Updated: Oct 1, 2021
We have been taught that our body is separated from the mind, and the mind is separated from the spirit, and our spirit is mystical. In addition to all those old paradigms we live in a material world where our financial status or freedom is something very important to be considered in our integral health.
However media, news and marketing try to install each day a message that we are separated and each of our health pillars has to be treated or healed separately in addition to promote the “magical” formulas or “miracle” products which just give us an instant relief but in the end create more problems. As if this wasn’t enough, the pharmaceutical industry and artificial supplement companies want to give you the “one red pill” that will heal all of your problems and will allow you to feel more clarity, more freedom, you will loose weight and you will be able to “influence” people to buy from you, to hire you, solving also your financial problems.
In a more “artificial society” where everything is now labeled whole, complete, 100% organic, mindful, etc.. but we still have our doubts about all those labels (at least the ones of us that stop a little bit to see the complete information) we are being dragged to the “future” as well of “artificial intelligence” where everything is supposed to be automatic or “easier” but at the same time many aspects of our lives will be invaded and more manipulated to the point where we become less “necessary” for the existence of our planet earth (our home).
Standing on a more neutral but objective ground as humans, and as the “only animal” with a higher consciousness, we guide our lives by rules, norms, parameters, statistics, facts, data, etc..and many other human created boundaries that dictate what is right and what is wrong, what is complete or incomplete, what is full or hollow, who is successful and who is a failure, in spite of these dilemmas that we could just reflect if we have the time to do it (which most of the people don’t allow themselves to reflect upon) or we have the self-interest/will to do it, which again is another issue nowadays, as people seem more worried about other people’s life than their own, or they are more concerned about the external circumstances than about their inner voices and inner feelings.
Therefore all these paradigms and points of view have a common ground which is happiness, fulfillment, love and belonging/acceptance. These for traits are the ones that have been studied since ancient times either by the greeks, the Buddhists, Cristians, Jews or any kind of religion and they demonstrate or reflect a broader concept of wholeness.
Researchers in positive psychology have investigated happiness primarily from two seemingly disparate conceptualizations: subjective well-being (hedonia) and psychological well-being (eudaimonia). The hedonic conceptualization of happiness focuses on the study of positive emotions and life satisfaction and includes an articulated framework such as Fredrickson’s (2001) Broaden-and-Build model of positive emotions. Other studies stem from Aristotle’s concept of eudaimonia primarily considered in its subjective and psychological dimensions, rather than in its objective aspects, which are nevertheless part of the term’s original definition. These studies refer to a definition of happiness that comprises meaning, self-actualization and personal growth—at the individual level—and commitment to socially shared goals and values—at the social level. The contents of goals and meanings can differ across societies and cultures. Nevertheless, the pursuit of goals and the search for meaning in life events, interpersonal relationships and daily activities characterize human beings, as cultural animals (1).
The definition of happiness can be analyzed from two different perspectives: the context (the life domains associated with happiness) and the content (the psychological structure and characterization of happiness). Health followed as the third ranked domain. Considering these findings, happiness seems to stem predominantly from interpersonal bonds, mainly intimate relationships (with partner and children in particular) and interactions with friends and significant others outside the family (1).
As for the content of happiness at the psychological level, answers referred to both hedonic and eudaimonic aspects, but eudaimonic ones were prominent. The most frequently reported category, alone comprising over 25% of the answers, was Harmony/Balance. The term reflects more specifically the perception of harmony at the inner level, as inner peace, self-acceptance, serenity, a feeling of balance and evenness that was best formalized by philosophical traditions in Asian cultures. Greek tradition as well, although framed within a different cultural and philosophical background. Examples of the Greek conceptualization of harmony are Pythagoras’s philosophy of numbers, the Stoics’ ideal of evenness of judgment and detachment, Plato’s definition of the just man—which relies on the balance between reason, spirit and appetites—and Epicurus’s concept of ataraxia (freedom from worries or anxiety). In particular, despite several misunderstandings throughout history, the idea of happiness proposed by Epicurus does not rely upon pleasure in hedonic terms. Rather it refers to the ability of the individual to maintain balance and serenity in both enjoyable and challenging times (1).
Data presented above is extracted from a study analyzing 666 participants from seven countries, men and women with at least a high school diploma in a productive life stage.
This “small sample” considering the huge diversity and of course the parameters mentioned, give us a larger view of how wholeness and happiness are tied together and they reflect a broader concept that is not only focused in many of the parameters created by media or marketing it also highlights our human and divine nature of being part of a society, being reflected on others, being united by peace, by love for each other, by acceptance in spite of our “very different” roots, ethnicity, gender, religious traits.
We were all created with the same inner set of tools, we were all created with the same spark of life that comes from one universal source, being named as whatever name you want to use. In my own particular point of view we are always faced with our reality and we are many times trying to complicate it with more and more gadgets, distractions, manipulations, boundaries, self-created issues and yet our thread that bind us all together is simpler, wiser and stronger than any device that we could ever invent to separate us or to separate ourselves from nature which is also a huge component of our own creation.
Additionally to the analyses of that sample there’s another perspective of wellbeing, wholeness and happiness which refers to the traditions and teachings of each culture setting.
For instance the western notions of happiness, it is necessary to touch on the distinction between two widely accepted traditions of analysis in the study of well-being: hedonic and eudaimonic. The primary difference between the eudaimonic and hedonic conceptualization of well-being is that the former is premised on virtues, skills, and positive functioning, whereas the latter is premised on pleasure and positive feelings. Eudaimonia was the main word for happiness and positive functioning in Ancient Greek philosophy. Hedonism as a way of achieving happiness received very little attention in premodern eras. Only recently, hedonism has gained popularity and credit mainly in western cultures.
In philosophy, hedonism is defined as ‘‘an ethical position which claims that pleasure or happiness is the highest or most intrinsic good in life, and that people should pursue as much pleasure and as little pain as possible’’. (2)
Among hedonic-oriented psychologists, well-being is conceived as identical to subjective well-being which is dependent on the pleasure and pain experiences of an individual over a certain period of time. Subjective well-being is operationalized and assessed as a predominance of positive over negative affect (i.e., affect balance) as well as a global satisfaction with life based on an individual’s self-chosen standards. It has been argued that the dominant view of happiness in the Contemporary West is basically Hedonistic (2).
The eudaimonistic tradition, on the other hand, posits that a human being can live a good life only when they actualize their potential rather than by pursuing pleasure produced by good feelings or satisfaction of bodily needs. The most influential advocate of this notion in the West is Aristotle, who decisively rejected hedonism as a way of achieving happiness: ‘‘The many, the most vulgar, seemingly conceive the good and happiness as pleasure, and hence they also like the life of gratification. Here they appear completely slavish, since the life they decide on is a life for grazing animals’’ — Aristotle. Eudaimonia is a life of activity in accordance with virtue. Eudaimonism is concerned with actualizing one’s potential and capacities as a human being. Such traits as self-esteem, meaning in life, optimism, enjoyment of activities as personally expressive, and autonomy have been emphasized in eudaimonic theories in the West (2).
In short, contemporary western culture and western psychological theory define the concept of well-being and a good life mainly based on positive affectivity and hedonic balance. Contemporary western theories of happiness and optimal functioning also focus partly on individualistic virtues such as self-determination, autonomy, self-esteem, mastery, and control (2).
If we observe these background information about how western society has been mostly influenced by that selfish state of well-being (hedonism) we can clearly see why most of the people on western societies is concerned with their own person and they tend to look outside just to obtain pleasure and gratification, we have been conditioned since a long time ago to listen to egocentric messages and that is also a huge explanation why we were also comfortable with the point of view that everything is separated ..body, mind and spirit.
This insatiable hunt for gratification was also increased with the positive psychology movement which mainly rested on the idea that we should always look for the positive outcome, we should always try positive things and we should always look on the bright side, to the extent that a popular phrase became viral “fake it until you make it”, therefore it was praised that even when you were not feeling good, you should force yourself to be positive and override your inner feelings or pain.
Going deeper on this concept whenever you look for that philosophy or tendency to seek only pleasure and gratification, what you are producing internally is a build up of feelings and emotions that will eventually become a huge snow ball and will lead to disease. It has been even proved and researched that many types of cancer were developed due to the accumulation of negative emotions that never found an outlet.
On the contrary if we listen to Aristotle advice and we become more eudaimonic, we will be able to focus on developing our inner capacities and upgrade them through hardship, through determination, self-awareness and generating a more powerful self-esteem but we can also add a key component of being concerned with our community to nurture more this kind of individualistic approach , sharing our knowledge, sharing the journey and along the way helping others to thrive which in this regard …becomes more similar to the eastern philosophy.
Whereas the western concept of the self is primarily based on the ideals of individualism, eastern traditions tend to regard the self as a small part of the collective and the cosmos.
In contrast, in Asian traditions, the individual self is de-emphasized in one way or another. In Buddhism, the existence of an individual self is considered an illusion. Confucianism emphasizes the relational aspects of the self, defining its maturity in transcending one’s personal desires for the sake of family and group. In Sufism and Hinduism, a mature self is one that loses its individuality and gets absorbed in the Transcendent. In these cultures, self-choice and autonomy are not portrayed as moral ideals (2).
The eastern emphasis on self-transcendence is also consistent with the conceptualization of wisdom researchers define wisdom as moving beyond self-centered consciousness and connecting empathically with the experiences of others.
In sum, one of the fundamental differences in western and eastern notions of happiness and a good life is that in the former, attempting to change, master, and control the world (including various aspects of one’s life, relationships, and nature) is praised, whereas in the latter, adjustment to the environment, achieving harmony with others and the cosmos is prioritized (2).
Reviewing all these broad approach in different cultures, settings, traditions and even leaving many others outside of the scope but accounting for the main principles summarized in this expanded panorama, we can clearly distinguish that being whole, being happy, being fulfilled is the final destined that internally or subconsciously we all look for, some of us in a deeper, more technical, or with more supported data; others with less information but with a deeper connection with their true nature, their ancient wisdom, and above all with a deep fusion state with nature which makes them as wiser as any other culture or tradition (here I’m referring to the indigenous or native communities from all over the world) which as represented in the blue zones they have a happier and fulfilled life without many of the external noise or distractions.
To conclude these reflections, passages of history, comparison of data and some science facts I can only say that a whole person is comprised of five pillars of health: what you eat (nutrition), the amount of activity and internal processes (exercise and metabolism), how you manage your emotions (emotional health), your spiritual practices or beliefs (meditation, in addition to your prayers of any religion), and your economical freedom (financial stability) plus a deep touch of collective community concern and a taste of cosmos symphony.
Delle Fave, Antonella, et al. "The eudaimonic and hedonic components of happiness: Qualitative and quantitative findings." Social Indicators Research 100.2 (2011): 185-207.
Joshanloo, M. (2013). Eastern Conceptualizations of Happiness: Fundamental Differences with Western Views. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15(2), 475–493.