In the News (from The Wall Street Journal): “The relentless pursuit of happiness may be doing us more harm than good.
“Some researchers say happiness as people usually think of it—the experience of pleasure or positive feelings—is far less important to physical health than the type of well-being that comes from engaging in meaningful activity. Researchers refer to this latter state as ‘eudaimonic well-being.’
“Some of the newest evidence suggests that people who focus on living with a sense of purpose as they age are more likely to remain cognitively intact, have better mental health and even live longer than people who focus on achieving feelings of happiness.
“In fact, in some cases, too much focus on feeling happy can actually lead to feeling less happy, researchers say.
“The pleasure that comes with, say, a good meal, an entertaining movie or an important win for one’s sports team—a feeling called ‘hedonic well-being’—tends to be short-term and fleeting. Raising children, volunteering or going to medical school may be less pleasurable day to day. But these pursuits give a sense of fulfillment, of being the best one can be, particularly in the long run.
“’Eudaimonia’ is a Greek word associated with Aristotle and often mistranslated as ‘happiness’—which has contributed to misunderstandings about what happiness is. Some experts say Aristotle meant “well-being” when he wrote that humans can attain eudaimonia by fulfilling their potential. Today, the goal of understanding happiness and well-being, beyond philosophical interest, is part of a broad inquiry into aging and why some people avoid early death and disease. Psychologists investigating eudaimonic versus hedonic types of happiness over the past five to 10 years have looked at each type’s unique effects on physical and psychological health.…
“For instance, symptoms of depression, paranoia and psychopathology have increased among generations of American college students from 1938 to 2007, according to a statistical review published in 2010 in Clinical Psychology Review. Researchers at San Diego State University who conducted the analysis pointed to increasing cultural emphasis in the U.S. on materialism and status, which emphasize hedonic happiness, and decreasing attention to community and meaning in life, as possible explanations.…
“Simply engaging in activities that are likely to promote eudaimonic well-being, such as helping others, doesn’t seem to yield a psychological benefit if people feel pressured to do them, according to a study Dr. Ryan and a colleague published last year in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. ‘When people say, “In the long-run, this will get me some reward,” that person doesn’t get as much benefit,’ he says…
“Being happy doesn’t mean feeling elated all the time. Deep stress is bad, but the ‘I don’t have enough time’ stress that many people feel while balancing work, family and other demands may not be so bad, Dr. Diener says. To improve feelings of happiness and eudaimonia, focus on relationships and work that you love, Dr. Diener says, adding, ‘Quit sitting around worrying about yourself and get focused on your goals.’”
My Comment: Since we are in the power of one force of nature, then to the extent of similarity to it, we fall under its good influence, which is manifested at all the levels of the body and psyche, as well as the environment.