The Secret To Modern Happiness Could Come From An Unlikely Ancient Source

Five ways to use your garden to support your wellbeing

COVID-19 has shown that pandemics can seriously affect people’s physical and mental health. Stress, anxiety and depression have increased around the world, with the greatest effects for those living under the strictest lockdowns. Many people’s physical activity levels also fell during lockdown. Gardens, though, can help us push back against these negative effects.

Enjoying your garden doesn’t have to involve gardening – you can make it what you want it to be. Juice Flair/Shutterstock

Before the pandemic, having a garden was associated with better health and wellbeing, and this pattern has continued during COVID-19. In our own research on garden use during the UK’s first lockdown – published as a working paper this summer – we found that more frequent garden visits were associated with better wellbeing. Other work has also found that gardens have helped reduce mental distress during the pandemic…READ ON

The Secret To Modern Happiness Could Come From An Unlikely Ancient Source

In a testament to its resiliency, happiness, according to this year’s world happiness report, remained remarkably stable around the world, despite a pandemic that upended the lives of billions of people.

As a classicist, I find such discussions of happiness in the midst of personal or societal crises to be nothing new. “Hic habitat Felicitas” — “Here dwells happiness” — confidently proclaims an inscription found in a Pompeiian bakery nearly 2,000 years after its owner lived and possibly died in the eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed the city in A.D. 79.

“Close relationships, more than money or fame … keep people happy throughout their lives.”

What did happiness mean to this Pompeiian baker? And how does considering the Roman view of felicitas help our search for happiness today?

The Romans saw both Felicitas and Fortuna — a related word that means “luck” — as goddesses. Each had temples in Rome, where those seeking the divinities’ favor could place offerings and make vows. Felicitas was also portrayed on Roman coins from the first century B.C. to the fourth century, suggesting its connection to the financial prosperity of the state.

Coins minted by emperors, furthermore, connect her to themselves. “Felicitas Augusti,” for example, was seen on the golden coin of the emperor Valerian, iconography that suggested he was the happiest man in the empire, favored by the gods.

By claiming felicitas for his own abode and business, therefore, the Pompeiian baker could have been exercising a name-it-claim-it philosophy, hoping for such blessings of happiness for his business and life…READ ON

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