La Dolce Vita

Beyond survival: tools for thriving.
Take control of your happiness by building community and cultivating gratitude. Photography by Ryan Moore

By Donna D’Cruz

Asking 10 people to define what constitutes a good life would, I daresay, result in 10 wildly different answers. It comes down to how do you define “good”? Subjective, it seems to be. Or is it? Surely there must be some objective quantifiers and marks.

Great minds of antiquity puzzled over this enduring quest for a good life. The Socratic view put much emphasis on self-mastery, communal and societal contribution and the examined life, going so far as to declare that the unexamined life wasn’t worth living. Plato wrote whole screeds on pleasure and the good life, with detailed instructions.

But it took Aristotle to not only ponder the minutiae of the, but offer a map of sorts for the hardscrabble mixed bag that is most of our lives.

For he gave us the lodestar of Eudaimonia. It may sound like one of those polysyllabic new drug advertisements on television, but dear reader, Eudaimonia as described by Aristotle can be described as “happiness” but is so much more. It is a state of thriving instead of surviving; of living in a state of such wellness, abundance and optimum health of body and mind.

Did you know there’s an Eudaimonia Institute at Wake Forest University in North Carolina that studies this exclusively? And do we not need this philosophy now, more than ever?

With apologies to the classicists out there, here are a few pared-down precepts to living the sweet and good life courtesy of Aristotle.

• Live the examined life. Seek wisdom and knowledge. Have introspection but not to the level of self-absorption.

• Strive for self-mastery. Avoid overindulgence and excess.

• Have gratitude for the good in life. Cultivate humility.

• Follow your dreams and passions as far as they’ll take you.

• Relish the simplest joys and pleasures wherever you find them.

• Simplify things. Your life, your surroundings, your thoughts.

• Seek the communal good. Better the world beyond your realm. Engage others.

• Curtail your anxieties and worries. Let go and surrender control.

• Cultivate new friendships while nurturing the positive ones you have.

• Live in the now as much as possible, in the certainty that that is the only thing we can do.

If Aristotle and his ilk are too serious for you, take heed from Tom and Barbara Good on BBC TV’s iconic and timely series, The Good Life. Bone-weary of climbing the corporate ladder, Tom Good relinquishes all the trappings of haute-suburbia, digs up his garden and opts for a drastically simpler life. His journey began, continues and ends at home. As should ours.


“Happiness depends on ourselves” –Aristotle

Join Cristina Cuomo and Donna D’Cruz every Thursday at 6PM on Instagram Live for a guided meditation.; IG @donnadcruz1.