Following a critical evaluation of a range of examples from the literature, what advice could you give the Government about the possible factors that influence peoples happiness and experience of pleasure?

Authors Avatar

Following a critical evaluation of a range of examples from the literature, what advice could you give the Government about the possible factors that influence people’s happiness and experience of pleasure?

  There is a high amount of speculation in the scientific world as to what happiness can be defined as, however, scientists have made advances in defining and measuring happiness in the form of subjective well-being (Kringelbach & Berridge, 2009). In order to begin defining happiness we must go back to the times of Aristotle in 300bc. Aristotle was the first philosopher to separate happiness into two distinct categories; hedonia and eudaimonia. Hedonia is defined as the conscious feeling of pleasant well-being while eudaimonia is characteristic of the sensation of a life well lived.

 In a study conducted by Waterman (1993) which aimed to identify the convergent and divergent aspects of these constructs, it was found that these two conceptions of happiness are indeed related, however, distinguishable. It was found that eudaimonia and not hedonia was a signifier of success in the process of self-realization.

 It was Charles Darwin who first foreshadowed the scientific study of pleasure while examining the evolution of emotions and affective expressions. In Darwin’s ‘The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals’ (1872) it is suggested that emotions are adaptive responses to environmental situations. In that respect, getting pleasure or displeasure out of a situation is a reaction that is prominent in all mammals and is likely to have some sort of evolutionary function. Presumably, the feeling of pleasure has evolved in order to counter-balance negative emotions. However, if that is the case then so begins the argument of which came first? Pleasurable or negative emotions? A different explanation would be that both negative and positive emotions evolved in synchronicity with each other in order to establish a balanced emotional state.

 Nature has been found to play an influential role on people’s mood states. Orians (1980, 1986) developed the notion of the savannah hypothesis. This hypothesises that due to natural selection, humans have developed a preference to explore and settle in environments rich with resources that are necessary for survival and not to settle in environments which may pose a risk to survival.

 Kaplan & Kaplan (1992) conducted a cross cultural investigation into preferences of natural scenes and found that when a scene included trees and vegetation it was preferred over natural scenes which did not contain these elements.

 Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis (1984) makes the claim that due to evolution, humans have “an innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes”. This is a clearly observable claim in humans. We frequently depart from the hustle and bustle of urban living to travel great distances in order to bathe on golden beaches, trek through dense jungles and climb perilous landscapes. Weekend afternoons are favoured to be spent in national parks, garden centres or visits to the coast. Religions, such as Buddhism, are formed around respect and interaction with nature. Ancient civilisations such as the Incas worshipped nature and formed their lives around nature’s cycles.

 Environmentalists devote their lives to the protection and prosperity of nature. Ray & Lovejoy (1984) suggest that environmentalism is simply an aspect of biophilia.

 Nature has even been shown to have restorative effects upon people’s well-being. It has been found that the quality of the view from a patient’s bed is a significant factor in patient recovery. Those with a view of natural scenes required less pain relief (Vanderber, 1986). This is supported by research by Ulrich (1984) who found that patients who had a view of a natural scene were discharged 1-2 days earlier than patients who did not. Ulrich (1994) also found that patients who underwent major heart surgery or were suffering from mental illnesses stress levers were significantly reduced by simply viewing images of nature.

 Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) also backs up the notion that nature can have restorative effects, but carries with it the notion that nature can also have detrimental effects upon people’s emotions (Rosenthal, 1984). SAD claims that peoples emotions change with the seasons. For example, in winter when the weather is cold and damp people can become depressed and dissatisfied with nature. However, when the spring comes around and nature begins once again to flourish, people’s depressed moods can become alleviated. However, it has been found that this may be because of the sun. The sun provides us with vitamin D, regulates the melatonin levels in the body and is the main exogenous zeitgeber (time-giver) for regulating our circadian rhythms. SAD has been found to be common disorder in populations that inhabit the northern most regions of the northern hemisphere due to the significantly fewer hours of day light they experience in the winter months. Light therapy and carefully timed supplementation of melatonin are common treatments for SAD.

Join now!

 The effect that food and eating have upon our pleasure receptors has been of great interest in studying the nature of pleasure. What we eat depends on personal preferences, but most importantly the availability of certain foods. Due to economic development, it is now possible to obtain almost anything that one desires. Supermarkets, local convenience stores and restaurants now cater for almost any pleasurable palate meaning easy access. As well as a change in how we access our food, a change has also become apparent in the effects that consumption has upon our health. There has been an epidemiological shift ...

This is a preview of the whole essay