Euthymia or happiness? Most would choose to be happy. Stoic philosophers, however, would choose euthymia because they knew that this state of inner balance leads to happiness. But it also helps us be more resilient, cope better with adversity, be more independent, and develop a greater tolerance for frustration. Unfortunately, with the passage of time the concept of euthymia has been emptied of its meaning.
What is the meaning of euthymia?
The term euthymia is of Greek origin. It is the result of the combination of the pronoun "eu" which means "good" and "thymos" which means "soul or emotion". But in reality the latter term includes four different meanings: vital energy; feelings and passions; will, desire and inclination and, finally, thought and intelligence.
Therefore, if we refer to the original meaning of euthymia, it is not limited only to a positive mental state, but goes much further, referring to the balance of all psychological content.
The stability of the affects
In psychology, the term euthymia has been used more narrowly, primarily to mean the absence of mood disturbances, such as bipolar disorder. Euthimia would therefore be the periods of balance between mania and depression.
In the past it was thought that people with mental disorders recover all their abilities in the euthymic phase, now it is known that between 40 and 60% of euthymic patients have neurocognitive disorders.
This finding questions euthymia as an eminently positive emotional state to make way for a broader concept of equilibrium-related euthymia. It would therefore be a feeling of well-being and balance characterized by a feeling of calm joy and inner peace.
In fact, in 1991 the psychiatrist Garamoni suggested that euthymia was a healthy level of functioning characterized by an optimal balance between positive and negative affects and cognitions. In this way, psychopathology would be the result of a deviation from that balance.
According to this perspective, euthymia is not a state without affection and negative thoughts. These exist, but they do not make us lose stability. If negative emotions and feelings prevailed, it would refer to a negative mood or dysthymia, generally characterized by sadness and nostalgia. And if the positive emotions were excessive, they would also break the mental balance and would be harmful, as in the case of mania.
The 3 secrets of the philosophers to reach euthymy
"If you wish to be imperturbable, it is excellent, in fact, it is the best of all and one of those that raises man to the level of God. The Greeks called that steadfastness of mind euthymia [...] What we need to understand is how the mind can follow a constant and regular course, how she can feel satisfied with herself and look around with pleasure, and not feel joy on and off but remain in that state, in a peaceful condition without ever being euphoric or depressed: this is 'peace of mind' ”, Seneca said.
The Stoic philosopher aspired to achieve euthymy. He believed that it was a state of inner calm and satisfaction linked to psychological well-being, a "tranquillitas animi" accompanied by "felicitatis intellectus", which would be the full awareness of that well-being. So it makes us understand that euthymia is not a state in which one arrives by chance, but the fruit of conscious effort and hard inner work.
The first step in the development of the euthymic state, according to Seneca, would be to stop judging. "Peace of mind can only be achieved by those who have attained indestructible power over judgments," he said.
The judgments we make about things are the ones that often take our balance off us by fueling frustrations, tensions, disappointments and anger, states that end up accumulating. So we have to judge a lot less.
Seneca also gives us a second clue to reach euthymy: live fully present. “True happiness is enjoying the present without the anxious dependence on the future, not having fun with hopes or fears, but resting in peace, like someone who desires nothing. The greatest blessings of humanity are within us and are within our reach. A wise man is satisfied with his fate, whatever it is, without desiring what he does not have ”.
The third and final piece of advice comes from Democritus, another philosopher who spoke of euthymy. In his case, he believed it derived frombe satisfied with what we have and what we are. It would be a state of tranquility in which we do not anxiously try to accumulate many more things, nor do we lose sleep for not having them. It does not mean stopping growing or resigning, but rather feeling satisfied here and now as we work to improve the future.
So he recommended paying little attention to important people, often envied and admired, to focus our attention on those who have less and suffer the most. Such a comparison allows us to put our suffering, pain or alleged misfortune into perspective. It also allows us to develop the essential gratitude to calm our restless minds.
Of course, there is no ideal recipe for achieving euthymy. Each person must find their optimal balance, that state in which they feel comfortable, in which nothing is too much and not too little. This will depend on factors such as your personality, social and cultural background, and of course the inner work you will be doing.