Karen's Blogs

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Which Type of Happiness Makes People Happiest

Josh Humi, author of “Life Guide”, asserts that there are two kinds of happiness: experiential and reflective (“A Living Humanist Document,” The Humanist.com, 9/28/17, accessed 9/29/17, https://thehumanist.com/). He explains the former as “the enjoyment of a present-moment experience (for example, eating a tasty meal or sharing a laugh with friends),” and the latter…”as one’s belief that he or she has lived a valuable life, to the extent that one reasonably believes he or she could have lived a valuable life (for example, via personally meaningful accomplishments).” He describes reflective happiness as having a “long-lasting ‘background’ impact on one’s happiness,” that is, that “all else being equal, pursuing the latter will likely have a greater positive impact on one’s happiness over the long run.” I would add that reflective happiness adds depth and breadth to who we are, while experiential happiness is limited to what we did.
I’m blogging about happiness after having had a conversation with a client about making food choices. She’s been struggling with what she wants to eat and answered my question about what draws her to certain choices with them with “tasting wonderful.” What a perfect example of experiential happiness—so now, so reactive—versus reflective happiness, which would help her eating mesh with her values. She is also attempting to feel positive about the food choices she makes to serve as a role model for her children’s relationship with food, no mean feat. Serving as a role model and teaching her children how to feed and take care of themselves well would certainly be part of “advancing her values,” according to Humi.
My guess is that many dysregulated eaters (as well as many other people on the planet) make choices which are experiential without thinking that there’s any other kind of happiness to seek. After all, that’s what our American culture instructs us to do. It’s almost always pushing us make impulsive decisions without thinking much about their consequences. How often do we get the message that life is far more than pleasurable experiences? Not often enough.
Which kind of happiness do you usually seek, experiential or reflective? Is food your go-to experiential pleasure? Do you reflect on eating as an extension of your values? How could you enjoy food in such a way that eating contributes to advancing them? I’m not saying that you need to become vegan or vegetarian. I’m talking about you engaging in practices that will keep adding pleasure and satisfaction to your life as the years go on. If you’ve been finding most of your pleasure in food, it’s time to step back and consider some other ways to find happiness, especially of the reflective kind.
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