Eudaimonia: Uncovering the secret to true happiness

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Happiness is something we all want, but it definitely isn’t as easy to sink our minds into long-term happiness as it is to sink out spoons into {nondairy!} rocky road ice cream. Human emotions fluctuate and we are very good at adapting to even the best of fortunes, so what really leads to sustainable happiness? While dairy-free rocky road ice cream has its place, true happiness is possible and it can be ours every single day, but it is not from the sources most people in our modern, money-hungry and materialistic world seek.

For many, life goals revolve around attaining high social status, great wealth, fame, prestige or other ego-driven desires granted via external approval and validations outside of ourselves.  Yet, this is not what leads to the greatest amount of satisfaction both on an every day basis and at the end of our lives. That’s why I found this subject just as blog worthy as a report on the latest scientific findings on nutrition or a new delicious healthy recipe.  Obviously, happiness is a universal human desire, no matter what age we are or where we come from ~ we all seek as much happiness as possible. However as much as we all crave it, how to obtain the most happiness out of life remains elusive to most people and misguided in our culture at large. Why aren’t we taught how to achieve true happiness in schools? Why is math more important in the education system than life fulfillment?! Bah, I didn’t like math very much and I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do believe most people assume happiness can be found in experiences, like enjoying a drool-worthy bowl of ice cream, watching a comedy (Princess Bride, Men in Tights or Zoolander, anyone?), getting a massage or traveling abroad to an exotic location. Yes, and sex, wealth, and status are also associated with happiness in the minds of most people. Buying a penthouse, saying at an luxurious hotel, driving the hottest car, etc. Who wouldn’t want those things? The assumption is that pleasure increases positive emotions and will provide us with the many smiles we seek.

However, as anyone who has attempted to overcome sadness with a pedicure or box of dark chocolates will tell you (cough, cough), feeling good doesn’t come from pleasurable, yet fleeting sensations.  It doesn’t even come from owning a penthouse in NYC. Although, I cannot see how this would hurt! It’s true, they might make us feel good while we are experiencing them and a penthouse might make our view quite a bit brighter, but these really are not the keys to finding ultimate, sustainable bliss. Even if we sought a continuous, hedonic treadmill of one pleasurable experience after another, we are still not likely to attain lasting happiness in our hearts or our souls.

IMG_0254Lucky for us, the path to true, authentic happiness, the type of happiness that really sticks with us day after day, can be found simply and actually makes so much sense when understood.  Genuine happiness is very similar to fulfillment and life purpose. Psychologists in the emerging field of positive psychology, have been studying the concept of happiness for some time now and have adopted Aristotle’s term “Eudaimonia” or the Good Life, to mean a life in which you employ your strengths and efforts towards a goal or passion that you believe is larger than yourself.  Now this is a type of happiness worth talking about!

I was enthralled by this term and its brilliant meaning, which I first learned about when I took a Positive Psychology course when I was a student at Cornell U. It tied for my favorite class along with Human Bonding. I love learning about relationship dynamics too. Eudaimonia first made an appearance in the world when Aristotle coined the word. Oh how I love reading about Aristotle’s work, who was a student of Plato who in turn studied under Socrates. This is what eudaimonia is in a nutshell {thank you, Wikipedia and Google}:

“A Greek word commonly translated as happiness or welfare: however, “human flourishing” has been proposed as a more accurate translation. Etymologically, it consists of the words “eu” (“good”) and “daimon” (“spirit”)….blah blah blah….Aristotle deemed happiness to be a vulgar idea, stressing that not all desires are worth pursuing as, even though some of them may yield pleasure, they would not produce wellness.”

Eudaimonia is associate with having a meaningful life, one in which we use our strengths in the service of something greater than ourselves. This means working on developing our potentials and skills and learning new things to help others and the world at large. Eudomonia’s main principle is that happiness is a final end or goal that encompasses the totality of one’s life. It is not something that can be gained or lost in a few hours, like pleasurable sensations. It is more like the ultimate value of your life as lived up to this moment, measuring how well you have lived up to your full potential as a human being.

“For as it is not one swallow or one find day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy.” ~ Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics

Eudaimonic motives include pursuing personal growth, development of your potential, achieving personal excellence and contributing to the lives of others. Psychologists have found in multiple studies that these types of Eudaimonic activities were the ones that lead to the most happiness, rewarding experiences and life satisfaction over time.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t need research to tell me that helping other people feels good!  Naturally, pleasurable, comforting and enjoyable activities have their place, yet they are no match for having a strong life purpose and using our abilities to enhance the lives of others.

As a lover of fashion, environmentalism, writing, cooking, living a healthy lifestyle and quite a bit more, I don’t plan on giving up pleasurable activities any time soon {okay and I wouldn’t mind living in a penthouse}, yet I know what I really need to do with my life if I want to live with no happiness regrets. If you aren’t feeling your best, the greatest way to feel better is to remind yourself that you have so much power to make positive changes in the lives of others {on a large or small scale!}, the planet {educate yourself} and any other cause you believe in. Seriously, I have noticed that moments of gloominess really do drop significantly the more we perform selfless acts and practice reaching our potential with meaningful activities.

This article is about true happiness. Now what does it meant to be truly intelligent?

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