Young People Can Benefit From Knowing About This New Mental Health Concept

New research describes ‘caring for bliss’ as a route to long-term inner joy.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | June 7, 2022

A new study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology introduces a new concept in mental health inspired by buddhist philosophy. This concept, termed 'caring for bliss,' consists of practices that cultivate sukha or a state of unlimited, everlasting inner joy induced by a peaceful state of mind and a compassionate heart.

"The first and most important thing about bliss is that we must recognize in our everyday life that there is no unrealized condition – like a perfect job or a dream house – that has to be attained before we can be happy, but that happiness inside of us is always possible," explains lead author, psychologist Myriam Rudaz of Florida State University.

To study bliss and its effects on well-being, Rudaz and collaborator Thomas Ledermann used data from 638 college students.

According to Rudaz, students face many new challenges and are particularly vulnerable to experiencing mental health issues.

"Although emerging adulthood is a positive experience for most, this stage of life is also turbulent with challenges, such as identity explorations and, for college-attending emerging adults, academic demands, leaving many vulnerable to stress and mental disorders," clarifies Rudaz. "So, we thought this would be an interesting population to study."

The researchers measured bliss on the basis of four main criteria:

  1. Finding happiness in the moment
  2. Finding happiness within oneself
  3. Appreciating what one has
  4. Following one's deepest desires

They also examined a range of other emotional experiences students' reported having, such as self-compassion, mindfulness, and depression.

They found that:

  1. Caring for bliss enhanced self-compassion
  2. Caring for bliss buffered the effect of low mindfulness on depressive symptoms

According to the study, emerging adulthood is a great time to start developing practices or behaviors to cultivate inner joy which could strengthen well-being and have positive effects on one's abilities of self-compassion and mindfulness.

According to Rudaz, anyone can start this by introducing small exercises and mindset changes in their everyday lives like:

  1. Generating feelings of happiness in the here and now. Rudaz recommends becoming more mindful of the wonders of life that are always present, such as the blue sky, the trees, or the smile of a child.
  2. Taking time to acknowledge the things we are grateful for. Rudaz quotes Buddhist leader Thich Nhat Hanh to explain this point: "When we have a toothache, we would be happy not having a toothache, but as soon as we do not have the toothache, we do not treasure the non-toothache."
  3. Listening deeply to the voice of our heart. It is important to ask ourselves what we want to do in this life and whether this will make us truly happy. Oftentimes, the reason for our unhappiness is not that we are not doing anything, it is that we are not doing what we want.

"The Buddhist tradition of sukha talks about a true or genuine happiness that is lasting and, unlike pleasure, does not depend on specific times, places, and circumstances — and therefore gives people the inner resources to deal with the ups and downs of life," concludes Rudaz.

A full interview with psychologist Myriam Rudaz discussing her research can be found here: The difference between momentary and lasting happiness