What is happiness? Everyone talks about it, and we all know it and experience it, but it is difficult to define. Many philosophers and thinkers of all kinds have tried to investigate the mysteries of this emotion; Among them we can find Aristotle, who thought that the ultimate goal of man was happiness, or Epicurus, who believed that this was the foundation of life. In this article we are going to review what psychology says about happiness, specifically, we are going to talk about eudaimonia and hedonism.
Psychology, through reviewing the philosophical literature and scientific experimentation, observed that happiness could be experienced in different ways. It is easy to think that happiness is found by partying with friends or enjoying a good vacation, but many people also find happiness in their effort, in studying a certain career, in learning a language, etc. And this is where the concepts of eudaimonia and hedonism come in.
Before going on to explain these two psychological terms, it is important to clarify some details. Eudaimonia and hedonism are terms that come from philosophy; for example, we already find them in Aristotle and Epicurus when it comes to explaining happiness. And despite the fact that these terms were appropriated by psychology due to their history, the conception of them is largely different. Thus, it is important to bear in mind that the definition that we are going to use below emanates from a more psychological than philosophical aspect.
Hedonism, happiness based on pleasure
Hedonism is the most tangible happiness, it is the joy we experience when doing rewarding activities. It is about the feeling of pleasure and the motivation to avoid discomfort. We can say that this type of happiness is based on the following characteristics:
- Seeking pleasure : this is the central aspect of hedonism. It consists of the search for the stimulation of our senses and emotions. Enjoy with friends, take a trip, go to a concert, etc.
- Perception based on an affective balance : the way we interpret hedonism in our lives is through a balance of our daily emotions. In this way, if we tend to experience more pleasant emotions than unpleasant ones, we will feel a hedonistic happiness of a greater degree.
- Maintenance of life satisfaction : in order to enjoy hedonism, it is necessary to feel that our environment is pleasant. If there are problems in our family, friends, work, etc., these will generate an anxiety that will affect our hedonistic happiness.
- Pursuit of wants and needs : hedonism will acquire pleasure through the achievement of our wants and needs. Fulfilling desires and satisfying needs will bring us those pleasant emotions that lead to hedonic happiness.
- Short-term happiness : an essential aspect of hedonism is your gaze focused on the present or the immediate future. We are talking about the spontaneous pleasure or happiness that arises after performing certain behaviors. As the eliciting stimulus recedes, the hedonic happiness dissipates.
- High Intensity – Hedonic happiness is a highly rewarding and exhilarating emotion. Which is lived with great intensity and enthusiasm.
Eudaimonia, happiness based on personal development
Now, many of the behaviors do not bring us immediate happiness and even involve effort and that at certain times we experience some emotions of negative valence characteristic of this type of motivation. But despite that, we continue to do them with determination, and we are even satisfied with them. This is thanks to the fact that these behaviors provide us with personal development, which is experienced with eudaimonic happiness. Examples of this eudaimonia can be getting a degree, learning a language, experiencing other cultures, exploring oneself, etc.
To define eudaimonia we can resort to the following characteristics of it:
- Search for personal development : it is the key aspect of this type of happiness. Eudaimonia is the motivation that encourages us to develop as people. It is the satisfaction that comes from being proud of our cognitive, moral, emotional growth , etc.
- Achievement of goals and purposes : the degree of intensity of eudaimonic happiness will depend on whether we achieve our goals and purposes. Going towards our objectives will bring us that happiness that urges us to continue in our growth.
- Effort and motivation : these will be the engines of our self-realization. Because on many occasions our goals and purposes will present unpleasant problems and emotions, we need effort and motivation to achieve eudaimonia.
- Long-term happiness: it is a happiness that is represented by satisfaction with oneself. That ability to observe yourself and be proud of your personal growth. It involves more a pleasant perception of oneself than a specific temporal state (as in the case of hedonism).
Now, what is better a hedonistic happiness or a eudaimonic happiness? The answer is that both are often a motivation in our lives. Thus, they are in charge of encouraging pleasant behaviors and personal development, respectively. In this sense, it seems essential to find a personal balance between the two, so that one does not end up becoming an obstacle for the other.
Today, due in large part to the consumer society in which we live, we base our lives on hedonism. We waste our resources in an excessive way on short-term pleasures and we forget our personal development or we seek it indirectly through this consumption. Even a large part of the population hates their work and professional life, and the only satisfaction they can find is through hedonic pleasures. It is important not to forget or put aside our self-realization, since it is the only way to achieve eudaimonia.