human nature.  This allows harmoniously structuring one’s life according to the reoccurring patterns found in nature. This leads us to the use of sacred plants as medicine and sacred geometry. These concepts will be explored further in future posts.

You can start to see the common threads that prevail throughout most of history and various cultures. We can learn so much from these cultures in addition to all the other ancient civilizations throughout history. This post is a very broad overview and just the “tip of the iceberg” for lack of a better term. I highly encourage you to do you own research and digging as many of these philosophies, traditions and customs have been hidden or erased from the standard textbooks.

Fully embracing gratitude, life balance, developing one’s character, understanding the connectedness of everything in nature (including us), embracing spirituality and love all play a role in lifelong happiness.


Ancient Wisdom
Registered Nurse | Website | + posts

Things Always Get Better - I have truly lived. I’ve had good times and bad times. I’m a mother, a daughter, a sister, a psych nurse and a soon to be wife. I love writing about my passions, what interest me, what interests others, and sharing all of my thoughts with my readers. I want everyone to have the chance to live their happiest life. This blog is truly my own little passion project, gaining more and more traction each day. I hope you enjoy browsing my site and all of the unique content I have to offer. Take a look around; perhaps you’ll discover what fuels you as well. Read on and enjoy!
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