Mental Health Monday: Eudaimonia
I received several encouraging responses to my (whiny) post last Wednesday. One was from a neighbor (she’s also a member of my church) who (1) invited me over for a glass of wine; (2) brought me a bouquet of flowers from her yard; and (3) shared an article with me called “5 Things Happy People Do” by neuroscientist Gabrielle LeBlanc (from 2008).
Several others left comments on my Facebook post, emailed, texted, and one writer friend (another neighbor) came over and visited with me for an hour and a half. Mental Health people take note: Asking for help on social media can be a good thing!
Today I want to share a couple of reflections from Dr. LeBlanc’s article, which evidently made the rounds (Oprah, etc.) six years ago, so this isn’t “new,” but it’s new to me. And if you ever struggle with loneliness, depression, or just too regular a dose of what my mother’s generation would call “the blues,” maybe there’s something here for you, too.
My favorite item on LeBlanc’s list is the first: “They Find Their Most Golden Self.” LeBlanc introduced me to a new word:
Eudaimonia—“cobbled from the Greek eu (“good”) and daimon (“spirit” or “deity”), it means striving towards excellence based on one’s unique talents and potential.”
LeBlanc explains that taking on new challenges and the positive emotion that comes with working towards meaningful goals contribute to a higher level of happiness than simple passive, hedonic pleasure.
A side benefit—especially for women—is that this type of lifestyle often leads to physical well being, including weight management and healthy sleep patterns.
I’m sold. My temptation to quit working on revisions on my novel and “retire” to a life of luncheons and leisure was a fleeting carrot, and one that I’m not seriously interested in now. Here’s a quick run-down of the other 4 things happy people do:
They design their lives to bring joy.
They avoid “if only” fantasies.
They put best friends first.
They allow themselves to be happy.
Want to learn more about the research backing up LeBlanc’s advice? Read this short article and start making small changes in your own life. Me? Today I’m going to (a) call my best friend, (b) exercise, (c) order canvas prints of our family pictures at the beach, (d) plan a party, and (e) work on manuscript revisions. And try to find joy in each of these activities. I probably won’t get a tattoo, but if I did, I might want it to say εὐδαιμονία.
Need to get happy? Watch this video and find some joy today. Betcha can’t wait it without clapping along and smiling.