you happy? Admittedly, enjoyment and pleasure can be important
components of happiness. But there's more. Beyond gratification is a
level of happiness that psychologists describe as "eudaimonic
well-being." At this point, positive emotions arise when an
individual is working toward a meaningful goal. This person is
continuing to learn, taking on new challenges and living
Eudaimonic happiness is as good for our bodies as it is for our outlook. Dr. Carol Ryff, professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin, reports that women who tested high for this quality weighed less, slept better and had fewer stress hormones and markers for heart disease than those reporting hedonic happiness. Dr. Richard J. Davidson reinforces this idea: "Eudaimonic well-being is much more robust and satisfying than hedonic happiness, and it engages different parts of the brain. The positive emotion accompanying thoughts that are directed toward meaningful goals is one of the most enduring components of well-being."
I think this is what Helen Keller meant when she said, "Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose."
This is why I encourage anyone interested in becoming fit to join a community, like the AARP Fat2 Fit online community. Contributing to others involves us in a worthy purpose: supporting each other in achieving fitness. This research assures us that our delight in helping each other helps us as well.
Photo courtesy of Rayko Swensson