Friday, May 18, 2012

"Hedonic" versus "eudaimonic" happiness"

This article in the Atlantic argues for a distinction between short-term, feel-good "hedonic" happiness and longer-term life satisfaction, or "eudaimonic" happiness. 

"Eudaimonic" well being, on the other hand, has to do with being satisfied with life in a larger sense; it's about "fulfilling one's potential and having purpose in life," explains Julia Boehm, who studies the relationship between happiness and health at Harvard. How autonomous or self-sustaining you feel, how interested you are in personal growth, the nature of your relationships with other people, whether you have a deep purpose in life, and your degree of self-acceptance are some of the variables that researchers try to measure to get a good idea of whether a person has eudaimonic happiness.
Pursuing more material goods like a bigger car or house instead of personal growth may actially make us more psychologically impoverished, the article says.

This study underlines the divide between what we may think makes us happy and what actually makes us happy - and, by extension, healthy. By getting in touch with your values and finding ways to give back, you might, unwittingly, be serving yourself. Doing things that just make you feel good won't cut it. "If you are living a full life," says Deci, "you will experience a lot of positive affect [emotions]. If you want to know something about living a meaningful life, just looking at subjective well-being is not enough." In other words, finding activities that have intrinsic value, and being a part of them - by doing work you believe in, volunteering, or helping out your community in other ways - is probably much more beneficial.
And it is quite similar to the "self-actualization" that Maslow talks about.


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