Just been reading this fascinating research paper (thanks to Zephy for the pointer).
Know Thyself and Become What You Are: A Eudaimonic Approach to Psychological Well-Being by Carol D. Ryff and Burton H. Singer.
The paper isn't really as intimidating and esoteric as you might imagine it to be at first (based on the Title). Once I started reading it, I was excited and wanted to read on till the end.
The paper explores and studies various thought-leaders' writings on the highest human good which, according to the authors, Aristotle equated to happiness (activity of the soul in accordance with virtue). The authors go on to say virtue may be different for different people but Aristotle thought it was be the ability to be intermediate (moderated behaviour). Virtue, he stated, "is the state of character concerned with choice in which deliberate actions are taken to avoid excess or deficiency". (Nice....reminds me of Buddhist principles)
"The excellence of the human being is thus going to be associated with growth towards some final realization of his or her true and best nature"
"For (Bertrand) Russell, happiness depended most importantly on 'zest', by which he meant having active interest and engagement in life, and by 'affection', by which he meant having meaningful bonds of love with significant others."
"Eudaimonic well-being is linked with better neuroendocrine regulation, better immune function, lower cardiovascular risk, better sleep and more adaptive neural circuitry"
The authors find that the three key things in life that helps people be genuinely happy are Personal Growth, Purpose in life and Positive relations with significant others. The interesting thing is that women rate positive relations higher on the happiness scale while men replace that with autonomy. Two other contributors to the happiness recipe are, understandably, self-acceptance and environmental mastery.
Lots of food for thought in the paper!