Lifestyle is simply the attitudes, interests, behaviors, and personal orientations of a person, group, or society. The word was first introduced by Austrian psychiatrist Alfred Adler in his influential article, The Case of Miss R. in 1930. The meaning of the word today is more focused on personal aspects of behavior, rather than group characteristics.

The word lifestyle has a lot of implied meaning. One commonly implied meaning of the word is that of selected behavior or lifestyle, which one chooses to follow. This definition can be applied to many aspects of our daily life and is often used to explain personal choices. For example, when I am asked what my lifestyle is, I might reply that my lifestyle is a vegan lifestyle. This may describe my attitude towards animal products, but it does not necessarily mean that all of my actions are guided by this single meaning.

For some people, the word lifestyle is also used to describe social media consumption. For instance, when I say that I use social media to communicate with friends and family, what I really mean is that I consume social media as part of my way of life. I would not say that my social media usage is a lifestyle, but it fits into the definition of “lifestyle” as it is a component of my social interactions with others.

Other elements of “lifestyle” are described by American cultural philosopher Alfred Adler. According to Adler, human life-styles are cultural forms that have been shaped by the necessities of survival. In order for these needs to be satisfied, according to Adler, people adapt their life-styles to fit the cultural patterns of their times. One example of this adaptation is seen in the way that our grandparents lived. As survival strategies, their life-styles included (and still do include) aspects of hunting and gathering, child rearing, simple leisure activities, and so on.

In the last two decades or so, a different perspective on the meaning of life style has been introduced by the thinker Milan Kundera. His notion of a stili di vita (“life style,” translated “style” in English) emerged from his own research on the social anthropology of peasant farmers in the Russian countryside. In particular, his interest was in understanding how people managed their everyday consumption, both as part of their everyday lifestyle and as a means of generating and maintaining their very survival and prosperity in that life style. As a result, he developed a highly complex system of valuation of individual life styles, which became the basis of much of his later work in social anthropology. The key insight into the stili di vita came from noticing that, contrary to the common belief, the traditional rural survival strategies of gathering food and protecting the family were no longer efficient ways of meeting these needs.

This led him to ask: how could the old patterns be relevant when the new core values of the mass culture were so inimical to them? The answer, according to Adorno, is that the old patterns of value systems are rooted in the mass culture from the start, so they cannot be changed, because their value structures have been deeply rooted in the needs of the people who produced them. However, if people are able to replace their old value system with a new one that matches their new core values, then their new core value structure can begin to function as a truly viable lifestyle choice. And this is what the theories of Adorno and the Frankfurt School were attempting to do in their attempt to make psychoanalysis more relevant to the working class.

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