Lifestyle is a rather broad term, which can be used to refer to any one of a number of identifiable traits and behaviors that the individual exhibits. The word was first introduced by Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler in his influential article, The Case of Miss R, with the vague meaning of “the general outlook of a person”. In the decades since its first usage, however, the term has become widely accepted as an inclusive description of a number of distinctiveively individualistic attributes and attitudes of which many are unaware. The discipline of Lifestyle studies seeks to shed new light on these seemingly diverse yet unified personal characteristics and explore their implications for human development, improvement, and adaptation.

The core elements of Lifestyle studies include: the word “lifetime” (as in, “the person lives a lifetime”), and “community” (as in, “a group of people share a common experience”). One might also find terms like “dynamic family life style”, “work/life balance”, and “work/life transition”. In order to talk about the study of a set of complexly interacting individuals, a term like “lifestyle” must be introduced. These may be focused group discussions with participants sitting in a circle or sitting in a panel at a Florence Knoll. The discussions may also be part of an empirical study supervised by the principal investigator.

The research associated with this subject matter generally takes place within the field of anthropology, which examines how human behavior impacts the environment and how the environment impacts behavior. In the study of Lifestyle, an anthropologist will likely describe elements of everyday life as they relate to Lifestyle, such as whether a certain kind of footwear is considered “hip” or “snug”, whether a certain cuisine makes someone feel sociable or outgoing, whether certain hairstyles make the person look younger or more mature, whether a certain kind of music makes the individual feel calm or more outgoing, and so forth. (Of course, all of these aspects are relevant to the study of Lifestyle, as they would be for any other group of people who would be studied in a similar way.)

In some cases, Lifestyle components are described in terms of activities. For example, if a person wants to fit into a particular kind of clothing, then it may be reasonable to describe that kind of clothing as Lifestyle-inspired. (I use the word “Lifestyle” to refer to these things because they are so different from traditional social patterns and ways of being in the world. It just wouldn’t be called “Lifestyle” by another name.) At other times, the descriptions of Lifestyle elements take a much more analogical approach.

In the field of psychology, for instance, studies often describe mental health disorders in terms of Lifestyle types. For instance, one kind of depression is known as the lonely lifestyle. That is, someone who is depressed is unhappy with their own loneliness. Someone who wants to be actively involved with a community but who doesn’t feel that they have the interpersonal skills to do so well is classified as a socially active lifestyle. A person who leads an inactive lifestyle is known as a healthy lifestyle. And then there are the solo lifestyle types – those who lead very solitary lives that involve spending much of their time alone, for instance, or who live by themselves in houses that are too large for them to fully interact with anyone else in the neighborhood.

I think this approach makes more sense of the way that many people are today defining the word “lifestyle.” It certainly isn’t limited to the use of the word by those who work in the field of psychology. If you ask a friend what her/his “active lifestyle” involves, for instance, chances are that she/he will come up with quite a few different activities. When psychologists study the way that these various lifestyles are influencing the people who have been studying them, the results will likely show a common denominator on which all lifestyles converge: a healthy lifestyle.

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