What happiness actually is? Everybody wants to be happy but do we know what happiness is and what causes happiness? Aristotle once said “Happiness depends on ourselves”. Everything we do in life is to achieve happiness therefore, it is important to know what drives happiness. Let’s analyze what happiness is and what are its components.
Happiness or Well-being can be categorized as either be hedonic well-being or eudaimonic well-being. Let’s analyze the components of both hedonic and eudaimonic well-being.
Hedonic well-being emphasizes that wellbeing consists of pleasure. Aristippus, a Greek philosopher in the fourth century BC taught that the goal of life is to experience the maximum amount of pleasure. Hedonic well-being is defined as a person’s cognitive and affective evaluation of life in terms of experience of more positive and less negative emotions and overall satisfaction with life. Therefore, hedonic well-being consists of three components:
Positive Emotions Presence
Negative emotions absence
More Positive and less negative emotions
Positive or negative emotions arises through the appraisal of environment by the person. If the appraisal is positive for self, a positive emotion arises and if the appraisal is negative for self, a negative emotion arises. Positive emotions include, joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and love. Negative emotions include anger, shame, contempt, disgust, embarrassment, guilt, hate, sadness, scare and stress. The degree to which a person experience more positive and less negative emotions determines his/her happiness.
Life satisfaction is an overall evaluation of one’s life. It is the degree to which an individual appraises his/her life as good or bad. Life satisfaction is a cognitive appraisal in which individual compares current life circumstances with what is thought to be an appropriate standard. These standards are set by individuals themselves therefore they vary from individual to individual. The level of satisfaction with life contributes to overall happiness of individuals.
Aristotle, considered hedonic happiness to be a vulgar idea, making humans slavish followers of desires. He posited, instead, that true happiness is found in the expression of virtue. Eudaimonic well-being refers to effectiveness of an individual’s psychological functioning in which individuals realize their true potential. According to psychologist Professor Ryff, it has six components:
Purpose in life, and
The qualities of self-determination and independence allows individuals to look inwards for own appraisals rather than look outwards to other people for approval. Autonomous people have internal locus of appraisal, sense of self-determination and personal authority.
The ability to manipulate and control environment is a characteristic of mental health. Environmental mastery is to shape one’s environment so as to meet personal needs and desires.
To grow and expand as a person is an important requirement for optimal psychological functioning. The needs of potential realization and self-actualization are vital for personal growth therefore, it is important to have a sense of continued growth and development as a person.
Warm and trustworthy interpersonal relationships are imperative for psychological health. The ability to love and empathize with others are seen as two central virtues of human beings. Therefore positive relations emphasize the development and maintenance of warm and trusting interpersonal relationships
Purpose in life
Psychologically healthy individuals have purposes and goals in life such as being productive or creative. Goals, intentions and sense of direction are important for mental health. Purpose in life is the feeling that one’s life is purposeful and meaningful
Self- acceptance is an attempt to feel good about oneself even while aware of one’s own limitations. It is the acceptance of oneself and one’s past life as well.
Hedonic or Eudaimonic: which one is real happiness?
It would be wise to consider happiness a multidimensional phenomenon that includes both hedonic and eudaimonic aspects of well-being. The frequent experience of positive emotions and less frequent experience of negative emotions and overall satisfaction with life are important contributors to happiness. At the same time the strive to go beyond mere pleasure seeking goals and look for autonomy, mastery, growth, relations, purpose and self-acceptance are also important for overall happiness.