Article Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

There Are Two Kinds of Happiness. Getting Outside Boosts Both.


Feb. 8, 2017 Outside Online

If you’re reading Outside, you’re likely a pusher—someone who runs, climbs, kayaks, hikes, skis, or bikes far more often and intensely than many other people in your life. And while we spend lots of time considering the physical consequences of these endeavors, we don’t spend nearly as much time considering the psychological and spiritual ones. Dating back to the ancient Greek Empire, happiness, or what Aristotle called “an activity of soul…the highest good…the ultimate end,” has been a primary goal for those of us living in the Western world. So we have to ask: Do our active lifestyles make us happy? And are there things we can do to become even happier?

The definition of the word “happiness” has been the subject of a fierce battle in psychological science over the past few decades. It pits eudaimonic happiness, which deals with finding meaning and striving for self-realization, against hedonic happiness, or the attainment of positive emotions and pleasure and the avoidance of pain. But according to Acacia Parks, an associate professor of psychology at Hiram College, in Hiram, Ohio, and chief scientist at Happify, an app that claims to help users increase their happiness and life satisfaction via activities and games, the dichotomy is overdone and often altogether false. “Eudaimonia, or the kind of happiness that comes from doing meaningful things, is inextricably entwined with positive emotions,” Parks says. “How do we know we have done something good? Because it brings us a feeling of satisfaction and contentment.”

This isn’t to say that you have to run ultramarathons or climb mountains to find happiness, but you can’t just sit around eating candy and drinking beer, either. “Many positive emotions are hard won,” says Parks. “It’s not all about seeking out immediate pleasures like snorting cocaine and eating cupcakes. When it comes to enduring happiness, there are no quick fixes that last.”

Centuries ago, Aristotle, in his Nicomachean Ethics, said much the same: “The happy life is thought to be virtuous; a virtuous life requires exertion, and does not consist in amusement.”

Read More on Outside Online

Gene Upshaw Player Assistance Trust Fund

Apply Today

All Resources

Tell Me More

Brain Imaging Shows We Can Unlearn Chronic Pain

Neuroanatomical changes observed with learning and unlearning of chronic pain.

Read More

Drug Overdoses are Leading Cause of Death for those under 50

U.S. drug epidemic brings alarming death toll and orphaned children.

Read More

How Helping Others Can Relieve Anxiety and Depression

New research shows one more way that compassion is beneficial.

Read More

The Weekend Effect

Helping you get up on Monday morning.

Read More

How to lower your cholesterol without drugs

Make better choices in your diet.

Read More

4 Lessons Every Executive Can Learn from Hourly Workers

Finding the right career post-football is the first step. Growing that career is ongoing.

Read More

What to do with your 401(k) when you retire

Saving for retirement is only part of the equation. What comes next is the rest.

Read More

Take Part in Giving Tuesday

A Global Day of Giving the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

Read More