What is authentic happiness

Socrates, Aristotle and Plato thought that when people pursued a virtuous life, they would be authentically happy. Epicurus and utilitarian philosophers promoted the idea that happiness was an abundance of positive feelings and pleasure.


Positive psychology has conceptualized authentic happiness as a mix of hedonic and eudaimonic wellbeing (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000).

Hedonic happiness encompasses high levels of positive affect and low levels of negative affect, in addition to high subjective life satisfaction. Subjective well-being specific to this philosophy is usually considered as being what a “good and happy life” means. Besides the affective component, the concept incorporates a cognitive component, which is the life satisfaction. Thus, an individual is considered as being happy when experiencing happiness, when the level of positive affect and life satisfaction is high. (Carruthers & Hood, 2004).

Eudaimonic wellbeing focuses more on the creation of meaning and purpose in life, and on personal growth. This way, happiness is correlated with autonomy and competence. From this perspective, by engaging in the eudaimonic direction, subjective well being (happiness) will occur as a result. Meaning and purpose in life produce happiness. The general trend is to consider that happiness does not result from the pursuit of pleasure, but the development of individual strength and virtues of positive psychology (Vella-Brodrick, Park & ​​Peterson, 2009).

Differences between hedonic and eudaimonic happiness are listed below:

Hedonic / subjective well being

  1. The presence of positive moods
  2. The absence of negative mood
  3. Satisfaction on various areas of life (eg work, leisure activities, etc.).
  4. Overall life satisfaction

Eudaimonic / psychological well being

  1. Sense of control or autonomy
  2. Sense of meaning and purpose in life
  3. Personal expressiveness
  4. Sense of belonging ness
  5. Community involvement
  6. Competence
  7. Personal Development
  8. Self-acceptance

Positive Psychology defines happiness from both hedonic and eudaimonic perspectives, being perceived as representing combination of a pleasurable life, an engaged life and a meaningful life.

The pleasurable life encompasses feelings of positive emotions (for example, joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe and love), which are integral components to our success and well being. Positive emotions widen our thought processes, which can be built up overtime and banked to create a ‘protective reservoir’ upon which a person can draw from during unpleasant or distressing times .

The engaged life requires active involvement in actions that lead to the achievement of goals. Thus the good life is considered to result from the individual cultivating and investing their signature strengths and virtues into their relationships, work and leisure (Seligman, 2002) thus applying the best of self during challenging activities that results in growth and a feeling of competence and satisfaction that brings about happiness.
Meaningful life is to have a higher purpose in life than our selves. It also refers to the use of our strengths and personal qualities to serve this higher purpose.

So, following the example of all three lives, the individual is likely to know authentic and stable happiness.




IlonaBoniwell, ”Positive Psychology in a Nutshell. The Science of Happiness”


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