Jonathan remarked that he doesn’t enjoy going to theme parks to ride roller coasters anymore. He also remarked that he finds nightclub hopping on weekends less enjoyable than he used to. My friend wondered if this lacking is something he should worry about so he did a Google search about this feeling.
The search results came up with a term he’d never heard of before now–anhedonia. Basically, it means to find less enjoyment in activities one used to enjoy a lot. Jonathan then asked if I had ever experienced anything like anhedonia.
I answered by saying that I also do not go out of my way to ride roller coasters even though I used to be obsessed with roller coaster parks like Cedar Point in Ohio. Now, I couldn’t care less. I also used to find plenty of pleasure in assembling scale model cars, airplanes, and ships. Now, that hobby has lost much of its luster. I told Jonathan that this diminishment can probably be chalked up to age. People simply grow out of prior interests.
Jonathan added that anhedonia can manifest in more serious ways such as in depression or other mental illnesses. He says he’s not depressed or anything like that; but while reading the word’s definition, he became worried. I remarked that going down the rabbit hole of self-diagnosis is one of the hazards of the Internet. If he’s worried about depression, then he might consider seeking a licensed therapist.
It’s considered normal to not be fully enthused all the time, the manic state does not have much appeal. We go through regular cycles of being excited about various things. Perhaps a string of cloudy days triggers greyness of mood or bleakness. The state of pleasurelessness is usually temporary. It is relieved when the clouds part–allowing for sunny days again. Not feeling motivated to engage in a favorite hobby might also come about during a period of grieving. When we mourn the loss of a loved one, it’s best not to go into denial about our feelings. If the sadness continues longer than expected, perhaps talking things over with a trusted friend or family member will help. Barring that, professional help might be warranted.
I reiterated something one of my former bosses told me: Part of getting older is that one becomes more cautious and careful. This does not mean that we necessarily become conservative politically or socially. It means that we become reticent about taking personal risks. If something no longer brings a person joy, then it might be time to try something else on for size. This is not to advocate for leapfrogging from one thrill to another. The advice implies that there comes a time to let go and be open to finding another enjoyable pasttime.
Jonathan remarked that he arrived at a similar conclusion. It’s just that people have adapted to long periods of time between happier times and good news. The state of the economy, coupled with the angry political environment have prolonged our natural up and down cycle of emotions and moods. It is good to partake in joy wherever we find it. My friend advocated that we should take a page of advice from Epicurus. Not with an escapist mindset; but in the mindful manner of a connoissuer. A connoissuer of joy without any pretentiousness.
I like Jonathan’s conclusion. I’ll keep this in mind the next time I feel the dusk of anhedonia coming on.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Ancient Roman statesman, dramatist, and philosopher, Seneca The Younger. “Tranqility is a certain quality of mind, which no condition or fortune can either exalt nor depress.”