BLUE MONDAY: What are the two paths to happiness?
Happiness isn't about being happy all the time, according to Preston-based academic Lowri Dowthwaite.
And the UCLan psychology lecturer, dubbed ‘Mrs Happy’, knows a thing or two about the subject because she has been running happiness workshops for the last four years.
She says: “The last thing I would want anyone to believe is that I am happy all the time. Striving for a happy life is one thing, but striving to be happy all the time is unrealistic.”
In an article for The Conversation, the academic writes: “Recent research indicates that psychological flexibility is the key to greater happiness and well-being. For example, being open to emotional experiences and the ability to tolerate periods of discomfort can allow us to move towards a richer, more meaningful existence.”
Lowri says there are two paths to a happier life.
“Philosophically speaking there are two paths to feeling happy,” she writes. “The hedonistic and the eudaimonic.
“Hedonists take the view that in order to live a happy life we must maximise pleasure and avoid pain. This view is about satisfying human appetites and desires, but it is often short lived.
“In contrast, the eudaimonic approach takes the long view. It argues that we should live authentically and for the greater good. We should pursue meaning and potential through kindness, justice, honesty and courage.
“If we see happiness in the hedonistic sense, then we have to continue to seek out new pleasures and experiences in order to ‘top up’ our happiness.
We will also try to minimise unpleasant and painful feelings in order to keep our mood high.
“If we take the eudaimonic approach, however, we strive for meaning, using our strengths to contribute to something greater than ourselves. This may involve unpleasant experiences and emotions at times, but often leads to deeper levels of joy and contentment. So leading a happy life is not about avoiding hard times; it is about being able to respond to adversity in a way that allows you to grow from the experience.”
She adds: “Unlike feeling happy, which is a transient state, leading a happier life is about individual growth through finding meaning. It is about accepting our humanity with all its ups and downs, enjoying the positive emotions, and harnessing painful feelings in order to reach our full potential.”