What is happiness ? Everyone talks about it, we all know it and experience it, but it is a difficult notion to define. Many philosophers and thinkers of all kinds have tried to study the mysteries of this emotion; among them we can find Aristotle, who believed that the ultimate goal of man was happiness, or Epicurus, who believed that it was the foundation of life. We will review in this article what psychology tells us about happiness, and more specifically eudemonism and hedonism.
Psychology, through the review of philosophical literature and scientific experimentation, has found that happiness can be experienced in different ways. It is easy to think that we find happiness when we party with friends or when we have a great vacation, but many people also find happiness in the effort they put in by studying such a career, in learning a language, etc. And this is where the concepts of eudemonism and hedonism come in.
Before explaining these two psychological terms, it is important to clarify some points. Eudemonism and hedonism are terms derived from philosophy; for example, we already find them in Aristotle and Epicurus when they explain the notion of happiness. And although these terms have been appropriated by psychology because of its history, their conception is vastly different. Thus, it is important to keep in mind that the definition that we are going to use here emanates more from the psychological side than from the philosophical one.
Hedonism, happiness based on pleasure
Hedonism is that most tangible happiness, that joy that we experience when we engage in rewarding activities. It is about the feeling of pleasure and the motivation intended to avoid the 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 is about the search for the stimulation of our senses and our emotions. Enjoying with friends, taking a trip, going to a concert, etc.
- Perception based on emotional balance : the way we interpret hedonism in our lives is achieved through a balance of our daily emotions. Therefore, if we tend to experience more pleasant than unpleasant emotions, we will experience a greater level of hedonic happiness.
- Maintenance of life satisfaction : in order to benefit from hedonism, it is necessary to feel that our environment is pleasant. If there are any issues in our family, friends, work, etc., these will generate anxiety that will affect our hedonic happiness.
- Persecution of wants and needs : Hedonism gains pleasure through the fulfillment of our wants and needs. Fulfilling desires and satisfying needs will bring us those pleasurable emotions that will lead to hedonic happiness.
- Short-term happiness : An essential aspect of hedonism is its focus on the present or the immediate future. We are talking about spontaneous pleasure or happiness occurring after the performance of certain behaviors. As the stimulus recedes, the hedonic happiness dissipates.
- High Intensity : Hedonic happiness is a very enriching and stimulating emotion, which is experienced with great intensity and enthusiasm.
Eudemonism, happiness based on personal development
Many behaviors do not bring immediate happiness, even involve effort, and make us experience at certain times negative valence emotions characteristic of this type of motivation. Despite everything, we continue to achieve them with determination, even being satisfied with them. This is so because these behaviors bring us personal development, which is experienced through eudemonic happiness. Examples of this eudemonism can be obtaining a degree, learning a language, experiencing other cultures, exploring oneself, etc.
We can use the following features per our set eudemonism :
- Search for personal development : this is the central aspect of this type of happiness. Eudemonism is the motivation that inspires us to develop ourselves as people. This is the satisfaction that results from being proud of our cognitive, moral, emotional, etc. growth.
- Achievement of goals and objectives : The degree of intensity of eudemonic happiness will depend on whether or not we have achieved our goals and objectives. Achieving our goals will bring us this happiness that drives us to continue our growth.
- Effort and motivation : these will be the engines of our self-realization. Indeed, since our goals and objectives will often present difficulties and unpleasant emotions, we need the effort and motivation to achieve eudemonism.
- The long-term happiness : it is a happiness which is represented by personal satisfaction. This ability to observe yourself and be proud of your personal growth. It is more of a pleasant perception of oneself than a specific temporal state (as is the case with hedonism).
Which is better, hedonic happiness or eudemonic happiness? The answer is that both are generally a source of motivation in our lives. They are thus responsible for encouraging pleasurable behavior and personal development, respectively. Indeed, it seems essential to find a personal balance between the two, so that one does not end up setting itself up as an obstacle for the other.
We tend today, especially because of living in a consumer society, to base our lives on hedonism. We often spend our resources on short-term pleasures and we forget about our personal development or we seek it indirectly through this consumption. Much of the population hates their work and professional life, and the only satisfaction these people can find is through hedonic pleasures. It is important not to forget or not to leave aside our self-realization, the latter being the only way to reach eudemonism.