What Kind of Happy Are You?

Remember the old quote, "All happy families are alike?"  Well now, we're finding out that, just as there are many kinds of unhappiness (and families), there are also many colors of happiness.

According to medicaldaily.com, "While previous studies have mapped the effects of stress and other negative emotions on such a level, little time has been spent on positive emotions like happiness, hope and pleasure."

"I've known anecdotally that positive emotions impact us on a cellular level, but seeing these results have given us proof that there is a real difference in the kinds of happiness we feel and its potential long-term consequences," John Ericson quotes Barbara Fredrickson, a professor of psychology and principal investigator of the Positive Emotion and Psychophysiology Lab at the University of North Carolina, and the lead author of a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

Apparently, there are two types of happiness: hedonic well-being and eudaimonic well-being. The two types are derived from different sources of joy, Ericson writes.

The first kind, the Hedonic type, comes from the word hedonism, what we know as pleasure without consequence.  "Nowadays, it's often decried as a close relative of instant gratification," Ericson notes.

If you have eudaimonic happiness, you're concerned with a good life rather than momentary happiness. 

Guess which form is better?  If you guessed the latter, you win.  Surprisingly, a dependence on hedonic happiness "can trigger cellular reactions similar to that caused by stress," according to Ericson.

"Hedonic well-being is dependent on your taking self-involved action to constantly feed this positive emotion machine," Professor Steve Cole, the co-author of the study, told Ericson. "If something threatens your ability to seek out this kind of personal happiness - if you get injured, for instance, or you experience a loss - your entire source of well-being is threatened. You are living closer to the edge of that kind of stress."

How to avoid this?  Maintain "a reliable source of eudaimonic happiness," Ericson quotes Cole. "If, in that circumstance, you get sick or injured or suffer a personal loss, that community you've worked so hard to connect to, will help you get through," Cole told Ericson.

So not such a big surprise.  But eudaimonic happiness is better for us in the long run.  Less stress, less mess, more joy.

Medical Daily


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