Article summary of Revisiting the sustainably happiness model and pie chart: Can happiness be successfully pursued? by Sheldon & Lyumbomirsky. - Chapter


What is this article about?

This article is about the Sustainable Happiness Model (SHM). This is an influential model in positive psychology and the science of happiness. However, the 'pie chart of this model has received some valid critiques. This article agrees with many of these critiques, even though research also supports the most important premise of the SHM. This basic premise is that individuals can boost their well-being via their intentional behaviors, and maintain that boost in the long term. But such effects may be weaker than researchers initially believe. Three contemporary models that have descended from the thinking embodied in the SHM, will also be described.

How should the SHM pie chart be revised?

Research supports the claim that is made by the SHM that happiness can be successfully pursued. But this changing of happiness levels in a sustainable way is not as easy as the pie chart makes it seems. According to the pie chart, 50% of a person's happiness comes from his genetic set point, 10% from life circumstances, and 40% from intentional activity. Intentional activity has indeed been proven to be effective in changing happiness levels, but not everyone is able to do this at any given moment. 

There are three new models that are derived from the SHM and may be more useful than the old pie chart:

  • The audaimonic activity model by Martela & Sheldon (2017) sees well-being as both doing well and feeling well. It supposes that eudaimonic well-being starts with doing well through eudaimonic activities, setting well-being conducive values, motivations, goals, and practices. This has an impact on the psychological need satisfaction of the needs autonomy, competence, and relatedness. This in turn also has an impact on subjective well-being, in terms of positive affect, negative affect, and life satisfaction. 
  • The hedonic adaptation prevention model by Sheldon & Lyubomirsky (2012) sees positive change as affecting the amount of positive events, which affects the amount of positive emotions, which affects the sustained well-being boost. But in all these causal relations, there are moderating factors.
  • The positive activity model by Lyubomirsky & Layous (2013) supposes a personal activity has a moderating effect on the relation between positive activity and increased well-being in activity features and person features. Positive activity also has an effect on increased well-being through positive emotions, positive thoughts, positive behaviors and need satisfaction. 

Growing research is revealing that the pursuit of happiness requires selecting self-appropriate and eudaimonic-type activities, rather than chasing after positive emotions directly, investing sustained effort in those activities, and practicing those activities in a varied and changing manner. By such means, people can create for themselves a steady inflow of engaging, satisfying, connecting, and uplifting positive experiences, thereby increasing the likelihood that they remain in the upper range of their happiness levels. 

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