Sonja Lyubomirsky

Sonja Lyubomirsky
University of California, Riverside | UCR · Department of Psychology

PhD

About

173
Publications
205,202
Reads
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33,233
Citations
Additional affiliations
July 1994 - present
University of California, Riverside
Position
  • Professor

Publications

Publications (173)
Article
Full-text available
Although gratitude is typically conceptualized as a positive emotion, it may also induce socially-oriented negative feelings, such as indebtedness and guilt. Given its mixed emotional experience, we argue that gratitude motivates people to improve themselves in important life domains. Two single-time point studies tested the immediate emotional and...
Article
Objective Prosocial behavior has been linked to improved physical health, but the biological mechanisms involved remain unclear. This study tested whether a 4-week kindness intervention could reduce expression of a stress-related immune response gene signature known as the Conserved Transcriptional Response to Adversity (CTRA). Methods In a divers...
Article
Psychedelic science has generated hundreds of compelling published studies yet with relatively little impact on mainstream psychology. I propose that social psychologists have much to gain by incorporating psychoactive substances into their research programs. Here I use (±)-3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) as an example because of its docum...
Article
An inadvertent consequence of advances in stem cell research, neuroscience, and resuscitation science has been to enable scientific insights regarding what happens to the human brain in relation to death. The scientific exploration of death is in large part possible due to the recognition that brain cells are more resilient to the effects of anoxia...
Article
Well-being science has largely focused on subjective well-being, defined in terms of life satisfaction and positive and negative emotions. However, some philosophical accounts of well-being, like “eudaimonia” accounts, emphasize the attainment of goods, such as having deep social relationships and achieving one’s creative potential. We supplement p...
Article
COVID-19 has infected millions of people and upended the lives of most humans on the planet. Researchers from across the psychological sciences have sought to document and investigate the impact of COVID-19 in myriad ways, causing an explosion of research that is broad in scope, varied in methods, and challenging to consolidate. Because policy and...
Article
Gratitude science often conflates the processes of actors recalling and sharing gratitude, as well as neglecting to study targets (benefactors receiving gratitude) and witnesses (those witnessing gratitude). We explored the roles (actors, targets, and witnesses) and processes (recalling, sharing, receiving, and witnessing) involved in gratitude exc...
Article
An empirically supported approach to increase one’s happiness (or well-being) is to engage in brief, self-directed positive activities in daily life. However, such positive activities may fail to bring lasting changes in well-being due to hedonic adaptation. Notably, previous research has shown that variety is a key factor that can slow hedonic ada...
Preprint
Full-text available
What are the most important predictors of subjective well-being? Using a nationally representative publicly available dataset from the Midlife in the United States project (N = 4,378), we applied linear regression, which often relies on assumptions of linearity and a priori interactions, and advanced machine learning approaches, which maximize pred...
Preprint
Both scientists and laypeople have become increasingly concerned about smartphones, especially their associated digital media (e.g., email, news, gaming, and dating apps) and social media (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat). Recent correlational research links substantial declines in Gen Z well-being to digital and social media use, yet other wor...
Article
Full-text available
3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) is a psychostimulant known for producing positive subjective effects and for enhancing social functioning and social connection in both clinical and recreational settings. Over the past two decades, scientists have begun to study the psychological effects of MDMA through rigorous placebo-controlled experimen...
Article
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Background: Escalating healthcare expenditures highlight the need to identify modifiable predictors of the use and costs of healthcare and sickness benefit transfers. We conducted a prospective analysis on Danish data to determine the costs associated with flourishing as compared to the below threshold level of flourishing. Methods: We used data f...
Article
Although chemistry is a well-known, sought-after interpersonal phenomenon, it has remained relatively unexplored in the psychological literature. The purpose of this article is to begin articulating a theoretically grounded and precise definition of interpersonal chemistry. To that end, we propose a conceptual model of interpersonal chemistry cente...
Preprint
Recent correlational research links smartphone and social media use to lower well-being among Gen Z youth, yet other work suggests that the effects are small and unnoteworthy. However, these findings rely heavily on self-report. How accurate is self-reported smartphone time and are objectively measured screen activities associated with lower well-b...
Article
Since the first confirmed case in Wuhan, China on December 31, 2019, the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has spread quickly, infecting 165 million people as of May 2021. Since this first detection, research has indicated that people contracting the virus may suffer neurological and mental disorders and deficits, in addition to the respiratory and ot...
Article
This paper considers the principles of a functionalist perspective with regard to positive emotions. We discuss various ways that positive emotions have been studied historically and how these approaches bear on discussions of function. We then cover more recent attempts to categorize positive emotions and make recommendations for future endeavors....
Chapter
Full-text available
Measures of well-being have proliferated over the past decades. Very little guidance has been available about which measures to use in particular contexts. This chapter provides a series of recommendations, based on the present state of knowledge and the existing measures available, of which measures might be preferred in which contexts. The recomm...
Chapter
Philosophers, psychologists, economists, and other social scientists continue to debate the nature of human well-being. The authors argue that this debate centers around five main conceptualizations of well-being: hedonic well-being, life satisfaction, desire fulfillment, eudaimonia, and non-eudaimonic objective list well-being. Although each type...
Article
Positive valence system (PVS) deficits are increasingly recognized as important treatment targets for depression and anxiety. Emerging behavioral treatments designed to upregulate the PVS show initial promise; however, neural mechanisms underlying these approaches remain unknown. This study investigated neural reward-processing-related changes foll...
Article
Full-text available
Recent theory suggests that members of interdependent (collectivist) cultures prioritize in-group happiness, whereas members of independent (individualist) cultures prioritize personal happiness (Uchida et al. Journal of Happiness Studies , 5 (3), 223–239 Uchida et al., 2004). Thus, the well-being of friends and family may contribute more to the em...
Article
Full-text available
Objective Prosocial behavior can improve psychological well-being and physical health. However, the underlying biological mechanisms that mediate the relationship between prosociality and health remain unclear. In this pre-registered experiment, we tested whether a 4-week kindness intervention could slow leukocyte telomere shortening and increase w...
Article
Full-text available
To slow the transmission of COVID-19, countries around the world have implemented social distancing and stay-at-home policies—potentially leading people to rely more on household members for their sense of closeness and belonging. To understand the conditions under which people felt the most connected, we examined whether changes in overall feeling...
Preprint
Objective: Prosocial behavior can improve psychological well-being and physical health. However, the underlying biological mechanisms that mediate the relationship between prosociality and health remain unclear. In this pre-registered experiment, we tested whether a 4-week kindness intervention could slow leukocyte telomere shortening and increase...
Article
Could 10 min of gratitude per week have the potential to change the trajectories of young students' lives? With over 1,000 ninth- and tenth-grade students, we tested whether a simple 4-week classroom-based gratitude intervention would prompt increases in well-being and motivate students to become better people and attain better grades. Over the cou...
Article
Full-text available
Background Anxiety and depressive disorders are often characterized by perceived social disconnection, yet evidence-based treatments produce only modest improvements in this domain. The well-established link between positive affect (PA) and social connectedness suggests that directly targeting PA in treatment may be valuable.MethodA secondary analy...
Article
Full-text available
In two pre-registered studies, we tracked changes in individuals’ feelings of social connection during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both studies capitalized on measures of social connection and well-being obtained prior to the COVID-19 pandemic by recruiting the same participants again in the midst of the pandemic’s upending effects. Study 1 included a s...
Article
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Although research suggests that Eastern, collectivist cultures do not benefit as much from practicing gratitude compared to Western, individualist cultures, the reasons for these differences remain unclear. In a single time-point randomized controlled intervention, participants in India (N = 431), Taiwan (N = 112), and the U.S. (N = 307) were rando...
Article
Full-text available
Measures of well-being have proliferated over the past decades. Very little guidance has been available as to which measures to use in what contexts. This paper provides a series of recommendations, based on the present state of knowledge and the existing measures available, of what measures might be preferred in which contexts. The recommendations...
Article
The Sustainable Happiness Model (SHM) has been influential in positive psychology and well-being science. However, the ‘pie chart’ aspect of the model has received valid critiques. In this article, we start by agreeing with many such critiques, while also explaining the context of the original article and noting that we were speculative but not dog...
Article
Research suggests that both performing prosocial behaviors (i.e. acts of kindness towards others) and simply recalling them can increase well-being. Do performing and recalling prosocial behaviors impact well-being equally? To investigate this question, we conducted a study with a 2 × 2 design in which participants were randomly assigned either to...
Article
Full-text available
In light of cultural differences in conceptions of happiness, we investigated whether members of independent (vs. interdependent) cultures would benefit from prosocial behavior when self-focus is highlighted (vs. when other-focus is highlighted). In a 1-week randomized controlled intervention, U.S. (N = 280) and South Korean (N = 261) participants...
Article
Research in personality psychology has remained predominantly correlational. For example, 3 decades of research demonstrate a robust cross-sectional relationship between extraversion and positive affect. A handful of studies, however, have examined this link experimentally, showing that extraversion boosts positive affect over short durations. If t...
Article
Objective: Mõttus (2016) argues that effects should not be attributed to traits if they are driven by particular facets or items. We apply this reasoning to investigate the relationship between facets and items of extraversion and well-being. Method: We analyzed five cross-sectional datasets (total N = 1879), with facet- and item-level correlati...
Article
Full-text available
Social and personality psychology have been criticized for overreliance on potentially biased self-report variables. In well-being science, researchers have called for more “objective” physiological and cognitive measures to evaluate the efficacy of well-being-increasing interventions. This may now be possible with the recent rise of cost-effective...
Article
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Research on awe has grown exponentially in recent decades; however, few studies have considered whether awe-inspiring experiences also inspire other emotions. In two studies, we explored whether interventions targeting awe also evoke other discrete emotions. Additionally, we considered two constructs that may be associated with increases in each em...
Article
Why does kindness matter? When you act kindly toward others, the benefits go both ways. Small, thoughtful acts—like helping, sharing, listening, or teaching—can change both how you are perceived and how you see yourself. When children are encouraged to be kind, their peers want to spend more time around them. Not only does kindness strengthen socia...
Article
The experiences of mothers and fathers are different in ways that could affect their well-being. Yet few studies have comprehensively examined gender differences in parents' well-being. In the current research, we investigated such gender differences in a large representative sample (Study 1a; N = 13,007), in a community sample using validated well...
Article
Gratitude has been associated with better physical health. Yet, surprisingly little research has experimentally investigated the capacity of gratitude to motivate individuals to eat more healthfully. In Study 1, among undergraduate students (N = 327) attempting to achieve a healthy eating goal, state gratitude following a writing activity significa...
Article
The Satisfaction With Life Scale (Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985) has been the dominant measure of life satisfaction since its creation more than 30 years ago. We sought to develop an improved measure that includes indirect indicators of life satisfaction (e.g., wishing to change one's life) to increase the bandwidth of the measure and acc...
Article
Empirical research demonstrates a relationship between happiness and career success. For example, happy people receive higher earnings, exhibit better performance, and obtain more favorable supervisor evaluations than their less happy peers. Researchers have posited that success leads to happiness, but Boehm and Lyubomirsky reviewed the relevant re...
Article
Full-text available
Although a great deal of research has tested the longitudinal effects of regularly practicing gratitude, much less attention has been paid to the emotional landscape directly following engagement in gratitude exercises. In three studies, we explored the array of discrete emotions people experience after being prompted to express or recall gratitude...
Article
Full-text available
Positive emotions are highly valued and frequently sought. Beyond just being pleasant, however, positive emotions may also lead to long-term benefits in important domains, including work, physical health, and interpersonal relationships. Research thus far has focused on the broader functions of positive emotions. According to the broaden-and-build...
Article
Full-text available
A functional analysis of prosociality considers how predispositions for prosocial behavior prompt, reinforce, and propagate kind behaviors in the real world. To examine the effects of practicing, receiving, and observing everyday prosociality—as well as the mechanisms underlying these effects—we randomly assigned employees in a Spanish corporate wo...
Chapter
Full-text available
As many happiness seekers inevitably discover, human beings are remarkably susceptible to hedonic adaptation—the process of becoming accustomed to positive life changes. Even if individuals observe short-term increases in happiness, how can they avoid the natural erosion of happiness over time? Can anyone ever stay happier? In the present chapter,...
Article
Full-text available
Cultural stereotypes and considerable psychological research suggest that Russians are less happy and more stoic than Americans and Westerners. However, a second possibility is simply that cultural norms deter Russians from displaying happiness that they actually feel. To test this second possibility, three studies compared the emotional inhibition...
Article
Context: Prosocial behavior is linked to longevity, but few studies have experimentally manipulated prosocial behavior to identify the causal mechanisms underlying this association. One possible mediating pathway involves changes in gene expression that may subsequently influence disease development or resistance. Design, setting, participants:...
Article
Full-text available
Social interaction among employees is crucial at both an organizational and individual level. Demonstrating the value of recent methodological advances, 2 studies conducted in 2 workplaces and 2 countries sought to answer the following questions: (a) Do coworkers interact more with coworkers who have similar well-being? and, if yes, (b) what are th...
Article
Full-text available
Humility is a core psychological process theoretically marked by low self-focus, secure identity, and balanced awareness of strengths and weaknesses. We began with a consensual definition of humility before theoretically unpacking it. First, using 25 samples and 2622 adults, we developed the Brief State Humility Scale, which demonstrates strong con...
Article
Full-text available
We explored a counterintuitive approach to increasing happiness: Imagining time as scarce. Participants were randomly assigned to try to live this month (LTM) like it was their last in their current city (time scarcity intervention; n = 69) or to keep track of their daily activities (neutral control; n = 70). Each group reported their activities an...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Research suggests that the positive affect system may be an important yet underexplored treatment target in anxiety and depression. Existing interventions primarily target the negative affect system, yielding modest effects on measures of positive emotions and associated outcomes (e.g., psychological well-being). The objective of the p...
Chapter
The value of gratitude has been recognized for centuries, but researchers have only begun to investigate gratitude within the past few decades. In a short time, considerable evidence has accumulated that gratitude is associated with superior mental health outcomes – both the absence of mental illness and the presence of psychological well-being. In...
Article
Full-text available
When it comes to the pursuit of happiness, popular culture encourages a focus on oneself. By contrast, substantial evidence suggests that what consistently makes people happy is focusing prosocially on others. In the current study, we contrasted the mood- and well-being-boosting effects of prosocial behavior (i.e., doing acts of kindness for others...
Article
Full-text available
Prosocial behaviors typically benefit those who perform them but can create mixed emotions in recipients. Yet, how does prosociality affect the well-being of those who merely observe it? The current study aimed to answer this question by experimentally prompting employees to perform prosocial acts at work (Givers), be the recipient of such acts (Re...
Article
Across two studies, we found evidence supporting a positive feedback loop between positive activities, kindness and well-being. In Study 1, participants were randomly assigned to one of four distinct positive activities (versus a neutral writing activity) before spending three weeks engaging in kind acts. We found that the positive activities serve...
Article
Full-text available
Genetic and environmental influences on complex traits can change in response to developmental and environmental contexts. Here we explore the impact of a positive activity intervention on the genetic and environmental influences on well-being and mental health in a sample of 750 adolescent twins. Twins completed a 10-week online well-being interve...
Data
Standardized Means (Standard Deviations) for Well-Being and Mental Health. (DOCX)
Data
Phenotypic Correlations Within Well-Being and Mental Health Across Time. (DOCX)
Data
Fit Statistics for Multilevel Models of Intervention Response. (DOCX)
Data
Intervention instructions: The text used in the intervention for both the control activities and the positive activities. (DOCX)
Article
Full-text available
Could liquid wealth, or "cash on hand"-the balance of one's checking and savings accounts-be a better predictor of life satisfaction than income? In a field study using 585 U.K. bank customers, we paired individual Satisfaction With Life Scale responses with anonymized account data held by the bank, including the full account balances for each resp...
Chapter
Full-text available
Cost-effective, quick-acting, efficacious, and long-lasting treatments are needed to augment traditional drug and psychotherapy treatments. This chapter describes the potential of positive activity interventions (PAIs): that is, simple, self-administered cognitive and behavioral strategies that can increase subjective well-being by promoting positi...
Article
Objective: Cultural portrayals of physicians suggest an unclear and even contradictory role for humility in the physician-patient relationship. Despite the social importance of humility, however, little empirical research has linked humility in physicians with patient outcomes or the characteristics of the doctor-patient visit. The present study i...
Article
Full-text available
Although people have been intrigued by happiness for centuries, subjective well-being became a thriving topic of scientific inquiry only relatively recently, with the creation of valid and reliable well-being measures. Growing evidence suggests that happiness is associated with success in multiple domains, such as relationships, work, and health. H...
Article
Full-text available
Are Americans happier, or less happy, than they used to be? The answer may depend on life stage. We examined indicators of subjective well-being (SWB) in four nationally representative samples of U.S. adolescents (aged 13–18 years, n = 1.27 million) and adults (aged 18–96 years, n = 54,172). Recent adolescents reported greater happiness and life sa...