The word “lifestyle” can mean any number of things. It can refer to a state of mind, a type of behaviour, or even inclinations towards a certain type of thing. Lifestyle is the attitudes, interests, orientations, and behavioral patterns of a person, community, or society. The word was first introduced by Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler in his famous essay, The Case of Miss R. In it, the word is used with the simpler meaning of “the basic nature of the psychological traits of a person as established early on in life”.
In his classic study, The Definition of Lifestyle, Alfred Adler further explains its meaning as “the quality of living a life style that is distinctive and self-confident, which may not conform to the patterns of the community”. However, many people disagree with Adler’s contention on the definition of lifestyle. Instead, most people would probably define it as the kind of life style that people are accustomed to, which may not conform to the social mores of their time. Some might even assert that human beings are really very much like animals that are naturally inclined to adjust their behavior, personality, interests and even modes of livelihood to fit in with their surroundings.
The fact is that people are always ready to look for meaning in everything. This is particularly true when it comes to their own personal lives. Most people in the modern world live lifestyles that are not totally dissimilar to that of Adler’s pre-world war II concept of a “culture industry”. Today, it is common for people to adhere to different types of social life-styles, as dictated by their individualistic and independent lifestyle. And these individualistic and independent lifestyle types are also influenced by specific institutions, like the mass culture, which are the cultural products of a given country or region.
Adler contends that in order to resist the trend of “consumerism” which is leading towards the cultivation of individualistic and independent lifestyles, one should attempt to create a “healthy lifestyle”. This healthy lifestyle can be called a counter-type of Lifestyle. For example, instead of following the mass culture’s lifestyle such as eating out, going to the movies, or listening to the radio, an individual can choose to pursue a hobby, read, watch television, go for a walk, cook, knit, participate in sport, or even meditate. Lifestyle changes do not have to be made suddenly or radically, but they need to take place over a period of time. Adler maintains that a change in Lifestyle can either be beneficial or detrimental.
Adler believes that the key distinction between a healthy Lifestyle and an unhealthy Lifestyle is their relation to the present. According to him, in order to resist the tendency of contemporary mass culture, we have to consciously create a counter-culture, which he terms a “counter-nosis against Lifestyle.” By creating this counter-culture, we do not just reject the current mass culture; we deliberately and intelligently make room for a different, possibly healthier, Lifestyle. Adler recognizes the existence of an imaginary community, which he calls “the mass culture.” This imaginary community, according to Adler, exists and transcends both left and right wing political tendencies.
The future of the world, according to Adler, lies in the capacity of the people to choose a different lifestyle based on their values and traditions. He thus recommends that individuals, when confronted with a situation concerning which he does not have a clear opinion, turn to the works of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Such a choice of authors would guarantee an accurate analysis of one’s psyche, which is crucial for a person to develop a stable and healthy Lifestyle. Adler further suggests that reading works of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung would be an excellent way to learn how to develop an authentic, dynamic and positive Lifestyle. All in all, estilo de vida by Dr. Milton Erickson provides an excellent introduction to the study of the human personality and its relation to Lifestyle.