I’m beginning a small research project on wellness. It seems that you can’t get very far into the wellness literature without someone challenging motivation, and motivation in this domain of knowledge inevitably (it seems) confronts you with two key ideas: Hedonic and Eudaimonic motives for the things we do.
The idea of hedonic motives is something we’re all familiar with. It refers to the idea that most of us seek out pleasurable experiences and avoid pain-inducing ones. “Seek pleasure and avoid pain” is not a bad way to live one’s life. In fact, the literature suggests that the two, complementary hedonic principles includes the positive side of avoiding pain which has to do with seeking relaxation and comfort. On the other hand, eudaimonic motives have to do with a higher quality of motivation: self-knowledge, autonomy, personal integrity, learning and development, and achieving excellence in one’s performance.
Apart from the research project and my client, it occurs that dance satisfies both, making it an ideal type of activity to satisfy both aspects of wellness. As a form of exercise done socially and to music, dancing releases endorphins, with a side order of dopamine (when you finally get that tricky move you’ve been working on) and serotonin (because of the exercise itself). All of these combine to increase the experience of pleasure and literally reduce pain.
On the eudaimonic side, dance is nothing if not a journey of exploration, learning, and growth. I have seen more people than I can count blossom in their self-confidence and achieve great things as they grow in their dance ability. People who were painfully shy and claimed to be introverts found their way to the social dance floor and, over time, became the proverbial life-of-the-party. Some with whom I’ve danced as rank beginners invest in their own excellence and improve to the point where they graduate to the performance stage. And how do they feel about themselves? Not so surprisingly, all aspects of their lives often seem to improve within a very small span of time once one aspect of their life has realized a state of Eudaimonia or “human flourishing,” a topic that I covered in some depth a few months ago.
I’ve discovered that people invest an inordinate amount of time, money, and energy to achieve a sense of wellness and wellbeing in their lives. Everything from day spas, to various water therapies, to wellness tourism in far-off exotic countries, to a vast array of diet modifications, nutritional supplements, and expensive equipment to process them all have turned the wellness industry into a multi-billion dollar sector of the economy. Who would have imagined that something as simple and as inexpensive as connecting with a partner, with music, and with a floor could bring so much wellness into someone’s life?
Perhaps our slogan should be: Come for the pleasure; stay for the self-discovery, when we…
See you on the dance floor!