Happiness is often short lived. I watch my kids do their limited time on the Wii. They look happy, laughing, talking, moving, but when the game is finished, sometimes the happiness is too as they look for something else to do.
Research is now distinguishing between sustainable happiness and unsustainable happiness, which also be referred to as ‘eudaimonic’ well-being and ‘hedonic’ well-being.
Hedonic well-being is short term pleasure. It is being in the moment with highs of positive emotion and gratification. One problem is the brain gets used to the source of happiness and needs to up the dose or add variety to get a ‘hit’.
Examples of this unsustainable happiness and the results include:
drinking – hangover,
impulse buying – stress of debt,
binge eating – weight gain and guilt,
freedom of the road – climate change.
Eudaimonic well-being is deeper and lasts longer. It may seem harder work. The acronym PERMA is associated with this eudaimonic well being. (Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishment.)
Examples of this sustainable happiness and the results include:
acts of kindness – deeper friendship,
effort in learning – satisfaction of achievement,
using strengths – realise potential,
meaningful work – sense of vocation,
appreciate beauty – care for the environment.
‘The challenge of positive psychology is to help people to not just feel better but to live better lives. Our world need to refocus from an individual well-being towards a societal well-being.’ (Positive Psychology Daily News)
On reflection of this information I came to see that yes it is a BIG challenge. Our society in general are so bent on hedonic – unsustainable happiness. As kids are growing up with so much of this, the emotional lows are hard to cope with and life can become a trail of moving from one pleasure to the next.
Whereas the sustainable, eudaimonic pursuits are longer lasting, deeper and sustainable. That way of living grows inside and looks to those around and effects those around.
Recently I suggested that my daughter thank some teachers who had gone out of their way to provide a fantastic learning opportunity. She was happy to do it and took a homemade card to school to get signed and some chocolates. When she got home I asked her how it went ( I realise now, I was thinking some eudaimonic happiness was involved). I was surprised when she reported just ok. It seems that one friend had called the card ‘cute’ and another friend had said that is was so ‘typical’ of her to do that and both of these my daughter interpreted as put-downs. It is interesting that in this pursuit of kindness there were ‘knockers’.
On reflection, the challenge is not just how to build sustainable happiness in ourselves and our kids, but also to help them stand in a world that can knock them for it. Kindness and sustainable happiness is not always encouraged and acceptable to those around us, yet it is such a great thing!