Determining wellbeing – Understanding hedonic and eudaimonic wellbeing.
In order to investigate wellbeing, it is necessary to understand two conceptually different elements that determine wellbeing. These elements are the hedonic and eudaimonia aspects of wellbeing (Seligman, 2011: Berridge & Kringelbach, 2011). Hedonic corresponds psychologically to a state of pleasure or feeling good, through a release of chemicals in the brain. This can occur through basic sensory pleasures received through food and physical arousal, or through social pleasures. Eudaimonia corresponds to a cognitive perception of morally living well, in which the individual feels their life is valuable, meaningful and engaging. Further more, Berridge and Kringelbach (2011), suggest that the three basic underlying psychological drivers of wellbeing, whether perceived consciously or not, are wanting, liking and learning. That is, likes produces hedonic pleasure, wanting creates motivation for reward, and learning creates mental associations, representations and predictions of future rewards, based on experience.
High levels of wellbeing creates happy, balanced kids
Controversy of how to measure wellbeing also includes whether or not theories of wellbeing should include both objective eudaimonic elements and subjective hedonic elements, Ryan, Curren & Deci (2013), have pointed out that living in a eudemonic way, or in accordance with a neo-Aristotelian concept of flourishing, through self-improvement, incorporates frequent subjective hedonic aspects of positive emotion, happiness, and pleasure. To illustrate this point further, research has consistently found that individual’s with high levels of wellbeing score higher for both eudaimonic and hedonic elements, meaning they co-occur at high rates, in happy people (Diener eta al, 2008).
In accordance with Ryan et al., (2013), it seems evident that the over-lap between higher order (eudaimonic) experiences of accomplishment and lower order hedonic experiences of pleasure are both experienced through personal achievement and/or through engagement in artistic, intellectual, musical, altruistic and transcendent experiences (Berridge & Kringelbach, 2011). Moreover, research has increasingly provided convincing evidence for the essential role of behaviour in wellbeing. For example, morbidity and mortality are associated with certain types of undesirable behaviour (such as physical inactivity, tobacco use and poor diet), which create enormous health care cost (Patrick & Williams, 2012). This also highlights the value of the eudaimonic elements of wellbeing motivating behaviour, over hedonic pleasures motivating behaviour (Ryan et al., 2013).
Berridge, K. C., & Kringelbach, M. L. (2011). Building a neuroscience of pleasure and well-being. Psychology of Well-Being; Theory, Research and Practice, 1:3. Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/2211-1522-1-3#page-2
Diener, E., Ng, W., Harter, J., & Arora, R. (2010). Wealth and happiness across the world: material prosperity predicts life evaluation, whereas psychosocial prosperity predicts positive feeling. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99(1), 52-61.
Patrick, H., and William, G, C. (2012). Self-determination theory; its application to health behaviour and complementarity with motivational interviewing. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 9:18. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-9-18 Retrieved from http://www.ijbnpa.org/content/9/1/18
Ryan, R. M., Curren, R. R., & Deci, E. L. (2013). What humans need: Flourishing in Aristotelian philosophy and self-determination theory. In A. S. Waterman, A. S. Waterman (Eds.). The best within us: Positive psychology perspectives on eudaimonia (pp. 57-75). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association. doi:10.1037/14092-004
Seligman, M (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness. New York, NY: Free Press.
Author Elizabeth Mulhane
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