BREAKING NEWS: the latest research on wellness indicates that the treadmill may actually make you FAT! Say what?!
Fear not, friends. I’m talking about the proverbial hedonic treadmill– the idea that chasing happiness by way of material goods and status symbols is much like running on a treadmill: you run and run and run, yet you never get anywhere. And by FAT of course I mean Frustrated, Anxious and Tired.
Think about it: so often our ideas of success consist of fancy cars, a giant house, the finest bling, the hippest clothes and the newest electronics. Worse yet, when we finally do acquire these things, we adapt to them so quickly that we are constantly on the hunt for the next best thing. And all the while, we are running ourselves ragged, constantly comparing ourselves to others and never feeling truly fulfilled.
And it’s not just adults– more and more I see teens whose entire identity is wrapped up in having the hottest gear. And without it, they feel worthless. It’s time for a new approach to lasting happiness. One that is consistent and reliable.
New research from the field of positive psychology is emphasizing a eudaimonic turn, or a greater emphasis on the things that make life most worth living and enable human beings to thrive. The concept of eudaimonia has been around since the days of Aristotle, and has been built upon by various philosophers and psychologists for decades.
Dr. Carol Ryff, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Institute on Aging at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, conceptualized eudaimonia as a six-factor structure including:
- Autonomy (independence and freedom of choice)
- Personal growth
- Self-acceptance (positive evaluation of oneself and one’s life)
- Purpose in life
- Environmental mastery (the capacity to effectively manage one’s life and the surrounding environment)
- Positive relations with others
Imagine how different we might structure our days if we prioritized these ideas as the building blocks to lasting happiness? Gone would be the days of body shame and female competition. We could happily wave goodbye to feelings of dispassionate apathy or crippling inadequacy. No longer would we be slaves to stress and overwhelm, but rather powerful beings who seek to affect positive change on the areas of life that are most challenging.
And this brings me to perhaps the most important point: the eudaimonic turn does not remotely suggest that pain and suffering should be, or even could be, eliminated. Rather, it simply swaps out one lens for another, replacing a demoralizing, materialistic and pessimistic worldview for one that is purposeful, positive and action-oriented.
So how can you make the leap off of the hedonic treadmill and into a life of sustainable happiness? Here are a few ideas that can help you begin to take a eudaimonic turn today!
1. Be of Service: Giving back to others is a quick and easy way to engender a sense of purpose! There are endless opportunities to get involved in charities, volunteer organizations or donation-based services. Find a cause you are passionate about and get involved!
2. Set a Challenging Goal: Personal growth doesn’t come from doing the same old thing day after day. If you want to feel, live and be better, then get into action! Set a SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic/relevant and time-sensitive) goal for yourself and enlist a buddy to hold you accountable.
3. Get Organized: Stress and overwhelm build when our life feels out of control. Whether you need to clean up your calendar, your kitchen or your workload, strategically organizing your life will build your capacity to effectively manage your life.
4. Write a Gratitude Letter: Positive psychology research indicates that positive relationships are a key building block of sustainable happiness. Fortify a meaningful relationship by writing a letter of appreciation to someone you love, thanking him/her for the positive impact they have made on your life. Be specific, and if possible, read the letter them directly! The reward is HUGE!
5. Take a Risk: autonomy rarely develops when we play it safe. Challenge yourself to do something outside of your comfort zone in order to feel a sense of invigoration and accomplishment!