Mental Health
5 Min Read

The Yin and Yang of Authentic Happiness

It’s so much more than the accumulation of happy memories and the avoidance of pain.

Happiness. We’re all in pursuit of it. The well-being industry, when last recorded by The Global Wellness Institute, is now worth over $4.2 Trillion. Intuitively, we know that to live with a sense of well-being means we feel health and happiness, right now. That our emotional state is in balance, that we’re experiencing positive thoughts and moments of joy and we are able to avoid or circumnavigate negative emotions. But, research tells us, if we consistently gauge life and happiness through this single lens, the foundations of our wellbeing are unstable and likely to be rocked from moment to moment.

The key to long term happiness is so much more than the accumulation of happy memories and the avoidance of pain. Positive psychology doesn’t simply end at positive emotion, and the successful pursuit of pleasure does not guarantee happiness. To strengthen our foundation of true well-being, so that it can become a platform for real happiness and personal growth — to truly flourish — we need balance. And we need measurable long and short-term goals.

There are two main, interconnecting theories to measure what makes us feel good: these are the Hedonic and Eudaimonic principles of well-being (Keyes, Shmotkin, & Ryff, 2002).

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Hedonic happiness.

Positive moments are fleeting, but they accumulate over time to give us a general sense of feeling good. As we go about our daily lives, we pursue happiness moment to moment. We avoid feeling uncomfortable and we do the things that provide short bursts of pleasure. We eat delicious food, we sit in good company, we laugh, we dance, we read, and we learn. We may try, but we simply can’t be happy all the time. When you receive a jolt to this system — whether your train is cancelled, you have a bad day at work or receive worrying news — the Hedonic happiness you rely on is easily compromised. It has no foundation.

Eudaimonic happiness

American psychologist Theodore Isaac Rubin once said, “Happiness does not come from doing easy work, but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best”.

If the Hedonic notion can be defined as the increased experience of pleasure and the avoidance of pain, the Eudaimonic principle is our experience and self-actualisation of meaning. It’s our growth toward fulfilling our highest order needs: toward a life filled with purpose, achievement and a solid sense of self-identity. It’s the kind of gratifying happiness experienced when you sacrifice short-term pleasure, and labour to achieve long-term goals: studying for an exam, dedicating yourself to a rewarding career, selfless philanthropy, productivity, overcoming challenges and building lasting relationships.

The Yin and Yang

As with most aspects of life and nature — where seemingly opposing or contrary forces may actually be complementary and interconnected — we can find strength in dualism. It’s in the co-existence of principles and combining forces — in the yin and yang of life — that we can find balance.

To live a truly fulfilled life — to ensure the experience of negative moments don’t shake our foundations and rock us to our core — both Hedonic and Eudaimonic aspects must co-exist. Hedonic happiness can only ever be considered worthwhile in the long-term if experienced from a solid baseline of Eudaimonic happiness. It takes time, self-reflection and organisation to build this kind of foundation. It’s not easy. But once we do, we flourish.

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At Constellation AI, we’re committed to our users and all aspects of their well-being. So, we’re digging deep: using behavioural and cognitive sciences to create an intelligence that’s able to understand people and reflect back what they, as individuals, need; in order to build both short and long-term happiness.

Our approach is from multiple angles. There are many theories on how to cultivate and measure well-being and positive emotion, but, one of the most convincing ways to measure and deconstruct our levels of fulfilment and personal growth, is Martin Seligman’s PERMA theory. According to Seligman: “This is not like dieting or psycho-therapy, it’s the science behind lastingly increased well-being”. His scientific PERMA method is measured in 5 scales.

Positive emotion — Experiencing and noticing positive moments.

Engagement — According to Seligman: “This is when time stops, and you are able to be in the moment or enter ‘flow state’”.

Relationships — The importance of meaningful connections. “No matter how solitary, the happiest you’ll ever be is with other people”.

Meaning — “Using your signature strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are.”

Accomplishment — “Our highest strengths are matched with the challenges that come our way. Self-discipline and grit is twice as important as IQ for success”.

Each one, focused on independently, can improve well-being. But when all 5 scales are encompassed within your approach to self-progression, you are building a foundation for authentic happiness.

In a holistic experience, using principles such as the PERMA framework, we are moving away from other currently available technologies — that simply collate data based on the things you already know about yourself — towards a technology that enables an individual to discover their real potential. We’re using techniques to measurably boost and balance Hedonic and Eudaimonic happiness, to cultivate true long-term well-being. This is the sphere in which all future technologies and human well-being will successfully unite.