VP Client Blog

The Coaching Journey: How Coaching Can Help Pave the Road to Happiness

At the beginning of each year, Health Coaches collaborate with members excited to set new health and wellness goals.

Change is hard, so knowing one’s “why” is essential to making continued progress towards goals. Regardless of the goal, there’s a common thread connecting members’ reasons for change: the belief that this change will ultimately make them happier.

But can sustainable, healthy lifestyle changes lead to greater happiness? The answer is yes! Research shows that achieving the desired change can increase happiness as well as the journey along the road to change. Let’s take a look at the latter and how coaching plays a key role.

What is happiness?

Psychological researchers talk about happiness in terms of hedonic or eudaimonic.

  • Hedonic is derived from the Greek word hedone (“pleasure”) and hedys (“sweet” or “pleasant”). This type of happiness focuses on pleasure attainment and pain avoidance.
  • Eudaimonia is a Greek word translating to the state or condition of “good spirit.” Eudaimonic happiness focuses on meaning, purpose, and self-realization.

Most psychologists agree that both hedonic and eudaimonic are necessary to maximize happiness. Humans get spikes of pleasure and enjoyment from hedonic experiences like savoring a delicious meal, watching a beautiful sunset, going on vacation, or winning a prize. However, due to what psychologists refer to as hedonic adaptation—or the hedonic treadmill—people have a baseline of happiness they inevitably return to once the novelty from these fleeting pleasures wears off.

While eudaimonic activities involve more thought and effort, they’re also more effective at evoking happiness over time. Steger and colleagues included these examples of eudaimonic activities, which are also foundational elements of coaching:

  • Confiding in someone about something that is of personal importance
  • Laying out one’s future goals
  • Persevering at valued goals despite obstacles

How Coaching Impacts Happiness

Since eudaimonic happiness is based on meaning, purpose, and fulfilling one’s potential, psychologists also refer to this type of happiness as psychological wellbeing. Research identified six important components of psychological wellbeing, each of which Health Coaches help members develop during sessions:

  1. Autonomy – Autonomous people decide how to behave and think, rather than being overly influenced by others. They feel confident making decisions that align with their values and beliefs. A Health Coach’s role includes both discovering what members value and guiding them to make their own decisions rather than advising.
  2. Competence – People feel competent when they tap into their strengths, skills, and ability to get things done. Coaches help members explore their strengths and how they can use them to effectively work towards their goals.
  3. Self-acceptance – People experience self-acceptance when embracing their attributes (both positive and negative) and their strengths, acknowledging their mistakes, and recognizing they feel disappointment. Coaching sessions are judgment-free zones where one views successes and shortcomings as opportunities to learn and grow.
  4. Healthy relationships – Caring, trusting, and supportive relationships are an essential part of wellbeing. Health Coaches, as part of a member's support system, encourage members to consider which of their personal relationships can support them along their journey towards their goals. If support is lacking, Health Coaches help members explore how they might grow their support network.
  5. Purpose in life – Having purpose includes understanding one’s values and having a sense of direction in life. With the help of Health Coaches, members with purpose can find satisfaction in setting goals and working towards them.
  6. Personal growth – People interested in personal growth are open to learning, new experiences, and fulfilling their potential. By enrolling in coaching, members essentially commit to growth in the direction of their personal health and wellness vision.

It takes great effort to develop the elements of psychological wellbeing, and it can sometimes be unpleasant. However, research repeatedly shows that those who experience these components—and do so even when challenging or stressful—are psychologically healthier than those who do not.

All six components are naturally fostered on the coaching journey, and Health Coaches can be especially helpful in navigating the obstacles and difficulties that inevitably arise along the way. As a result, members experience higher self-esteem and self-efficacy, lower risk of depression, and increased satisfaction with life.

Employee Happiness Benefits Everyone

It’s not just employees who benefit from becoming happier. Companies also experience a “return on happiness.” An analysis of over 200 scientific studies in Shawn Achor’s The Happiness Advantage showed that happy employees have higher levels of productivity, receive higher performance ratings, and are less likely to take sick days, quit, or experience burnout.

People often enter coaching knowing what lifestyle changes they want to and need to make, and they believe they’ll be happier once they get there. What people don’t expect—the journey they’re about to embark on with their Health Coach is just as important as reaching the destination. By collaborating with their Health Coach, members develop the skills and mindset that will prove vital to cultivating lasting happiness.

About the Author

Christine_Schaffer_PicChristine Schaffer, MS, NBC-HWC

Christine Schaffer is a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach with an MS in Counseling from California State University, Fullerton. She uses her mental health background as a VP Live Anxiety and Depression Coach, and she facilitates meditation sessions as a part of VP’s Virtual Wellbeing Breaks program for all employees. Christine is especially passionate about positive psychology, which is the scientific study of human flourishing and an applied approach to optimal functioning. She received the Outstanding Research Award during her master’s program for her capstone project on how applied positive psychology can help increase employee happiness. Christine is currently working towards the designation of Positive Psychology Practitioner to further advance her knowledge of tools and practices that enhance psychological wellbeing. Christine cultivates her own happiness through a regular yoga practice, daily walks/runs on nature trails with her dogs, volunteer work with an Australian Shepherd rescue organization, and tapping into her natural curiosity by constantly learning something new.


About Virgin Pulse Live Services

VP Live Services support your members with the right help, at the right time to get the outcomes they are looking for. Our Live Services team is made up of hundreds of accredited Guides and Health Coaches providing unlimited access to live experts across the care continuum and containing costs for clients. Wherever your workforce is on the onsite-to-remote spectrum, we've got you covered with the full suite of telephonic, app chat, and in-person human-centered support.

Health Coaching features a whole-person approach that blends lifestyle optimization with specialization in an industry-leading 22 conditions, providing total population health management that helps the healthy stay healthy, improves clinical outcomes, and reduces costs associated with chronic conditions. Members access coaching resources directly through their app and once paired with a coach, they identify their goals for a thriving life and work together to progress toward their vision and achieve their targeted outcomes