To be happy, you must also know how to take advantage of the small pleasures of life
A psychological study reveals that when it comes to well-being and happiness, simple moments of relaxation in everyday life, momentary pleasures, are as important as setting and meeting long-term goals. In reality, one does not exclude the other and they complement each other, the researchers say.
Hedonism is defined as a philosophical system that makes pleasure the goal of life. And according to a study carried out by researchers from the University of Zurich (Switzerland) and Radboud (Netherlands) published in the Bulletin of Personality and Social Psychology, this doctrine would be the key, the secret to achieving happiness. Therefore, relaxing on the couch or enjoying delicious food, or enjoying the pleasure of pleasant short-term activities that do not necessarily lead to long-term goals, contributes at least as much to a happy life as self-control, according to these works therefore advocate for a better appreciation of hedonism in psychology.
It's common to set long-term goals from time to time, like getting back in shape, eating less sugar, or learning a foreign language. Scientific research has spent a great deal of time discovering how these goals can be achieved more effectively. The conclusions that emerge from such studies are, in general, that self-control helps prioritize long-term goals over momentary pleasure. And in fact, good self-control would translate into a happier and more successful life. But these researchers argue that the pursuit of hedonistic goals is also as important in the pursuit of emotional well-being.
Be careful not to let intrusive thoughts invade us
"It is time to change the way we think. Of course, self-control is important, but research on self-regulation should pay as much attention to hedonism or short-term pleasure," says Professor Katharina Bernecker, who participated in the study. . This work consisted of developing a questionnaire to measure the hedonism capacity of various participants, that is, their ability to focus on their immediate needs and take advantage of privileged moments in the short term. The purpose of this questionnaire was to find out if respondents differ in their ability to achieve hedonistic goals in a variety of contexts, and if this ability is related to well-being.
Researchers have found that some people are distracted by intrusive thoughts in moments of relaxation or pleasure when thinking about activities or tasks they should be doing. "For example, when you're lying on the couch, you can keep thinking about the sport you're not playing. These thoughts about conflicting long-term goals undermine the immediate need to relax," adds Professor Bernecker. People who can make the most of these situations tend to have a greater sense of well-being overall, not just in the short term, and are less likely to experience depression and anxiety.
"It is important to find the right balance in everyday life"
For the researcher, "the search for hedonistic goals and long-term goals should not conflict with each other. Our research shows that the two are important and can complement each other to achieve well-being and good health. It is important to find a balance suitable in everyday life. " But be careful: staying on your couch too often, eating more good food, and partying more often with your friends will not automatically be beneficial. "Hedonism, as opposed to self-control, was always thought to be the easiest option. But enjoying your choice is not that easy because of these distracting thoughts," she adds.
For scientists, this type of research is important because it is a topical topic: more people work from home and the environment in which they rest is associated with work. "Thinking about the work you still have to do can lead to more annoying thoughts at home, making you less able to rest," they say.
So what can we do to make the most of these "idle" moments? If more study is needed, the researchers recommend "careful planning" to clearly separate them from other activities of the day, but with a beginning and an end so they don't feel guilty.