2 perspectives of happiness (Hedonia & Eudaimonia)

Why do you do what you do every day? Really, why? There are great chances to get over this question without stopping and thinking.

However, give yourself at least 15 seconds to respond. This question has enormous potential to transform your life.

Why do we do what we do every day? To achieve happiness! Maybe that wasn’t your answer, but I was right. How so?

Maybe you said you wanted to have money for a dream winter vacation. Why? Maybe for fun, skiing, visiting, relaxing, sunbathing, etc.

Perfect! And how does all this make you feel? Obviously, happy!

Or maybe you want a bigger house, a new car, to grow professionally, to learn new things, to help others, to be independent, to be in control of your life, to relate, to create connections and, the list can certainly go on.

All the elements listed are instruments for happiness. And no matter how altruistic, philanthropic and generous you feel, believe me, you do what you do to achieve your happiness! Simple, right?

Hedonia and Eudaimonia

Nowadays, hedonism (in Greek Hedone = pleasure) is encouraged, i.e the pursuit of pleasure as the supreme human desideratum.

Live in the moment” (from the Latin carpe diem) perfectly describes this concept.

In popular understanding, Hedonia refers to a person who seeks pleasure only for himself, regardless of form and without thinking about the future.

While the philosophical perspective is different: well-being. It is a theory of value, in the sense that PLEASURE is intrinsically positive (valuable) and SUFFERING is intrinsically negative (worthless).

The goal is for their amount to be clearly positive.

There are many perspectives of this philosophical current, being supported and developed by prominent names: Aristip, Epicurus, Erasmus, Sir Thomas More. 

Another perspective of happiness, different from hedonism is eudaimonism (Greek “I” = good and “daimon” = spirit).

It starts from the premise that reaching human potential is the ultimate goal.

The best-known supporters in antiquity were Aristotle, who believed that absolute happiness can be found through a virtuous life (respecting high standards of ethics and morality; based on strong human values) and Stoic philosophers, who emphasized the idea of ​​self-discipline.

Daimon” is our spirit, our inner strength. Socrates, for example, said he lived his life under his daimon.

Thus, the central idea is to live our lives seeking the realization of our potential, which leads to supreme fulfilment. Infinite potential, by the way.

Under the roof of eudaimonism are several modern theories (Maslow’s pyramid of needs, Carl Rogers’ theory of the “fully functional man”, Ryan’s theory of self-determination and Seligman’s model of genuine happiness).

In the idea of ​​eudaimonism, I propose two other directions:

Personal growth and development – Constantly fighting to change for the better.

The desire to know you better and, equally, to know the world better.

To know who you are and who you are not, to understand your values, desires and to find out your mission. To grow as a person.

Transcendence – I am talking about dedicating yourself to something greater than your person, for a “greater” good.

Personal growth and transcendence can co-exist.

Side Note: I grew this blog to over 500,000 monthly pageviews and it now finances our charitable missions. If you are looking to start a blog as a source of income or to help your community then view our how to start a blog guide.

What is anhedonia?

Anhedonia is the inability of a person to feel pleasure during experiences that should cause pleasure.

It was first defined in the 19th century but was ignored until the 1980s because scientists were concerned about other obvious symptoms of depression, such as lack of concentration, fatigue, sleep and disordered appetite, suicidal thoughts.

Anhedonia is now recognized as one of the main symptoms of depression and research is showing new links between the brain and depression.

Symptoms of anhedonia

People with anhedonia have a disinterested attitude towards everything around them.

They can’t react properly, they can’t feel anything. There is no change in mood, which makes it difficult for them to look ahead.

This is best described by example. An anecdotal mother has no joy playing with her child, a football player is not happy when he scores a goal, a teenager is left regardless of passing the driving test.

Anhedonia leads to strained relationships and is usually accompanied by a loss of sexual appetite.

Anhedonia and depression

Depression affects one in five people at the same time in their lives and is a potentially fatal condition due to the high risk of suicide.

Depression can be caused by a sad condition, such as the death of a loved one, a mental illness or an imbalance in brain chemistry.

Not everyone who suffers from depression also suffers from anhedonia. It is rarely found in mild depression but creates serious problems in those suffering from severe depression.

Anhedonia may persist after the person has cured of depression, but it usually heals with it. Antidepressants act only partially in the case of anhedonia.

Evaluating the brain in action

There have been numerous studies that have attempted to identify specific areas of the brain that are involved in the pathology of anhedonia and depression.

An imaging method, functional nuclear magnetic resonance, was used to observe how the brain works.

For example, when we talk we use the cells in front of the brain. Increased neural activity increases the need for oxygen in this area.

Oxygen is brought in by haemoglobin, which carries oxygen to all cells in the body.

Functional nuclear magnetic resonance reveals the differences between the magnetic properties of oxygenated and deoxygenated haemoglobin as oxygen is sent to the active area of ​​the brain.

This means that researchers observe changes in the brain as they occur.

One can record not only the activity of the brain while the person is moving or answering a question at the push of a button but also what is happening in the brain while we are thinking of making plans.

Studies on depression and anhedonia

Some differences between the brain of a depressed person and a healthy person have already been discovered.

For example, compared to healthy people, depressed people show:

– A smaller hippocampus (the area that is responsible for emotions);

– Large lesions of the white matter;

– Differences in brain metabolism.

One study found that when depressed people were shown videos designed to induce suffering, areas of the brain that were not involved in the reaction of healthy people in the control group were activated.

The researchers suggested that this activation could disconnect the limbic system, which is linked to both anger and pleasure, from the normal system of prioritizing emotions.

In 2005, 12 people suffering from anhedonia and depression were compared to 12 healthy people.

Three areas of the brain that functioned differently were discovered:

– The ventromedial prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that is responsible for generating empathy and regulating negative emotions;

– Anterior striatum – the part of the brain that signals the reward;

– Tonsil – area of ​​the brain, shaped like an almond that is associated with mood and fear amnesia (short-term memory).

All three areas are involved in the brain’s reaction to stimuli that cause sadness or joy.

In people with anhedonia, the prefrontal cortex must work harder to record pleasant stimuli and less activity has been observed in the amygdala and ventral striatum.

The researchers who participated in this study believe that lack of activity may be the cause of the prefrontal cortex’s lack of reaction to experiences that cause joy.

As a result, the brain’s reward system fails, resulting in anhedonia.

It is hoped that these findings will lead to new treatments that will target specific regions of the brain – with already existing drugs that will prove useful or with new drugs and psychological counselling.

How to achieve Hedonia and Eudaimonia?

In these troubled times, it is more than necessary to read an article about happiness, because many of us have forgotten to be happy and do not even know how we could reach happiness, so in this section, you will find some steps to achieve happiness.

First of all, it is very important the way we interpret the events around us, through an adequate interpretation we can get to focus on the positive events, so we reach a state of happiness.

Happiness is a positive emotional experience of one’s life. When you think about your own life you mean the past, present and future.

So, to be happy, you have to be: satisfied with the past, as happy as possible in the present and optimistic about the future.

Why is happiness important?

The most important thing is that it can increase life expectancy by about 10 years.

It has been found that smoking reduces life expectancy by about 3 to 10 years, so advise smokers: if you smoke, at least try to be happy.

What are the causes of happiness?

  • genetic factors – about 50%
  • life circumstances (what happens to you) – about 10%
  • psychosocial factors – about 40%: health and a healthy lifestyle, social networks, marriage (increases life expectancy by about 7 years for men and 4 for women), religion/culture, money are important to the upper-middle level (After this level, more money does not bring happiness, but can bring more trouble).

Thus, the ideas according to which happiness would be associated especially with events in life, money, climate, age, etc., are false.

According to the famous American psychologist Martin Seligman, happiness has three components:

  • Happiness produced by what you do (eg: going out with friends, shopping, cooking, etc.) – pleasant life.
  • Happiness produced by fulfilling or satisfying personal desires that express our strengths as individuals (eg, carrying out a project) – a good life.
  • Happiness produced by fulfilling transpersonal desires (norms, values assumed by us and the community) – a meaningful life.

All three components are important for a happy life, but the most stable and powerful is a meaningful life.

The scientific recipe for happiness

  • To adopt behaviours that produce pleasure (hedonia), but that do not have major long and medium-term costs. Some examples: doing sports, going out with friends, etc.
  • To have personal and transpersonal desires (eudaimonia): a healthy lifestyle, to develop satisfying relationships, to get involved in professional or life projects that express the strengths you have as a person, to be aware of the values ​​you have and to implement them, which should be formulated correctly, in preferential terms, accepting that it may not always be fulfilled.

The psychological pill of happiness

  • Do what you like, but don’t hurt yourself!
  • Be involved in personal projects!
  • Build a minimal social network!
  • Build meaning and significance by assuming values ​​and relationships!
  • Change what you don’t like!
  • Accept what you can’t change!
  • Make the difference between changing what you don’t like and accepting what you can’t change!

Exercises for happiness

  • Make a list of 10 behaviours that will bring you pleasure and that you will do in the next month.
  • Set personal goals such as: improving health, developing social networks (more frequent interactions with the family), implementing realistic projects.
  • Set goals and a grid of values.

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Conclusions

In this article, we explained the concept of hedonia and eudaimonia, which are 2 perspectives of happiness. 

Hedonia refers to a person who seeks pleasure only for himself, regardless of form and without thinking about the future. 

Happiness and pleasure are positive emotional experiences of one’s life. When you think about your own life you mean the past, present and future.

So, to be happy, you have to be: satisfied with the past, as happy as possible in the present and optimistic about the future.

Under the roof of eudaimonism are several modern theories (Maslow’s pyramid of needs, Carl Rogers’ theory of the “fully functional man”, Ryan’s theory of self-determination and Seligman’s model of genuine happiness).

If you have any questions, comments or recommendations, please let us know.

FAQ about hedonia

What is Hedonia?

Hedonia means pleasure, joy, satisfaction and peace of mind.

What is Hedonia and Eudaimonia?

Hedoania means joy and avoiding stressful situations.

Eudaimonia means prospering and achieving your goals in order to be happy. 

Which is an example of Hedonia?

An example of hedonia is buying material goods or going for a massage. 

What does Eudaimonism mean?

Eudaimonia means achieving a higher self, your purpose in life – in order to be truly happy and satisfied.

Further reading

The Atlas of Happiness: the global secrets of how to be happy, by Helen Russell

The Happy Life Formula: How to Build Your Life Around the New Science of Happiness, by Nils Salzgeber

The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling, Start Living, by Dr Russ Harris

The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, by The Dalai Lama 

Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill, by Matthieu Ricard 

The Happiness Journal: Tips and Exercises to Help You Find Joy in Every Day (Journals), by Anna Barnes 

References

Cooper, J. A., Arulpragasam, A. R., & Treadway, M. T. (2018). Anhedonia in depression: biological mechanisms and computational models. Current opinion in behavioral sciences, 22, 128–135.

Gorwood P. (2008). Neurobiological mechanisms of anhedonia. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 10(3), 291–299.

Authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu

Positivepsychology.com

Pursuit-of-happiness.org

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