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 – the momentary pleasures – are just as important as setting and sticking to long-term goals. In reality, one does not preclude the other and complement each other, say the researchers.


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Hedonism is defined as a philosophical system which makes pleasure the goal of life. And according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Zurich (Switzerland) and Radboud (Netherlands) published in the journal “Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin”, this doctrine would be the key, the secret to attaining happiness. Thus, relaxing on the sofa or enjoying a delicious meal, or enjoying the pleasure of enjoyable short-term activities that do not necessarily lead to long-term goals, at least helps so much to a happy life than self-control, according to these studies which therefore plead for a better appreciation of hedonism in psychology.

It’s common to set long-term goals once in a while, like getting back into shape, eating less sugar, or learning a foreign language. Scientific research has spent a great deal of time discovering how it is possible to achieve these goals more efficiently. The conclusions that emerge from such studies are generally that self-control helps prioritize long-term goals over momentary pleasure. And indeed, good self-control would translate into a happier and more successful life. But these researchers argue that the pursuit of hedonistic goals is just as important in the quest for emotional well-being.

Be careful not to let intrusive thoughts invade us

“It’s 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 to short-term pleasure. », Explains Prof. Katharina Bernecker who participated in the study. This work consisted of developing a questionnaire to measure the capacity for hedonism of several participants, i.e. their capacity to focus on their immediate needs and to take advantage of privileged moments in the short term. The purpose of this questionnaire was to find out whether respondents differ in their ability to pursue hedonistic goals in a variety of contexts, and whether this ability is related to well-being.

Researchers have found that some people are distracted by intrusive thoughts in moments of relaxation or pleasure by thinking of activities or tasks they should do instead. “For example, when you are lying on the couch, you can keep thinking about the sport that you are not playing. These thoughts about conflicting long-term goals undermine the immediate need to relax. », Adds Professor Bernecker. On the other hand, people who can take full advantage of these situations tend to have a higher sense of well-being in general, not just in the short term, and would be less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.

“It is important to find the right balance in everyday life”

For the researcher, “the pursuit of hedonistic goals and long-term goals should not be in conflict with each other. Our research shows that both are important and can complement each other to achieve well-being and good health. It is important to find the right balance in everyday life. But be careful: staying on your sofa very often, eating more good food and going to party more often with your friends will not automatically be beneficial. ” We always thought that hedonism, as opposed to self-control, was the easier option. But enjoying one’s choice isn’t that easy because of these distracting thoughts. », She adds.

For scientists, this type of research is important since it is a topical problem since more people work from home : the environment in which they rest is associated with work. “Thinking about the work you still have to do can lead to more distracting thoughts at home, which makes you less able to rest. », They say. So what can be done to make the most of of these moments of “idleness” ? If further studies are needed, the researchers recommend “mindful planning” to clearly separate them from the day’s other activities, but with a beginning and an end so as not to feel guilty.

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