Photo Credit: Pietro De Grandi, Unsplash.com
“Run, run, run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread man.”
It’s a paradoxical truth that pursuing happiness always results in not achieving it. As soon as you set your sights on it, it begins to move away and chasing just makes it go faster. Like the gingerbread man, if someone chased you, you’d run, too!
The act of the chase sets energy in motion that keeps feelings of being happy always just beyond where you are right now. It’s the perception that happiness is ‘out there’ that keeps you from finding it ‘in here.’ Each person’s vision of what will make them happy must come from within and is a completely and uniquely personal experience. Recent scientific studies also reveal our deep biological connection to this highly sought after condition.
Science Fact & Fiction
What is happiness, anyway?
Is it the often momentary emotional surge we feel when life pleases us?
Is happiness a deeply-seated sense of connectedness and wellbeing?
How does it show up in emotional or mental states?
What role does it play in our overall wellbeing?
As part of the latest research, scientists have created labels for two types of happiness:
- “hedonic” – from pleasure or goal fulfillment
- “eudaimonic” – from meaningful pursuits
According to the Greater Good Science Center:
“A recent study by Steven Cole of the UCLA School of Medicine, and Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, found that people who reported more eudaimonic happiness had stronger immune system function than those who reported more hedonic happiness, suggesting that a life of meaning may be better for our health than a life seeking pleasure.”
The study revealed some very good news about the effects of eudaimonic happiness, “including less reactivity to stress, less insulin resistance (which means less chance of developing diabetes), higher HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels, better sleep, and brain activity patterns that have been linked to decreased levels of depression.”
“There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
So if chasing it and pursuing a life of self-indulgence (however well-intentioned) doesn’t bring us to our goal, what will?
Engaging in activities that create a greater sense of connection to the natural world and to your community (whatever its size) bring significant neurochemical and sensory benefits that actually generate feelings of happiness. And, as noted above, a host of wonderful health benefits– all of which make you feel happier.
The good news is that a combination of hedonic and eudaimonic happiness offers a path to a life in which self-care and acts of caring for others create pleasure, as well as an experience of meaning. You can have your gingerbread man and eat it too.
Bake a batch of this richly fragrant and flavorful delight. Revel in it yourself and share it with others to create a powerful blend of both types of happiness. Savor the moments of each experience warmed by the knowledge that the chase is over. You, and your happiness, have arrived.
Zette Harbour is a life purpose coach and an award-winning storyteller. Her column, Successful Awakenings explores the limitless power of awakening to the brilliant and beautiful story of who you truly are. Sign up for vibrant and vivacious updates from Zette at Morphosis Coaching.com to receive your FREE guide, Awaken to Your Native Greatness. Follow Zette at Morphosis Coaching on Facebook.