Experiencing True Joy: A Guide to Hedonic and Eudaimonic Happiness
And how to cultivate both in balance
Every month, there are nearly 100,000 searches on Google for 'How to be happy'. The pursuit of happiness is a reality of the human condition, and many psychologists and philosophers have studied it extensively over thousands of years.
So, there are probably infinite ways to think about the concept of happiness. However, there is one way to understand happiness which resonates strongly with us. And that is categorising happiness into two types: Hedonic Happiness and Eudaimonic Happiness.
What are these two types of happiness and how do they compare? Let's take a look!
What is Hedonic happiness
Hedonic happiness is the intense pleasure and enjoyment that comes from peak moments of positive experiences. It is the kind of happiness that is derived from satisfying our desires and needs. Things like eating delicious food, spending time with loved ones, or listening to your favorite music.
It is focused on maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain, and it is often associated with immediate and short-term gratification.
What is Eudaimonic happiness
Eudaimonic happiness is a more lasting and fulfilling type of happiness that comes from a sense of purpose, meaning, and personal growth. It is focused on living a life that aligns with our values and goals, and it is often associated with a deep sense of purpose, meaning, and fulfilment in life.
Eudaimonic happiness is often associated with long-term well-being and is derived from a sense of personal growth, autonomy, and positive relationships.
Contrasting Hedonic and Eudaimonic Happiness
Is one type of happiness better than the other? Is the pursuit of one type of happiness over the other bad for the long term?
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies showed that both types of happiness contribute to our overall life satisfaction. A balance of both types of happiness is associated with the highest levels of wellbeing and satisfaction.
Hedonic happiness is rooted in the pleasure principle, which is that people are motivated to seek pleasure and avoid pain. It is often associated with extrinsic rewards, such as money, fame, or material possessions. These are an important source of temporary pleasure, and are needed for overall happiness, but on their own are not sustainable sources of happiness.
Eudaimonic happiness, on the other hand, is focused on living a life that aligns with one's values and goals. This type of happiness is rooted in the concept of eudaimonia, which refers to a sense of wellbeing that comes from intrinsic rewards like personal growth, positive and meaningful relationships and a sense of purpose and of accomplishment in life. While these are great for long term happiness, a life without much hedonic happiness can feel too ascetic.
Cultivating Hedonic and Eudaimonic Happiness in balance
Modern life has made it easy to access hedonic happiness. But it has also made eudaimonic happiness harder to cultivate. So we often tend to pursue hedonic activities hoping for eudaimonic happiness. When we realise that doing so leaves us feeling empty, we become frustrated (and google 'How to be happy'). If this is you, here are some ways in which you can cultivate eudaimonic happiness.
4 ways to build Eudamonic Happiness
1. Practice gratitude regularly
This could be through journalling (tip: you can use a gratitude prompt template in Medoo), or simply spending a minute every day to actively think about the things you are grateful for.
2. Intentionally build meaningful relationships
Don't wait for a community to magically find you. Be intentional about it, and seek out like-minded people to bring into your life. The quality of our relationships has a huge impact on our long term health outcomes, so don't neglect your friendships and relationships!
3. Set and work towards long term goals
Identify your purpose (tip: our Ikigai template in Medoo is a great exercise for this), and work with intention towards your long term goals.
4. Get professional support from a coach
Seek out professional help: the best investment you could ever make is in yourself. Work with a coach or a therapist or other professional to help you navigate your journey to balanced happiness!
4 ways to cultivate Hedonic Happiness
On the other hand, perhaps you have been too focussed on the long term, and you need more short-term, intense pleasure in your life. Here are some ways you could integrate more hedonic happiness.
1. Indulge in pleasure without feeling guilty
Remember that it's okay indulge yourself without feeling guilty! Revel in the dopamine hit that comes with eating that piece of cake, drinking that silky whisky, or buying those new pair of shoes.
2. Allow yourself to be impulsive
Not everything needs to be planned to perfection. Enjoy the sense of freedom that comes with spontaneity, and do something impulsive. Press pause on responsibility, and take an impromptu road trip, or skip cooking to order in and watch a show.
3. Celebrate your wins
Soak in your wins and celebrate them, however big or small. Relish the feeling of accomplishment and success, and feel good about yourself!
4. Do something you've never done before
Feel the thrill of the beginner experience by doing something you've never done before. Try a new sport or activity, and experience the rush of pushing past your comfort zone.
Check in with yourself today to see whether you lack balance between the two types of happiness. Do you have a natural tendency to seek one over the other? Try our tips from this post to create a balance between both, and tell us how you went!