Cheerfulness not needed to be happy!

Whoa! The delightful Bernie de Koven points to this provocative bit of research: Pleasure, Meaning and Eudaimonia from the Authentic Happiness Newsletter. (I haven’t met Eudaimonia or her sister Hedonia since my days doing Philosophy at Oxford, but don’t get put off by the jargon.)

So the core thesis in Authentic Happiness is that there are three very different routes to happiness. First the Pleasant Life, consisting in having as many pleasures as possible and having the skills to amplify the pleasures. This is, of course, the only true kind of happiness on the Hollywood view. Second, the Good Life, which consists in knowing what your signature strengths are, and then recrafting your work, love, friendship, leisure and parenting to use those strengths to have more flow in life. Third, the Meaningful Life, which consists of using your signature strengths in the service of something that you believe is larger than you are.

And now here is research to show

that successfully pursuing pleasure does not necessarily lead to life satisfaction, but successfully pursuing the Good Life and the Meaningful Life does lead to higher life satisfaction.

Boy, does that make sense to me.

2 thoughts on “Cheerfulness not needed to be happy!

  1. mrG

    I think the operative word in all this is “happiness” — when defined by the sensual experience of “being happy” it is a recipe for failure because the emotion states only seem to map to behaviours when we don’t pay attention to the facts; this was very graphically illustrated by the journaling experiments by the great Japanese psychiatrist Morita Shoma (yes, it’s true, not all great psychological theorists were white Europeans). Morita asked patients to pause a few times every day to note what they were doing in column A, what they were feeling in column B, and sure enough, after a few weeks of journaling it’s pretty obvious there is no correllation.

    Morita surmised that we cannot control our feelings, we can only notice them, accept them, and then get back to doing what we were doing — you may note that this is exactly the opposite to the western psychiatric advice to either wait until you feel like it or take some sort of pharmaceutical to induce the appropriate feeling prior to attempting to live your life.

    Not surprisingly, because his method allows people to experience the Meaningful Life even while deeply unhappy, Morita’s method restores people to function very rapidly and is thus not a very lucrative prospect for the theraputic practitioner. On the other hand, the western method, which induces, reinforces and sustains a crippling brokenness …

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  2. Johnnie Moore

    Thanks Gary, you are as ever a mine of ideas and information. I would leave open the possibility of a more complex relationship between activity and happiness, that would not emerge in a purely moment by moment attempt to relate one to another.

    And I think there is a power in acknowledging emotions rather than trying to push them.

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