Thursday, May 18, 2023

To Be Happier

 Give. From Big Think:

Giving to others, even in small ways, can generate a palpable sense of purpose. And that’s not just because we’ve been taught that it’s the right thing to do. There’s actually a scientific explanation for why that happens. It’s rooted in the distinction that researchers often make between activities that are eudaimonic versus hedonic. Eudaimonic (“eu” meaning good, and “daimon” meaning spirit or soul) activities are outwardly focused and include those in which we give of ourselves to others. The term comes from what Aristotle described as the “pursuit of virtue, excellence, and the best within us.” In contrast, hedonic (meaning “pleasure”) activities are focused inward and concerned with more momentary fulfillment. Getting the latest phone, splashing out on a gourmet meal, or winning a new sales contract may be hedonic activities. None of them are bad on their own. But when your life is dominated by the pursuit of hedonic rewards, you can start to make choices that will not lead you to happiness in the long run.

Emerging neurological evidence shows activities that transcend the hedonic, such as giving to others, lead to greater well-being over time. In one study, functional MRI scans were used to observe neurological activity in the reward center of the brain, the ventral striatum, when exposed to thoughts about either giving or receiving money. In some people, questions about giving money (for example: If you were giving money, who would you give it to and why?) stimulated high reward activity. In other people, questions about receiving money (for example: If you were to get money, what would you spend it on and why?) activated the brain’s reward center. But over time, an interesting patten emerged. When researchers measured depressive symptoms in each group one year later, they found that the participants whose brains had lit up from giving money experienced a decline in depressive symptoms, while the people whose brains rewarded them for receiving money showed an increase in depressive symptoms. (Read more.)

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