Hedononia- Pleasure, satisfaction and enjoyment- happiness derived externally.
Eudaimonia- The idea that happiness comes from within and the pursuit of becoming a better person intellectually. Staying connected with our deep values and acting in accord with them. A contented state of being happy, healthy and prosperous.
The hedonic treadmill is a theory that proposes that whatever level of wealth or material goods you have you will adapt to this and always want more. Regardless of what happens to us, people return to their happiness set point. So we believe that once we get the dream car, the dream job or dream house that we will be happier. Yes these things help but once we have them we keep pushing the goal post to the next thing.When does the happiness stick? When do we stop searching for material things to full the voids and tick off ‘should have’ lists? I have lived in 3 countries since leaving home, I have waited eagerly for visas while dreaming of my new life and all the happiness it would bring. However I have jumped off the plane feeling new and ‘alive’ each and every time only to end up in reverting back to how I felt before I arrived. The experiences and lessons learnt while travelling have been priceless however I wish I took the time to be in the moment more rather then quickly rushing through to get to the next experience/ kick of happiness. Just like material things, Hedonic happiness is short lived so we need to do the work within, find good habits and have the discipline to work daily on our internal happiness. This will ensure no matter where we are in the world, big house or just living from a back pack abroad- we can sustain our own happiness without expecting too much of it to come externally.
Getting to experience living in other countries has led me to work on my Eudemonic happiness, on the journey rather than the destination- but trust me I have to constantly remind myself to enjoy the climb. I am now familiar with having to start in each country that I arrive with nothing at all- the bottom of Maslow’s Hierarchy. Having no permanent accommodation or job , the first steps are focusing on these Physiological and Safety needs. Unfortunately for me this meant Belongingness/love, Esteem and Self Actualization took a back seat. Although I still have close friends and family at home- when you are new in a country sometimes you long to just have a cup of tea with a familiar face and feel that comfort. Typically Maslows Hierarchy says that we tend to focus on one ‘Need’ at a time. So first we find shelter/accommodation, then focus on getting the job and may put everything else on hold, neglecting other areas of our lives. I know when I move to a new country it’s easy for me to turn down invites to socialize so I can stay at home and re-edit my CV for the 20th time. However I live with an extrovert who can go out, make friends and secure a job in one night by putting himself out there and not worrying about the order things are done in! I have started to realize how important a support system is and how vital it is not to isolate yourself until you get your basic needs met. Setting myself realistic goals that help to disperse my time evenly into all areas of ‘Needs’ has been critical when change has occurred. As well as getting secured in the basic needs, finding like minded people to surround myself with and ways to help in the community by volunteering have had a huge positive effect on the more internal needs – Belongingness/love and Esteem.
Whilst recently watching the documentary ‘Happy’ on Netflix, I was interested to hear from Professor Ed Diener about a study from the University of Illinois on ‘happy people’. They found that “the happiest people without exception had close supportive family and friends”. This doesn’t mean they all had great relationships or even all liked each other- but it was just knowing that you had them and could go to them if you needed. The documentary lets us take a look into the lives of the ‘San’- the oldest inhabitants of Southern Africa. It’s incredible to see how much of their lives they share with each other- they hunt together, play games, and share problems with eachother as a tribe.
The documentary ‘Happy‘ focusses on the benefits of working in a community and feeling that you have something to share and to give to someone else. It takes the focus off what “I have” and focuses on “What I have that I can share”. We all need something bigger than ourselves to care about. I have blogged before about the importance of kindness and how it releases the feel good hormone serotonin. I truly live by the saying by Mayo Angelo “When you learn, teach, when you get, give.” In the documentary we are introduced to Andy Wilmer who left his banking job to go to Kolkata, India and volunteer at the Mother Theresa Home for the Dying & Destitute. He says this, “For me my life is like a loan from God and I will give this loan back with interest”.
We learn in the documentary that Denmark is the happiest country in the world and it’s no coincidence that it has the highest number of people living in co-housing communities. This helps with loneliness and brings an element of support into your life. There is a book that I have been meaning to read and will write about it as soon as I get my hands on it. It is called Tribe– ‘We have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding–“tribes.” This tribal connection has been largely lost in modern society, but regaining it may be the key to our psychological survival.’
What can help push us towards Eudaimonic happiness?
To get back to the topic of instant happiness and sustained happiness, the documentary concludes that our values are a key component in our happiness. Intrinsic goals -personal growth, relationships with friends and the desire to help/ working in the community. Extrinsic goals – the rewards, praise and the obtaining of things like money, image, status. The Happiness Building blocks summarised in “Happy” are Play, Having new experiences, Friends and family, Doing things that are meaningful and Appreciating what we have. These are all free and don’t involve pushing ourselves to keep getting more and more. We can simply enjoy what we have and give what we can 🙂
Have a great day