||Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth, We are happy when we are growing
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) Irish poet & dramatist.
How can I improve my life by maximising happiness and health? This chapter answers this question by exploring how happiness can be achieved through sustainable well-being. Everyone wants to be happy and happiness matters, however research has shown striving for happiness alone paradoxically may lead to disillusion and even unhappiness (Mauss, Tamir, Anderson & Savino, 2011). Eudaimonic Well-being (EWB) not only provides happiness but also psychological health, motivation, vitality and personal growth (Ryan, Huta, & Deci 2006;Ryff & Singer, 2006).
Happiness is a positive emotional state associated with enthusiasm, joy and pleasure involving the reflection of pleasant and unpleasant affects of one's immediate experience (Keyes, Snyder & Lopez, 2007; Shmotkin & Ryff, 2002). Happiness also involves subjective appraisal and has been conceptualised by Diener (2009) as Subjective Well-Being (SWB) requiring long-term levels of positive affect in the absence of negative affect and life satisfaction.
The Hedonic view proposes well-being as hedonic pleasures or happiness gives little incentive to look further. Much less optimism arises however when considering research by Lyubomirsky, Dickerhoof, Boehm, and Sheldon (2011) who suggest 50% of happiness is predetermined with levels remaining steady in a hedonic treadmill. Their study found sustained happiness may be only achieved through optimal conditions provided by autonomous motivation; these conditions are provided by EWB. EWB emphasises recognising your full potential through continued growth leads not only to happiness but self-realisation (Ryff & Singer, 2006) promoting vigilant coping, health, and decreased stress (Miquelon & Vallerand, 2008). Waterman (2007) suggests self-realisation also enables the ability to increase levels of challenge and to achieve flow, a balance of difficulty and skill. He refers to sustainable challenge as the Eudaimonic staircase. EWB matters more than happiness because it enables personal growth. Who would want to stay on a treadmill when they can climb a staircase?
History and definition
Aristotle saw Eudaimonia as the process of living well guided by intrinsic values and criticised the detrimental effects of pursuing extrinsic goals such as power and wealth associated with Hedonistic pleasure (Ryan, et al. 2008). These views are reflected in the EWB perspective of well-being defined as living with accordance to your true self by engaging in activities of authenticity and personal expression that afford self-realisation, valued potential and growth (Ryan & Deci, 2001). EWB involves quality of life through the development of abilities applied to pursuing goals and activities of self-worth.
Eudaimonic Approaches to Well-Being
Eudaimonic well-being, generating psychological health and motivation
Differing theoretical perspectives offer a rich description of how EWB is beneficial to psychological functioning through the dimensions of Psychological Well-Being (PWB) (Ryff & Singer, 2006), the fulfilment of human needs, autonomous motivation (Ryan et al., 2008), personal expression, self-realisation and flow (Waterman, 1993). These theories all have one thing in common; they support through the Eudaimonic approach to well-being continued growth and sustainable positive change.
Carol Ryff’s 1989 six-dimensional model of PWB was developed to strengthen the conceptual framework of EWB and measure psychological functioning. It has also been found by multiple investigations to be the best fitting model of well-being (Ryff & Singer, 2008). The table below identifies and explains the six dimensions of PWB. The information is from Ryff and Singer (2008) and Snyder and Lopez (2007).
|Ryff's 6 Dimensions of Psychological Well-Being
||Positive attitude towards the self, awareness and acceptance of both personal strengths and weaknesses, feel positive about past life
|Positive Relations with Others :
||Have Warm, satisfying and trusting relationships, empathy, affection, intimacy, generativity
|Personal Growth :
||Self-Realisation of the individual, comes closest to the meaning of Aristotle's Eudaimia and development of ones full potential, open to new experience
|Purpose in Life:
||Have goals and a sense of direction, past life is meaningful, authenticity, helping others
|Environmental Mastery :
||Maturity, sense of control, self-efficacy, self-regulation, choose or create suitable environment
||self-determination, resilience, independendence, emotional regulation
Adapted from Ryff and Singer (2008) and Snyder and Lopez (2007).
PWB as growth and human fulfillment has been shown to vary in relation to individual differences and socio demographic variability, therefore, opportunities for self-realisation are not equal and are dependent on the context in people’s lives (Ryff & Singer, 2006)
. Demographic variability of age, gender and education may affect PWB in relation to maintaining high levels of purpose, mastery, growth, and resilience when facing life challenges such as life transitions and health changes in later life (Keyes et al., 2002).
How does the eudaimonic approach to psychological well-being compare to happiness?
Research has shown there is an overlap in PWB and SWB however distinctions between the two remain indicating a viable combination between the two
. Keyes et al. (2002) suggested research from PWB measures have found specific differences between SWB and personal growth, happiness (positive affect, life satisfaction, and depression) and meaning as well as happiness with goal efficacy and meaning with goal integrity. Research has indicated significant differences in relation to gender with females reporting moderately higher levels of SWB and significantly higher levels in PWB (Lopez & Snyder, 2009).
PWB and life satisfaction, one dimension of SWB, have been shown to be an indicator of resilience and recovery outcomes following disability (Lopez & Snyder, 2009) however in terms of happiness as a changeable positive affect there is the absence of an underlying source of stability to offer a foundation to cope with challenge. A study by Keyes et al. (2002) used data from a sample of 3,032 Americans aged between 25 and 75 to compare levels of PWB and SWB in relation to individual differences and socio demographics. The results of their study supported previous research finding a distinction between the two levels of well-being with differeing levels linked to age and level of education. Adults who had high levels of PSW (high challenged thriving) and high levels of SWB (high perceived quality of life) tended to be older and better educated (Keyes et al., 2002).
Personality was found also to be a determining factor in both types of well-being with neuroticism being detrimental to PWB and SWB (Keyes et al., 2002). Openness to Experience was found to be a predictor of higher levels of psychological thriving and Keyes et al. (2002) suggests that openness may increase the potential for self-fulfilment and facilitate greater life contentment. The overall results of the study found 18.6% of the sample had high levels of both PWB and SWB, 12.6% had moderate levels, 19.3% had low levels of both measures of well-being and 45.2% had no relationship to either. The research findings demonstrate the importance of actively promoting EWB as many influential factors relating to individual differences may not contribute to SWB or PWB and less than 20% of the population experiences happiness, life satisfaction and PSW.
Personal expressiveness and hedonic enjoyment - Waterman's Eudaimonic Model
Alan Waterman’s theory of EWB is reflected within PWB and his model is centred upon two forms of happiness, personal expressiveness (eudaimonia) and hedonic enjoyment (Waterman, 1993). Under this theoretical framework experiences of personal expressiveness are associated with feelings of autonomous motivation and occur when an activity has intense involvement, special fit uncharacteristic of most tasks, fulfilment, intrinsic purpose and authenticity (Waterman, 1993). Activities of personal expressiveness are also associated with self-realisation through the development of personal potential and purpose, alternatively hedonic enjoyment is associated with pleasant affect through activities satisfying physical, intellectual or social needs (Waterman, 1993). A study by Waterman (1993) comparing personal expression and hedonic enjoyment found experiences of personal expressiveness were associated with, striving for excellence, development of personal potential, specific forms and were chosen more often than hedonic activites which result in satiation.
The Eudaimonic Staircase
Waterman associates personal expressivenessflow which was conceptualised by Csikszentmihalyi in 1975 involving intense concentration, merging of action and awareness, losing oneself in the task, distortion of time and intrinsic reward (Snyder & Lopez, 2007;Waterman, 1993). Waterman (2007) suggests personal expression may be described as a eudaimonic staircase with the potential to increase challenge in any activity is almost limitless enabling self realisation (Waterman, 2007). Waterman contructed a questionnaire measuring EWB based on his theory EWB associated with the pursuit of virtue, excellence and self-realisation (Kjell, 2011).
- Waterman's Eudaimonic Well-Being Questionnaire Scale (QEWB)
|2. Perceived development of one's best potential
|3. A sense of purpose and meaning in life
|4. Investment of significant effort in pursuit of excellence
|5. Intense involvement in activities
|6. Injoyment of activities as personally expressive
Eudaimonic model of Self-Determination Theory
Autonomous and controlled motivation
A model of EWB has been based on Self-determination theory (SDT) by Ryan et al. (2006) suggesting the concepts of Aristotle’s eudaimonia are central to SDT’s perspective of wellness. SDT identifies the factors that facilitate basic needs, motivation and well-being which have been applied to work, education, sport, parenting and clinical environments (Ryan et al., 2006).
entral to SDT is the differentiation between autonomous and controlled motivation, research has indicated the type or quality of a person’s motivation has shown to be predictor of psychological health, well being, problem solving, performance and learning (Deci & Ryan, 2008). Autonomous motivation involves intrinsic motivation which develops by pursuing or approaching activities of inherent interest or enjoyment and extrinsic motivation in which people identify an activity’s true value to themselves (Deci & Ryan, 2008;Ryan et al., 2006). Controlled motivation comprises of external motivation in the form of reward or punishment and is regularised and energised by avoidance motives such as approval, shame and maintenance of self-esteem (Deci & Ryan, 2008). SDT theorises external regulations and values become integrated into the self as internalisation determining the autonomy of extrinsic goals and outcomes of performance, persistence and well-being (Deci & Ryan, 2006). Both autonomous approach motivation and controlled avoidant motivation energises and direct behaviour therefore pursuing goals intrinsic to the self is central to EWB and self-realisation.
Aspirations and needs
Within the framework of SDT, numerous studies have found intrinsic aspirations such as affiliation, personal growth and intimacy were associated with physical health, well-being, happiness, self actualisation and performance(Ryan et al., 2006). These aspirations or goals in relation to psychological and physical health depend upon how they satisfy three basic needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness (Ryan & Deci, 2008). These needs are considered essential nutrients and have been a reliable predictor of PSW generalisable to other cultures, consequently if they are not met people are more likely to pursue extrinsic goals to obtain self worth and increase self-esteem such as wealth, fame and attractiveness (Ryan & Deci, 2008). This can be related to Aristotle’s view of Eudaimonia which involves actively striving for something worthwhile of intrinsic worth rather than pursuing materialism that deplete worth and value (Ryan et al., 2006). The following table represents the three psychological needs identified by SDT suggested by Ryan et al. 2006 and Reeve (2009).
|Self-Determination Theory - Basic Human Needs
Perceived choice (internal locus of causality), volition (without pressure), regulation of behavior (choice of action).
Sense of efficacy in internal & external environments, optimal challenge, feedback.
Feeling connected and caring for others, self-authenticity, internalisation.
Adadpted from Ryan et al. 2006 and Reeve (2009).
Mindfulness and meaning
Mindfulness has been defined as being open and receptive of internal and external events enabling the ability to make meaningful choices and act in an integrated and reflexive way (Ryan et al., 2006). This is reflective of Aristotle’s description of the eudaimonic person seeing what is true and has been integrated into SDT (Deci & Ryan, 2008;Ryan et al., 2006). Mindfulness is also associated with autonomous motivation creating meaningful purpose in life which promotes EWB. It has also been used in psychopathology to explore reflection of inner needs, feelings to develop autonomous orientation and programs such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) found to improve immune parameters in cancer patients (Deci & Ryan, 2008;Lopez & Snyder, 2009).
How does eudaimonic well-being compare to happiness under the model of self-determination theory?
One main difference between the two models of well-beng is not only does EWB promote happiness which as positive affect is part of SWB, SDT uses SWB as one of several indicators of psychological functioning(Ryan & Deci, 2001). Ryan and Deci (2001) suggest some positive experiences or activities may lead to SWB but not EWB, for example success under pressure may lead to happiness but not vitality. This is representative of controlled motivation influenced by avoidant motives such as approval from others or reliance on successful external outcomes, these may lead to happiness but not self realisation or authenticity. Another difference is unhappiness as negative affect would not only be considered to be representative of a fully functioning person in times under some conditions it would lead to ultimately greater well-being by expressing emotions of sadness (Ryan & Deci, 2001).
From an EWB perspective emotional access facilitates well-being as research indicates suppressing emotions decreases psychological functioning, physical health and SWB. One main difference between happiness and EWB is happiness as an affect is a continuing fluctuating state. For example when considering life choices such as education or career it is only through autonomous motivation and self-congruent values a stable sense of well-being can be achieved. One similarity between happiness and EWB is they are both not increased by wealth or the pursuit of money (Ryan & Deci, 2001). More specifically increases in personal wealth do not on average lead to increased happiness and people with a strong desire for wealth are more unhappy than others (Ryan & Deci, 2001). Research from the eudaimonic perspective of SDT has shown (Ryan & Deci 2001) pursuit of fame and money are a distraction from fulfilment and decrease EWB.
Eudaimonic well-being, happiness and health
Better health is one of the many advantages from EWB as the eudaimonic approach emphasises an interconnection between mind and body (Lopez & Snyder, 2009). Consistent with other research relating to EWB and happiness, there is a distinct difference as well as an overlap between the two.
Research has indicated a relationship between the six dimensions of PSW and general better health outcomes relating to cardiovascular, immune and neuroendocrine functioning (Ryff & Singer, 2006). One specific benefit of EWB influenced by PWB is better quality sleep as indicated by research by Ryff & Singer (2006) who have identified a relationship between faster entry and longer periods of REM sleep beneficial to older women who had a sense developed sense of environmental mastery and relatedness.
From a eudaimonic SDT perspective, research has indicated an overlap between SWB and EWB in relation to health (Ryan & Deci, 2001). Ryan and Deci (2001) suggest reduced positive affect maybe expected after illness however some people with poor health have high SWB and others with low well-being may have good health. Research outcomes show vitality used as an indicator of EWB was associated with autonomy, relatedness and physical health (Ryan & Deci, 2001). This is representative of EWB as a vital and optimal way of living which increases physical as well as psychological resilience and health. Research by Miquelon and Vallerand (2008) supported EWB and self-realisation as an indicator of reduced stress and better health compared to happiness. Their study found pursuing autonomous goals leads to both happiness and self-realisation however only self-realisation and not happiness is a predictor of well-being and reduced stress.
Happiness is considered to involve positive affect and reflects pleasurable engagement associated with enthusiasm, joy and absence of negative mood (Miquelon & Vallerand, 2008; Ryan & Deci, 2001). Folk understanding of happiness and unhappiness are likely to be organised in schemas or mental models guiding future actions and represent highly generalised psychological states of desirability (Uchida & Kitayma, 2009).
Being a happy person has many rewards as happy and unhappy people differ in their subjective experience and understanding of the world (Lopez & Snyder, 2009). Happy people have a positive general outlook, recall past experiences as more pleasant, have a more positive evaluation of themselves and others, are less vulnerable to individual and group comparison, are more satisfied with available options, maximise options available to them, and dwell less on unfavourable outcomes therefore happy people think and behave in ways that reinforce and promote happiness (Lopez & Snyder, 2009). However, it is unclear whether these strategies cause happiness or if they are the practices of already happy people as a large amount of empirical work doubts the ability to increase or maintain happiness (Lopez & Snyder, 2009).
The hedonic treadmill and set-point theory
Twin and adoption studies have indicated approximately 50% of the variation in well-being is accounted for by genetics known as the happiness set point (Lyubomirsky et al., 2011;Snyder & Lopez, 2009). Further stability in levels of happiness comes from the concept of the hedonic treadmill derived from research indicating people tend to adapt to positive or negative life circumstances and return to their happiness baseline (Snyder & Lopez, 2009). This is supported by studies indicating people who have acquired spinal cord injury reported being as happy as people who could walk and lottery winners ending up no happier than non-winners (Snyder & Lopez, 2009). An additional and related source of pessimism arises when studies have indicated personality traits known to be stable and unlikely to undergo meaningful change account for part of the happiness set point (Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, & Schkade 2005).
The sustainable happiness model suggests the three factors influencing chronic happiness are a 50% genetic set point, 10% life circumstances and 40% intentional activity (Lyubomirsky et al., 2011). The most promising way of increasing happiness comes from the 40% intentional activity and studies have indicated these activities may be behavioural such as practicing random acts of kindness, cognitive in expressing gratitude, forgiveness, or self-reflection and motivational from pursuing intrinsic life goals (Lopez & Snyder, 2009; Lyubomirsky et al., 2005). Research has indicated these activities promote happiness because they are variable and less prone to adaptation (happiness set point) (Lopez & Snyder, 2009). Not only do variable activities such as starting a fitness program lead to more happiness than a positive circumstantial change they promote fulfillment from intrinsic value (Lopez & Snyder, 2009). Research by Lyubomirsky et al. (2005) proposes an integrative model of sustained happiness which accommodates predetermined factors through implementing happiness increasing strategies. These activities include choosing an activity of intrinsic value, initiating and maintaining the activity through internalisation and varying the activity to maintain interest. If this is sounding familiar it is because the ways of obtaining sustained happiness suggested by Lyubomirsky et al. 2005 are conducive to obtaining EWB described in the eudaimonic models of PSW, personal expressiveness and satisfaction of basic human needs.
How does sustainable happiness compare to eudaimonic well-being?
In relation to the sustainable happiness model 'the pursuit of intrinsic activities' promotes personal growth, purpose in life, self-acceptance, personal expression and our basic need for autonomy. 'Initiating and maintaining the activity' is enabled by environmental mastery, self-discovery, development of personal potential, pursuing excellence, involvement, personal expression and satisfies the need for competence. 'Variation in activity' promotes autonomous motivation, continued challenge, flow and also environmental mastery. Practicing random acts of kindness, gratitude, and forgiveness satisfy the basic human need of relatedness and well as increasing positive relations with others and PWB. In sum, the factors contributing to sustainable happiness give further support to the huge amount of evidence happiness is developed and sustained through EWB.
Promoting eudaimonic well-being
Personal Expression is similar to flow.
Research has identified focusing on what is intrinsically worthwhile promotes EWB however there are also other ways it may be enhanced. Deci and Ryan (2001) suggest not placing too much priority on material goods which are associated with controlled motivation and focusing on close relationships, personal growth and community generativity will satisfy basic needs, develop authenticity and promote EWB.
Ryan et al. (2006) suggest identifying intrinsic goals may need self-reflection of first-order values as extrinsic or controlled motivation such as pursuing wealth may have an underlying unfulfilled need for relatedness. For example putting in extra effort at work because you find it rewarding would be an intrinsic value and approach motivation, alternatively extra work effort to please your boss would be an extrinsic goal energised by avoidance of failure and unsatisfied needs. People embracing materialism often in a ‘tragedy of the commons outcome’ are less likely to contribute to a sustainable environment or prosocial behaviour promoting EWB.
EWB improves positive life transitions such as aging, caregiving or community relocation through autonomy, growth, and self-acceptance and may also be increased by community activities such as volunteering enhancing purpose in life (Ryff & Singer, 2006). Ryff and Singer (2006) that suggest although there is a disadvantage to some individuals from social economic status who may have less access to enabling resources such as education there has been strong resilience in disadvantaged groups, individuals confronted with challenge and ethnic minorities.
Growth-producing affects from adversity and EWB may be developed through parenting styles promoting autonomy and relatedness contributing to EWB in later life, psychological resilience and less focus on materialism (Ryan et al., 2006). In contrast, research suggests parents who are unsupportive of basic needs are more likely to have children who later in life seek extrinsic goals such as alcohol to increase self-esteem (Ryan et al., 2006).
The consumerism paradox
Ryan et al. (2006) refer to the consumerism paradox which is that wealthier countries which have the potential to provide resources to develop EWB and eudaimonic living have a capitalistic ethic and a competitive market which undermine altruism, sense of community and pro-social attitudes. One limitation to eudaimonic approach is the focus on the individual however EWB involves relatedness and leads to happiness which has a way of spreading to others.
This chapter has provided a basis for an understanding of why EWB matters more than happiness in the following ways. Happiness is a positive emotional state and SWB as both happiness and life satisfaction are promoted through EWB. Ryff proposed six dimensions of PWB to strengthen the conceptual framework of EWB with personal growth capturing its underlying essence defined as self-realisation and development of one’s full potential (Ryff & Singer, 2006).
Waterman’s model of EWB is centred upon two forms of happiness, hedonic enjoyment and personal expressiveness (eudaimonia) (Waterman, 1993). Personal expressiveness is associated with activities of intrinsic purpose promoting sustained challenge, development of full potential and self-realisation (Waterman, 1993).
The eudaimonic model of SDT suggests EWB is enabled by autonomous motivation and the satisfaction the basic needs of autonomy, relatedness and competence (Deci & Ryan, 2008). Happy people think and behave in ways that reinforce and promote happiness however research indicates according to the happiness set point 50% it is predetermined and remains steady on the hedonic treadmill (Lyubomirsky et al., 2011).
The sustainable happiness theory offers optimism by suggesting happiness can be achieved through intrinsic goals, maintaining and varying activities (Lopez & Snyder, 2009). These optimum conditions are conducive what promotes EWB something we already know leads to happiness.
Happiness matters, however EWB matter more because it enables lasting happiness, growth, PWB, satisfies basic human needs and personal expression. It's also more fun doing something meaningful that develops your talents that brings lasting happiness.
Deci, E., & Ryan, R. (2008). Self-determination theory: A macrotheory of human motivation, development, and health. Canadian Psychology, 49(30), 182-185. doi: 10.1037/a0012801
Deci, E., & Ryan, R. (2006). Hedonia, eudaimonia, and well-being: An introduction. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9,1-11. doi: 10.1007/s10902-006-9018-1
Diener, E. (2009). Assessing Well-being. London New York: Springer.
Keyes, C., Shmotkin, D., & Ryff, C. (2002). Optimising well-being: The empirical encounter of two traditions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82(6), 1007-1022. doi: 10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1687
Kjell, O. (2011). Sustainable well-being: A potential synergy between sustainability and well-being research. Review of General Psychology, 15(3). doi: 10.1037/a0024603
Lopez, S., & Snyder C. (2009). Oxford handbook of positive psychology, 2nd Ed. New York: Oxford University Press.
Lyubomirsky, S., Dickerhoof, R., Boehm, J., & Sheldon, K. (2011). Becoming happier takes both a will and a proper way: An experimental longitudinal intervention to boost well-being. Emotion, 11(2), 391-402. doi: 10.1037/s0022575
Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9(2), 111-131. doi: 10.1037/1089-2680-9.2.11
Mauss, I., Tamir, M., Anderston, C., & Savino. (2011). Can seeking happiness make people unhappy? Paradoxical effects of valuing happiness. Emotion, 11(4), 807-815. doi: 10.1037/a0022010
Miquelon, P. & Vallerand, R. (2008). Goal motives, well-being, and physical health: An integrative model. Canadian Psychology, 49(3), 241-249. doi: 10.1037/a0012759
Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding Motivation and Emotion (5th Ed). Danvers, MA: John Wiley & Sons.
Ryan, R. & Deci, E. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual Psychological Review, 52,141-66. Retrieved from Psychology and Behavioral Science Collection data base 2 September 2011.
Ryan, R., Huta, V., & Deci, E. (2006). Living well: A self-determination theory perspective on eudaimonia. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9,139-170. doi: 10.1007/s10902-006-9023-4
Ryff, C., & Singer, B. (2006). Know thyself and become what you are: A eudaimonic approach to psychological well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9, 13-39. doi: 10.1007/s10902-0069019-0
Snyder, C., & Lopez, S. (2007). Positive Psychology. California: Sage Publications.
Uchida, Y., & Kitayama, S. (2009). Happiness and unhappiness in East and West: Themes and variations. Emotion, 9(4), 441-456. doi: 10.1037/a0015634
Waterman, A. (2007). On the importance of distinguishing hedonia and eudaimonia when contemplating the hedonic treadmill. American Psychologist, 612-613. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X62.6.612
Waterman, A. (1993). Two conceptions of happiness: Contrasts of personal expressiveness (eudaimonia) and hedonic enjoyment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64(4), 678-691. Retrieved from Psychology and Behavioral Science Collection data base 2 September 2011.