The Quest for Eudaimonia, or the Holy Grail of Happiness

We humans have been chasing the Holy Grail of happiness since the beginning of time. It took the Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, however, to begin to ponder, speak, and write about it, and thus bring happiness to the forefront of our consciousness, instead of letting it lie in the shadows of our primal instinct, where, like every other species, we automatically gravitate toward pleasure and away from pain. Now there was a way to “think” about happiness, and use our minds to frame the experience of happiness as something we can (somewhat) control. In fact, by changing our thoughts and our behaviors, we really can become more content.

As we grow biologically older (older meaning reaching the age of 50 or so, although that is an arbitrary number), finding ways to feel upbeat despite the common physical, cogntive and social changes that come with aging–makes a difference in the quality of our life. When we are happier, we feel more confident, more passionate, and even more attractive.

“Eudaimonic” well-being, unlike the hedonic variety of happiness (seek pleasure/avoid pain),  assumes that happiness involves higher order pursuits; such as existential purpose, meaning, fulfillment, and personal values.  Kind of like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which emphasized the journey to the highest level of  human drives; the drive to reach”self-actualization”, a metaphysical state of well-being where we are able to enjoy frequent “peak experiences” that trascend us from the mundane to the  highest level of happiness and fulfillment.

But what does this mean for you and me?

There is research to support the idea that involving ourselves with activities can make us feel happier. But not just any activity. Seek out activities that inspire your creativity, awaken your passions, or touch your emotions. Bypass the usual evening at the mall, and go to a classical concert, visit a museum, take part in a worship service or a lecture that makes you think about something new.  Look in the papers and seek out events like these. Schedule them in on your calendar at least once or twice a month. See if that doesn’t begin to elevate your outlook on life.

What activities bring the most happiness into your life? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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