Practicing Self-Compassion For Mental Health

I don’t want this to be a sob story. I do however, want this to be a story of learning, understanding, and self-love. I want to talk about practicing self-compassion for mental health. What is self-compassion? Well read this excerpt from Dr. Kristin Neff regarding self-compassion that is a beautiful introduction to self-compassion:

“Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others. Think about what the experience of compassion feels like. First, to have compassion for others you must notice that they are suffering. If you ignore that homeless person on the street, you can’t feel compassion for how difficult his or her experience is. Second, compassion involves feeling moved by others’ suffering so that your heart responds to their pain (the word compassion literally means to “suffer with”).

When this occurs, you feel warmth, caring, and the desire to help the suffering person in some way. Having compassion also means that you offer understanding and kindness to others when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them harshly. Finally, when you feel compassion for another (rather than mere pity), it means that you realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience. “There but for fortune go I.”

First of all, isn’t that excerpt fu**ing beautiful?! I don’t know about you but it gave me this overflow of warmth to know that I can make my pain and suffering go away by being more compassionate towards myself. Self-compassion is taking that concept of being kind towards others through difficult times, but towards ourselves to alleviate some of the suffering. In some way it then leads us to more of an understanding of our pain and allows us to make changes by reinforcing a positive mindset and view of our actual reality.

Anyway I need to be honest with you all. Lately I’ve been feeling very unhealthy. I had to leave my job, I’ve lost weight (and I’m already tiny!), I go to bed late and sleep in, my appetite is a mess, my anxiety is through the roof, and I’ve had random crying spells throughout the days. Also, my relationship is a mess, basically it no longer makes me happy.

Not to mention I’ve had a lot of new medical issues adding on to my decline in health. WHEW. Isn’t that a lot of heavy, toxic shit?! Excuse my language. Anyways, as a result I’ve been beating myself up constantly and not having the energy to follow through with what I’d like to. I have been very hard on myself and adding fuel to my already mountain of fire.

Where do I even go from here? The thing is, I know the things I have to do but I don’t want to do them. I give myself excuses and develop this negative self-talk that basically makes me fear moving forward and doing the things I need to do. I am completely hating myself instead of filling my soul up with positivity, love, and self-compassion.

I want to paint this picture because as many of my readers with mental health issues, it is DIFFICULT to get yourself out of a slump when you are wrapped up in so many unhealthy situations. But I want to talk about self-compassion anyways because as the saying goes, nothing changes if nothing changes. And OMG do I want to change.

Here are some ways we can practice self-compassion:

Be kind to yourself

This can be very difficult to do. Being kind to yourself is a way to let yourself off the map and tell yourself you are doing the best you can in the situation you are in. It is okay to fail and remember that no one has it together 100% so why should you beat yourself up for something that isn’t attainable?! Feel empathy towards yourself like you would a stranger or loved one going through difficult times instead of beating yourself up for not being good enough for something. Here is what Dr. Neff has to say about it:

“Self-compassionate people recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing life difficulties is inevitable, so they tend to be gentle with themselves when confronted with painful experiences rather than getting angry when life falls short of set ideals”.

Understand bad memories

Instead thinking about a bad argument with a loved one, an emotional breakdown at work, the lady who frustrated you at the grocery store for walking slow, focus on what it was you NEEDED at that time. If you were arguing with a loved one, was it because you dislike them OR because at that time you needed to be heard?

And that lady at the grocery store, was she walking slow to piss you off or is it that you needed to be seen? Shifting your perspective about certain incidents that trigger you can be a way of setting them free and allowing them to no longer hold emotional value in your life. After you realize what it was you needed, you can work on that without the memory holding you back.

We are all human

This is a big one. Often, we start placing blame in our shortcomings by taking it out on ourselves and create this lifestyle and mindset that is full of frustration because “no one understands”. If no one understands then we isolate ourselves and close our own doors to the outside world. We think that nobody else can understand and by closing ourselves off, we are not being compassionate towards our own needs.

It is important to know we you are human, and it is okay to mess up and have issues. It isn’t okay for you to think that you are the only one suffering. I am sure MANY of you can relate to my personal story.

Be your own friend

When a friend or loved one is feeling blue, we attempt to console them by taking them out in the community or doing an activity together. As children we would play make believe and be content playing by ourselves, right? Right. So why is it when WE are feeling down, we attempt to do nothing for our own emotional needs? I for one, wrap myself up on the coach and I swear sometimes I think I just stare at a wall. But that’s probably my depression talking.

Regardless, we need to be our own friends! Experiences and adventure can increase our gratitude (read here). Appreciating new things can allow us to be more compassionate to our own dilemma’s because we start to see that we CAN heal and we CAN go on and things WILL be okay because we have the power to change by involving ourselves in healthier activities. So, take a yoga class, go on a walk, go get ice cream, take a pottery class, or travel. Be your own friend.

Make healthier choices

If we feel like crap, think we look like crap, and constantly doubt our abilities…well we are going to continue feeling like crap. One way to practice self-compassion is to love our body and take into consideration that we, as much as any one else is this world, deserve our love and attention. We are worthy and we should treat ourselves as if we are.

Making healthier choices through nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle are great actions to take to show our appreciation towards ourselves. You don’t have to shift all at once. For example, with my eating issues and body weight at this moment, all I could accomplish is to get myself some vitamins and probiotics to improve my gut health because I care about my health and I deserve to be happy. And that is a start to self-compassion.

Be a good person

The Law of Attraction states that energy flows where attention goes. If we are attacking ourselves and attacking and questioning others, well guess what is going to happen? Nothing good or positive that’s for sure. Focus your energy on being a good person towards others. If we are non-judgmental towards others, it will trasnfer to our own thoughts and feelings about who we are.

Feel

Feel your pain. Feel your emotions and then let them go. Here is what Dr. Neff has to say about feeling:

“Self-compassion is a practice of goodwill, not good feelings. In other words, even though the friendly, supportive stance of self-compassion is aimed at the alleviation of suffering, we can’t always control the way things are. If we use self-compassion practice to try to make our pain go away by suppressing it or fighting against it, things will likely just get worse.

With self-compassion we mindfully accept that the moment is painful, and embrace ourselves with kindness and care in response, remembering that imperfection is part of the shared human experience. This allows us to hold ourselves in love and connection, giving ourselves the support and comfort needed to bear the pain, while providing the optimal conditions for growth and transformation”.

Flow with consistency

Immerse yourself in something new, something you want to learn, or something you love and enjoy. Total absorption in what you’re doing can enhance positive emotions and create a feeling of accomplishment. This reminds you that you are able and you have the capability to accomplish whatever you set your mind to. It is also a great way to get out of your ruminative thoughts.

If you’re like me and can’t find where to start. Start small but the important thing is to treat yourself with loving kindness and remind yourself that you will get through this, just like you have gotten through other difficult situations.

By: Natalie, Wellness Blogger

Source: Practicing Self-Compassion for Mental Health – Zana Wellness

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Related contents:

The Art and Importance of Selfcompassion W/Kimberley Quinlan The Good Men Project

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The Rise of the Millionaire LinkedIn Influencer

Ali Balikci / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

To some, LinkedIn’s try-hard nature has become a perfect example of the worst of corporate culture. But the site’s influencers say the joke’s on everyone else, as they pull in big money with ease. “The only opinion that matters is the market,” one said.

When Justin Welsh set out to start a consulting business a few years back, he knew he would need to get potential clients’ attention. A former software executive, he knew he had the bona fides to help early-stage tech companies succeed; what he wasn’t sure of was how to let potential clients know that.

He’d been on Twitter for years, but it seemed too negative a place for what he was trying to do. By comparison, LinkedIn seemed safer, more positive. To boot, Welsh’s potential clients spent significant amounts of time on the site, and there weren’t as many people creating content. That meant less competition.

So in late 2018, he started to publish “practical and tactical” tips for growing startup businesses each morning on the platform, with a dash of an emotional element here and there. (Representative post: “People vastly underestimate the value of their knowledge. Publish yours and let the market pleasantly surprise you.” One thousand and seven hundred likes.)

By this year, he’d gained more than 300,000 followers. Along the way, he noticed a shift in the inquiries he received. No longer were people mostly asking for software advice. “They were asking me about how I was using LinkedIn,” he said. Today, Welsh is a full-blown LinkedIn influencer who teaches other people to use the platform as well as he does, and his one-man LinkedIn-focused business now brings in nearly $2 million annually, he said.

After years of being known as a place to share resumes and search for jobs, LinkedIn has quietly transformed into a center for a different sort of influencer—the ROI-obsessed go-getter. It is, in many ways, ground zero for hustle culture and what some have deemed “toxic positivity,” an aspirational place for people more concerned with self-care and cash flow than wisecracks and unattainable beauty.

“They feel like, ‘Hey that can be me,’” said LinkedIn influencer Tobi Oluwole, who has built a successful career coaching business through his LinkedIn following. Elsewhere, the site has become the butt of the joke and a focus of increased scorn—the perfect example of a try-hard corporate culture where people mistake banal, rote platitudes for authenticity, a puffy Patagonia vest in website form.

In August, when the CEO of a LinkedIn-focused marketing company was roundly mocked and chastised after he published a tearful video announcing layoffs, the derision was fueled as much as anything by how perfectly it represented what LinkedIn has become to bewildered outsiders.

The hatred of such self-absorbed posts on LinkedIn has become so intense that a subreddit dedicated to mocking the platform’s most “insufferable,” “cringeworthy” posts—like business leaders advocating for taking less vacation to prove your worth or rebranding lunch as “JUST EAT PowerHour”—has garnered 175,000 followers. But the disgust doesn’t reckon with why so many people have become unironically attracted to the platform.

Justin Welsh has built a seven-figure business based around teaching people to use LinkedIn like he does. “People are still kind of puzzled by it,” said the D.C.-based author and advisor Jeffrey Selingo, who has more than 600,000 followers on LinkedIn. The joke is perhaps on everyone else, as many of the same people getting ripped apart on Reddit have figured out a relatively easy way to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars by spouting inspirational, if often conventional, wisdom.

The influencers themselves say the platform has become a profit machine, the sort of business-friendly space where a strong presence can directly lead to speaking gigs, brand deals, sales leads, career coaching opportunities, and more—and without the second-by-second scrutiny that comes with Instagram.

“Opportunities just come flooding through your doors,” said Chantel Soumis, a LinkedIn influencer who said she received $1 million in revenue-generating opportunities in three months after she publicly launched her creative side business on LinkedIn. The shift is partially the result of a conscious, years-long push by LinkedIn to increase its standing as a social platform relative to the competition.

LinkedIn has developed new creator-focused tools and programs and hired full-time employees called creator managers who actively help influencers build their audiences. In recent years, the alterations have started to reap dividends as people started to view the platform as the closest thing the internet had to an online watercooler.

 “It’s changed people’s behavior,” said Sujan Patel, who has nearly 40,000 followers and is the co-founder of the software company Mailshake. Compared to the rest of the internet, LinkedIn has developed into a positive, almost benign place, slightly less prone to political infighting, which made it the perfect place to do business. The reason for the “toxic positivity,” as Oluwole put it, is that the stakes feel higher with a name, photo, and employer attached to each individual post.

(“People don’t want their jobs and careers threatened,” said Oluwole, who compared the platform to navigating workplace politics. “You’re smiling even though you don’t really care.” Soumis agreed: “There’s money on the line.”) Inoffensive hashtag campaigns like #LetsGetHonest gained traction on the platform as the most positive members of the business world started to see the platform as a respite from the rest of the increasingly ugly internet—a place where being polite still mattered and self-improvement was valued….Read more….

By Maxwell Strachan

Source: The Rise of the Millionaire LinkedIn Influencer

.

Related contents:

3 Ways to Supercharge Your LinkedIn Marketing Today for Tomorrow’s Growth Entrepreneur Magazine

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Finding Happiness Daily Can Be a Challenge, But This Activity Will Help

Finding happiness daily can be a challenge, but this activity will help “We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.”

Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Marge blew a mind gasket and froze up on the bridge, windows up, refusing to come out of the car? She was so overwhelmed by responsibility and the lack of time to herself that she just lost it. It’s scary to stand on the edge of such an emotional cliff.

 

Carving out some aloneness – the space to breathe and meditate – is imperative. We need time to cultivate ideas, feel through concepts and simply be as a human being instead of constantly engaging with the world.

In today’s frantic age, I think it should be one of our greatest commitments. Peaceful people who know themselves and don’t feel besieged usually act kindly and with compassion, and don’t do a lot of the awful things that we are capable of as humans. So let’s stop feeling guilty for taking some moments for ourselves.

Everything we experience, emotionally or physically, is the result of chemical reactions in our bodies. These reactions are responsible for negative feelings and experiences, but they are also the reason for our joy and positivity. Love, happiness, compassion: these are all the result of a bunch of hormones that, when in balance, come to the rescue in times of need.

Endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin are what we call the “happy hormones”. They help us have a higher tolerance to pain and physical stress, they regulate mood and help prevent depression, making us happy and sociable. They guide us in the direction of love and are the reason we strive towards our goals and feel satisfied when we reach them.

While things such as promotions, marriage, buying a house and the birth of your children are incredible, they are also rare events that we can’t experience all the time. If we postpone our joy to the weekend, or a holiday, or that promotion, we are literally robbing ourselves of an enormous amount of happiness that’s there waiting for us, every single day.

Happiness shouldn’t be some far-off goal. It should be a daily reality. And it can be, when we remember that it’s the little things in life that bring us the most joy. The following exercise is going to ensure that you feel happiness and joy every day.

Grab a pen and paper, sit down and get ready to get stuck in. Write down 10 small things that make you happy.

Focus on little events or activities that are unique to you. Holidays and birthdays are common to everyone, so they don’t make the list.

This should be a list of happiness-inducing activities that occupy a special little place in your soul and that are part of what makes you who you are. My list includes:

  • drinking a hot cup of tea in the morning and eating toast with an obscene amount of salted butter
  • sleeping in when it rains
  • reading cookbooks and cooking with beautiful produce
  • fumbling about in our ramshackle garden at home
  • watching the sunrise
  • taking long walks with my husband on a quiet weekend, when we talk about our lives
  • devouring non-fiction books

What’s on your list?

Now look closely at your list and think about how many of the activities you actually do on a regular basis. Each day? Each week? Each month?

You might be surprised to discover that although these simple-yet-awesome things bring you so much happiness, you’re hardly doing them at all.

These items are your “joy rides”. These are simple keys to unlocking more joy and happiness in your life. It sounds easy, right? But it can be a challenge.

Put the list up on your fridge, beside your bed or above your desk at work as a reminder to keep your joy rides up. If you are looking at your list and realising that you’re already engaging with some of these joy rides, then this is fabulous. Be even more ambitious with prioritising your joy.

You are responsible for your own happiness and joy. Yes, you. No one else.

By: Jacqui Lewis

Source: Finding happiness daily can be a challenge, but this activity will help

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Five Ways Nostalgia Can Improve Your Well-Being

Some recent studies suggest that experiencing nostalgia about our past can make us happier and more resilient during times of stress.

I often find myself nostalgic for days gone by—especially my young adulthood. Thinking about days when I could go backpacking with a friend on a moment’s notice or dance the night away at my wedding, without the constraints of child care or a limited energy supply, gives me a bittersweet feeling—a mixture of joy, sadness, and longing.

While I find nostalgia pleasant overall and even inspiring, doctors and psychologists did not always consider it a good thing. Staying “stuck in the past” was often associated with being unable to adjust to new realities, like when soldiers were nostalgic for their faraway homes and experienced loneliness and dread. Not that long ago, some considered nostalgia to be a mental illness, akin to melancholy, which could lead to anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders.

But more recent findings on nostalgia suggest it can be good for us, increasing our well-being, making us feel connected to other people, and giving us a sense of continuity in our lives. And it seems to come on naturally when we need to weather life’s difficulties. Rather than being a problem, nostalgia can help bring happiness and meaning to our lives.

Here are some of the ways nostalgia can benefit us, according to science.

Nostalgia makes us feel socially connected

Nostalgia about our past often includes recalling important people in our lives—people who cared about us and made us feel like we belonged. Certainly, my own nostalgic musings are centered around times when I was with the people and places I love. So, it’s not too surprising that recalling these special times would make us feel more connected to others, in general.

In one study, researchers found that people who were asked to write about an event from their past that made them feel “sentimental longing for the past” felt loved and supported, and this, in turn, helped buffer them against loneliness. Another study found that when people felt nostalgic about times in their lives when they interacted with members of an “out-group”—for example, teenagers recalling fun times with older adults—they felt less prejudice toward that group.

Nostalgia also seems to help us maintain our relationships. For example, one study found that inducing nostalgia helped people feel more optimistic about relationships in general and more willing to connect with friends. Another study found that when induced to feel nostalgia, people (especially those who find connecting with others easier) felt more able to offer emotional support to the people in their lives.

Nostalgia helps us find meaning in life

A sense of meaning in life involves knowing that your existence matters and that your life has coherence or purpose. It’s something we all strive for in one way or another.

Fortunately, research suggests nostalgia can be an important resource for increasing meaning, by highlighting central moments in our lives and giving us a sense of continuity.

In one study, researchers compared nostalgia to two seemingly related forms of thinking about one’s life: recalling a positive past event or imagining a desired future. Focusing on an event that made them nostalgic led people to feel their lives had more meaning compared to imagining a desirable future. And, compared to both other reflections, feeling nostalgic reduced people’s need to search for meaning in their lives—they already felt life had meaning.

In another study, people either listened to music that brought them back to a particular time or read lyrics to old songs. These nostalgic activities not only made them feel loved and socially connected but also increased their sense of meaning in life. And, when people read an essay that encouraged them to think that life had no meaning—which said, “There are approximately 7 billion people living on this planet. So take a moment to ponder the following question: In the grand scheme of things, how significant are you?”—they naturally turned to feelings of nostalgia for relief from that sense of meaninglessness.

These findings and others suggest that nostalgia not only heightens your sense of meaning in life, but can act as a buffer when you experience a loss of meaning. And it may help you move forward in life, too. As one study found, nostalgia can increase your motivation to pursue important life goals, because it increases meaning—not just because it puts you in a better mood.

Nostalgia can make us happier

Though it does seem to do just that—to boost our mood. Even though nostalgia is by definition a blend of positive and negative emotion, the positive tends to outweigh the negative, meaning we feel happier overall.

In one very recent study, 176 university students were randomly assigned to a six-week nostalgia program where they were asked weekly to write about a past event that brought on “a sentimental longing for the past” (while a control group wrote about past events that were ordinary). Afterward, they reported on their levels of positive and negative emotions and how much the writing provided a sense of social connection, meaning, or connection to their past self. At different points in time, they also reported on their life satisfaction, feelings of vitality, and well-being.

The researchers found that nostalgia was generally beneficial, leading people to experience more positive emotions, life satisfaction, and well-being, as well as fewer negative emotions—at least three weeks into the program. These benefits mostly disappeared after that—except for people who started the experiment already engaging in nostalgia regularly. For them, going through the nostalgia program brought them greater life satisfaction and fewer negative emotions up to a month later, possibly because the program was a better fit for them.

A lot of the benefits on happiness may be connected to nostalgia’s effects on social connection and meaning. But it could also be that nostalgia helps us see ourselves in a truer, more authentic light.

Nostalgia puts us in touch with our authentic selves

When thinking nostalgically about our past, we are the prime protagonists in our own life stories. Perhaps because of this, nostalgia helps us to see our lives as continuous and coherent, providing us with a sense of authenticity.

In one study, when primed to feel nostalgic by writing about a time in their past, people saw their past self as an authentic representation of themselves. This, in turn, reduced their focus on meeting the expectations of others versus following their own, intrinsic expectations of themselves. In other words, it helped them be their authentic selves.

The researchers also studied how threats to one’s sense of self might make people engage in more nostalgia. Half of the participants read this text: “Many people feel that they have two sides to themselves. One side is the person that they show to other people; the other side is their true self—that is, the person who they truly are deep down.” Then, they wrote about times in their lives when they’d found it hard to reveal their real selves to others.

The other half of the participants wrote about their daily routines and when those routines were disrupted. Then, both groups reported on their positive and negative emotions, as well as feelings of nostalgia.

Findings showed that people who focused on threats to their self-concept experienced more negative emotions, and in turn felt more nostalgic. This suggests that nostalgia helps put us in touch with our “real selves” and protects us against threats to our authenticity.

Perhaps for this reason, engaging in nostalgia can lead to personal growth. At least one study found that feeling nostalgia made people feel more positively about themselves, which, in turn, made them more open to experiencing new things, expanding their horizons, and being curious—all signs of psychological health.

Nostalgia may help people who feel disillusioned or depressed

Perhaps because of these potential benefits, people tend to engage in nostalgia when they are feeling down, lonely, or disillusioned. Many studies have found that nostalgia seems to protect people from negative mind states, bringing about a kind of emotional homeostasis.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that nostalgia is always good or can’t have a downside. If nostalgia makes us spend too much time thinking about our past, it may prevent us from recognizing the joy in our lives right here and now. And, since we tend to engage in nostalgia when negative things occur, it could become an avoidance strategy that keeps us from dealing with present problems in more effective ways.

Encouraging groups of people to feel nostalgic could also have negative consequences. For example, one study found that nostalgia made people more likely to believe political claims, regardless of their veracity. Inducing nostalgia could be an advertising ploy used to affect consumer behavior, which could lead to poor choices, too.

Still, chances are that nostalgia is more a blessing than a curse, and a winning strategy for feeling better about ourselves. It can increase our connection to others, our sense of meaning in our lives, our authenticity, and our happiness. So, why not tune into nostalgia now and then? It may just help you meet the challenges of the moment.

Source: Five Ways Nostalgia Can Improve Your Well-Being

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Work-Life Balance: What Really Makes Us Happy Might Surprise You

Finding the right work-life balance is by no means a new issue in our society. But the tension between the two has been heightened by the pandemic, with workers increasingly dwelling over the nature of their work, its meaning and purpose, and how these affect their quality of life.

Studies suggest people are leaving or planning to leave their employers in record numbers in 2021 – a “great resignation” that appears to have been precipitated by these reflections. But if we’re all reconsidering where and how work slots into our lives, what should we be aiming at?

It’s easy to believe that if only we didn’t need to work, or we could work far fewer hours, we’d be happier, living a life of hedonic experiences in all their healthy and unhealthy forms. But this fails to explain why some retirees pick up freelance jobs and some lottery winners go straight back to work.

Striking the perfect work-life balance, if there is such a thing, isn’t necessarily about tinkering with when, where and how we work – it’s a question of why we work. And that means understanding sources of happiness that might not be so obvious to us, but which have crept into view over the course of the pandemic.

Attempts to find a better work-life balance are well merited. Work is consistently and positively related to our wellbeing and constitutes a large part of our identity. Ask yourself who you are, and very soon you’ll resort to describing what you do for work.

Our jobs can provide us with a sense of competence, which contributes to wellbeing. Researchers have demonstrated not only that labour leads to validation but that, when these feelings are threatened, we’re particularly drawn to activities that require effort – often some form of work – because these demonstrate our ability to shape our environment, confirming our identities as competent individuals.

Work even seems to makes us happier in circumstances when we’d rather opt for leisure. This was demonstrated by a series of clever experiments in which participants had the option to be idle (waiting in a room for 15 minutes for an experiment to start) or to be busy (walking for 15 minutes to another venue to participate in an experiment). Very few participants chose to be busy, unless they were forced to make the walk, or given a reason to (being told there was chocolate at the other venue).

Yet the researchers found that those who’d spent 15 minutes walking ended up significantly happier than those who’d spent 15 minutes waiting – no matter whether they’d had a choice or a chocolate or neither. In other words, busyness contributes to happiness even when you think you’d prefer to be idle. Animals seem to get this instinctively: in experiments, most would rather work for food than get it for free.

Eudaimonic happiness

The idea that work, or putting effort into tasks, contributes to our general wellbeing is closely related to the psychological concept of eudaimonic happiness. This is the sort of happiness that we derive from optimal functioning and realizing our potential. Research has shown that work and effort is central to eudaimonic happiness, explaining that satisfaction and pride you feel on completing a gruelling task.

On the other side of the work-life balance stands hedonistic happiness, which is defined as the presence of positive feelings such as cheerfulness and the relative scarcity of negative feelings such as sadness or anger. We know that hedonic happiness offers empirical mental and physical health benefits, and that leisure is a great way to pursue hedonic happiness.

But even in the realm of leisure, our unconscious orientation towards busyness lurks in the background. A recent study has suggested that there really is such a thing as too much free time – and that our subjective wellbeing actually begins to drop if we have more than five hours of it in a day. Whiling away effortless days on the beach doesn’t seem to be the key to long-term happiness.

This might explain why some people prefer to expend significant effort during their leisure time. Researchers have likened this to compiling an experiential CV, sampling unique but potentially unpleasant or even painful experiences – at the extremes, this might be spending a night in an ice hotel, or joining an endurance desert race.

People who take part in these forms of “leisure” typically talk about fulfilling personal goals, making progress and accumulating accomplishments – all features of eudaimonic happiness, not the hedonism we associate with leisure.

The real balance

This orientation sits well with a new concept in the field of wellbeing studies: that a rich and diverse experiential happiness is the third component of a “good life”, in addition to hedonic and eudaimonic happiness.

Across nine countries and tens of thousands of participants, researchers recently found that most people (over 50% in each country) would still prefer a happy life typified by hedonic happiness. But around a quarter prefer a meaningful life embodied by eudaimonic happiness, and a small but nevertheless significant amount of people (about 10-15% in each country) choose to pursue a rich and diverse experiential life.

Given these different approaches to life, perhaps the key to long-lasting wellbeing is to consider which lifestyle suits you best: hedonic, eudaimonic or experiential. Rather than pitching work against life, the real balance to strike post-pandemic is between these three sources of happiness.

By: Lis Ku , Senior Lecturer in Psychology, De Montfort University

Source: Work-life balance: what really makes us happy might surprise you

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