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Toward an Expanded Taxonomy of Happiness: A Conceptual Analysis of 16 Distinct Forms of Mental Wellbeing



Recent decades have seen a surge of scientific interest in happiness. However, its theoretical conceptualization is a work in progress. Much of the literature focuses on two main forms: hedonic (encompassing life satisfaction and positive affect) and eudaimonic (encompassing phenomena such as character development and meaning in life). However, this binary has been critiqued as being incomplete, in part because it reflects a Western-centric perspective that overlooks forms emphasized in non-Western cultures. As a result, scholars have begun to highlight other forms besides hedonia and eudaimonia. This article surveys the literature to identify 16 potential forms in total, classified according to whether they primarily pertain to feelings (hedonic, contented, mature, chaironic, and vital), thought (evaluative, meaningful, intellective, aesthetic, and absorbed) or action (eudaimonic, masterful, accomplished, harmonic, nirvanic, and relational). This article thus offers a more expansive, albeit still just provisional, taxonomy of this vital and still-evolving topic.
Towards an Expanded Taxonomy of Happiness:
A Conceptual Analysis of 16 Distinct Forms of Mental Wellbeing
Journal of Humanistic Psychology
Dr. Tim Lomas, Harvard University,
Prof. Tyler J. VanderWeele, Harvard University
Recent decades have seen a surge of scientific interest in happiness. However, its theoretical
conceptualisation is a work in progress. Much of the literature focuses on two main forms:
hedonic (encompassing life satisfaction and positive affect), and eudaimonic (encompassing
phenomena such as character development and meaning in life). However, this binary has
been critiqued as being incomplete, in part because it reflects a Western-centric perspective
that overlooks forms emphasised in non-Western cultures. As a result, scholars have begun to
highlight other forms besides hedonia and eudaimonia. This paper surveys the literature to
identify 16 potential forms in total, classified according to whether they primarily pertain to
feelings (hedonic, contended, mature, chaironic, and vital), thought (evaluative, meaningful,
intellective, aesthetic, and absorbed) or action (eudaimonic, masterful, accomplished,
harmonic, nirvanic, and relational). The paper thus offers a more expansive, albeit still just
provisional, taxonomy of this vital and still-evolving topic.
Key words: happiness; wellbeing; health; taxonomy; cross-cultural.
Few concepts are as cherished in the modern era as happiness. Indeed, variants of this state
have been a human concern throughout history (Lomas et al., 2021). Yet few phenomena are
perhaps so contested, with little consensus on its nature. That said, recent decades have seen
an expansive scientific effort to conceptualise and study the topic. This paper explores this
process of conceptualisation, offering a provisional typology of different forms of happiness.
What is Happiness?
Before delving into the various forms, it is worth contextualising and defining the concept
itself, and situating it relative to other related notions. Thus, the following is a basic set of
orienting definitions that, although by no means the only way of configuring the territory, is
parsimonious with most of the relevant literature. It will help to begin with wellbeing, which
most scholars regard as an overarching concept that includes happiness within. Our reason for
starting with wellbeing is to situate happiness within a broader framework of relevant ideas,
thereby allowing a more comprehensive understanding of its nature and significance. One
issue with happiness research is that it is often unmoored from other similar concerns and
related fields, with different disciplines that share areas of interest speaking past each other.
Consider that arguably the most prominent concept in happiness scholarship is Diener’s
operationalization of subjective wellbeing (SWB), featuring an affective (i.e., positive affect)
and an evaluative component (i.e., life satisfaction/evaluation) (Diener et al., 1999). We are
indebted to Diener’s pioneering efforts, which has inspired decades of research. However,
most of this fails to elucidate how SWB relates conceptually to myriad other concepts that
deploy the term “wellbeing,” qualified with various adjectives. Take for instance the WHO’s
(1948) influential definition of health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social
well-being, and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.” Rarely does work on SWB
attempt to place the concept in relation to the three dimensions in this definition, nor to the
many other wellbeing-related constructs in the literature, from spiritual wellbeing (Larson,
1996) to economic wellbeing (Bakar et al., 2015). Instead, SWB tends to be a free-floating
psychological construct just an independent or dependent variable of interest without
much articulation of its status in a wider taxonomy of wellbeing.
Our position is that happiness constitutes a subset of wellbeing, and specifically a
subset pertaining to mental wellbeing. Therefore, to explicate this conceptual nesting, it is
necessary to first outline an understanding of wellbeing more broadly, within which we can
then situate happiness. We have begun to develop a theoretical framework of wellbeing and
related concepts like health and flourishing at length elsewhere (Lomas & VanderWeele,
2022; VanderWeele & Lomas, 2022), of which we offer a brief summary here to allow our
taxonomy of happiness to be placed within this broader context of ideas. With wellbeing, as
per happiness, this too has been notoriously difficult to operationalise. Reviewing trends in
conceptualizations of wellbeing for the 2022 World Happiness Report, Barrington-Leigh
(2022) suggests that while its use has risen sharply recently, it is “typically poorly defined.”
Given this confusion, we have formulated our own conceptualization of wellbeing, which
involves two subtly different definitions, both with the same key words. First, we view
wellbeing as the quality of one’s personal state. We use “personal” to differentiate it from
flourishing, which we regard as personal and systemic: while wellbeing applies specifically
to humans, flourishing applies to humans and the myriad contexts both human (e.g.,
communities) and non-human (e.g., the natural environment) in which they are situated.
State” signifies a condition or mode of being that is not permanent, but can vary widely in
duration (from a fleeting emotion to a durable way of being that could even last for years).
Finally, we harness the idea of “quality,” as deployed in notions of quality of life, a common
framing in work on wellbeing (Nussbaum & Sen, 1993), and which has further been explored
by Pirsig (1974), for whom it represents a fundamental and irreducible sense of a
phenomenon being deemed good or valuable in some way (Reeves & Bednar, 1994).
We then define the parameters of this state using the concepts of illness and health.
Illness denotes a relative absence of wellbeing, as signified by undesirable phenomena known
collectively by terms such as diseases, disorders, and injuries. Conversely, health describes
not merely the absence of those undesirable phenomena, but the active presence or attainment
of certain desiderata. Thus, we define health as a personal state of quality, and conversely
illness as a personal state lacking quality. Crucially, relative absence of illness is not the
same as active presence of health. Such insights have been especially prominent in the realm
of mental wellbeing. Traditionally the field has focused on mental illness, as acknowledged
by Freud, who saw the goal of psychotherapy as generally limited to turning “hysterical
misery into ordinary unhappiness” (Breuer & Freud, 1955, p.308). However, a growing
movement of scholars led by humanistic psychologists like Maslow (1962) have argued
that being ostensibly free of mental illness does not necessarily mean a person is actively
thriving. Instead, they may just be languishing not ill per se, but not excelling either (Keyes,
2007). Thus, these scholars argued for also focusing on positive forms of health. As Maslow
put it, “It is as if Freud supplied us the sick half of psychology and we must now fill it out
with the healthy half (p.5). So, using these definitions, wellbeing serves as an overarching
concept, encompassing illness and health. However, in common language wellbeing can also
be used, as per health, to describe the attainment of desirable forms of that state. As such, our
second definition of wellbeing is the same as that for health: a personal state of quality.
We acknowledge these definitions may seem sparse or generic compared to others in
the literature. However, these initial formulations serve as a semantic building block, upon
which more specific forms of wellbeing can be operationalized by adapting the definitions as
needed. This includes tailoring the definitions for different forms of happiness, as outlined
below. First though we can start by applying them to different dimensions of existence. There
are many ways of conceptualising this complex ontological terrain, but one common framing
is to acknowledge physical, mental, and social dimensions of existence, as per the WHO’s
definition of health. In addition, some scholars suggest that we ought to recognize spiritual
wellbeing (Larson, 1996; VanderWeele, 2020). Together, we refer to these four dimensions
as the “WHO+” ontological framework. We can therefore adapt the generic definitions of
wellbeing to apply to these dimensions specifically. For example, one can describe mental
wellbeing as pertaining to the quality of one’s mental state (definition 1) with “personal”
now omitted as superfluous, since mental states are inherently personal and its attainment
(i.e., mental health) as a mental state of quality (definition 2), while mental illness is a mental
state lacking quality. One could similarly adapt these for the other dimensions by switching
the operative adjective.
Here is where happiness re-enters the conversation. Essentially, we deploy this term
expansively to denote almost the entire positive territory of the mental wellbeing dimension.
Thus, we define happiness as a mental experience of quality (with mental” encompassing all
qualia, including emotions). Note this is very close to, but subtly different from, the definition
of mental wellbeing, as it refers to an experience rather than a state. The reason is happiness
may not cover the entire realm of mental wellbeing, which also involves the various faculties
of the mind attention, perception, memory, etc. broadly working well.” So, we describe
this entire realm using state, within which is the narrower terrain of subjective experience,
for which we use the label happiness. Again, we note this definition of happiness may seem
sparse or generic and even unusual compared to others. However, per our operationalization
of wellbeing, it is constructed to fit within a broader framework of ideas, and moreover, to be
adapted to different types of happiness, of which we identify 16 forms. In conceptualizing
happiness in this way, we explicitly advocate an expansive vision of the topic, encompassing
a significant range of psychological territory. Like many interesting signifiers, happiness is a
contested construct. Some people use it narrowly, perhaps merely synonymous with pleasure.
By contrast, others us included use it far more expansively, encompassing a wide swathe
of positive mental states. This linguistic point can be understood using a cartographic
metaphor. One function of language is to map our experiential world (Lomas, 2018). In that
respect, some words cover more ground than others, and encompass related words within.
Love, for instance, has been described as an empire uniting all sorts of feelings, behaviours,
and attitudes, sometimes having little in common (Murstein, 1988, p.33). Then, within that
empire, one can find words covering specific regions, from passion to care.” Our view of
happiness is similarly broad, covering nearly the entire positive territory of mental wellbeing,
from the lowest possible increment into this realm (e.g., the mildest, briefest moment of
positive affect) to its farthest possible reaches (e.g., the most intense, long-lasting positive
experiences conceivable). In that respect, this paper offers a typology of forms of happiness
within this broad territory. That said, this taxonomy is also still useable and relevant for
people who define happiness more narrowly, and who may prefer to regard some forms here
as simply aspects of mental wellbeing rather than happiness per se.
An Evolving Taxonomy
In the 80 or so years since the likes of Maslow first emphasised the importance of attending
to the positive terrain of mental wellbeing which we label broadly as happiness research
and theory has steadily accumulated. This evolving body of scholarship is illustrated in
Figure 1, which presents the 16 forms of happiness in our taxonomy in terms of five different
“bands. These bands have two related functions, indicating both: (a) conceptualizations of
happiness in terms of narrowness-broadness (with band 1 the narrowest, and 5 the broadest);
and (b) chronological emergence (with 1 the earliest main focus of academic scholarship, and
5 the most recent). Overall, most work has tended to focus on two main types, hedonic (band
1) and eudaimonic (band 2). This distinction has a long pedigree, usually traced to Aristotle
(1986), who depicted the former as simple states of pleasure, and the latter as deeper forms of
happiness arising through self-cultivation, being the activity of the soul in accordance with
virtue (p.11). However, we suggest this binary actually incorporates other experiences which
warrant treating as distinct forms, as elucidated below. Initially, most work focused on
hedonic happiness, particularly through the prism of SWB, which emerged in the 1950s
before coming to prominence especially through the work of Diener in the 1980s (Diener et
al., 1999). This is represented as band 1, in which we use “hedonic happiness” only for the
affective component of SWB, and present its evaluative component (i.e., life satisfaction) as a
separate form of “evaluative happiness. This was soon augmented by a growing interest in
eudaimonic wellbeing, which can be traced back to humanistic psychologists like Maslow,
but especially attracted attention following Ryff’s (1989) work on “psychological wellbeing.”
This strand of theorising constitutes band 2, which involves eudaimonic happiness per se, as
well as three other forms which are usually bound up with eudaimonia which in modern
scholarship has swelled to often become a catch-all for anything non-hedonic but which we
treat as distinct forms, including meaningful, masterful, and accomplished happiness.
Figure 1. An emergent chronology of happiness constructs.
However, as important as hedonia and eudaimonia and the four other forms we have
extracted from them may be, they do not exhaustively cover the broad terrain we designate
as happiness. To start with, in Authentic Happiness, Seligman (2002) suggests “engagement”
constitutes one of three “pathways” to mental wellbeing (alongside hedonia and eudaimonia).
This is reflected in Csikszentmihalyi’s (1990) notion of flow, which we label as “absorbed
happiness,” accompanied in band 3 by two newer proposed forms that also pertain to
engagement (aesthetic and vital). From there, happiness research continued to develop. Wong
(2011) formulated the idea of positive psychology 2.0, also known as the field’s second wave
(Lomas & Ivtzan, 2016). This critiqued the field for initially focusing mainly on positively-
valenced phenomena, and overlooking the relevance to wellbeing of states that are neutral or
even negatively-valenced. This work is represented as band 4, featuring three types proposed
by Wong (contented, mature, and chaironic).
Building on this scholarship, Lomas et al. (2021) developed the idea of a third wave
of the field. A driving force of Wong’s work is the recognition that happiness research and
psychology as a whole is Western-centric, with Henrich et al. (2010) suggesting the vast
majority of research in psychology has been conducted by and on people in contexts that are
WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic). Thus, drawing on his
Chinese background, Wong proposed happiness forms valued especially in Eastern cultures.
Lomas et al. then suggested this work was part of a broader third wave to expand beyond the
field’s Western-centricity and engage with happiness-related ideas from across the globe.
This shift is exemplified by the Global Wellbeing Initiative, which involves developing new
items for the Gallup World Poll that reflect non-Western perspectives on wellbeing, including
ones relating to four forms detailed below (contented, eudaimonic, harmonic, and relational),
as featured in the 2022 World Happiness Report (Lomas, Lai, et al., 2022). Thus, from this
third wave are emerging still newer proposed constructs pertaining to happiness, labelled here
as band 5, including harmonic, relational and nirvanic. Moreover, these developments are not
limited to positive psychology: Lomas (2022a) suggests its third wave is part of a broader
new wave of “global wellbeing scholarship” that not only involves other kinship fields within
psychology (e.g., humanistic psychology), but other academic disciplines, such as Tay and
Pawelski’s (2021) emerging “positive humanities” paradigm. Indeed, it is possible and even
likely that these new movements which are still in their early phases will identify other
forms of happiness beyond the 16 included here. One of the authors for instance has recently
received a grant to explore Muslim perspectives on wellbeing, which have hitherto received
little attention in psychology. It may be that such projects will mean the taxonomy will need
updating, with new forms perhaps added to band 5, and indeed future research may well
generate further emergent bands we cannot yet even envisage (see e.g., Lomas, 2022b, for
speculations regarding future directions in wellbeing scholarship).
As such, even while this paper represents our best attempt to survey the terrain of
happiness as it stands, it is a dynamically evolving picture, so our framework is only a
provisional account of the current literature and may need updating with future scholarship.
Moreover, we acknowledge that scholars differ in how expansively they view happiness, and
might not regard all these types as constituting happiness per se. Some may prefer to use the
term only for SWB, and will regard the forms in bands 2-5 as outside the remit of happiness.
Others may have a slightly wider scope, perhaps expanding to bands 2 and 3. Yet others
including us take a yet broader view, encompassing all five bands. Whatever preference
people have is fine; regardless of labels per se, all these forms will still likely be of interest to
all these scholars. Thus, for those who take a narrower view, whichever forms are regarded as
outside the realm of happiness could simply be labelled as forms of mental wellbeing. Then,
in addition to grouping the forms by bands in an emergent chronology, we also sought to
bring a different conceptual order to the taxonomy by classifying types according to whether
they primarily involve one of three main experiential modalities, as illustrated in Figure 2:
feeling (types 1-5); thinking (6-10); and doing (11-16). Of course, every form likely involves
all three modalities in some way, as experience is generally multidimensional. Moreover, a
given experience of happiness may well combine several types, as if distinct flavours
combining to form a unique taste. Nevertheless, this classificatory approach is a useful
heuristic. We have also sought to bring consistency to the taxonomy by using our basic
definition of happiness (a mental experience of quality) and building upon it in various ways
to identify specific forms. Moreover, using this basic definition in turn allows this taxonomy
to be situated within our broader framework of wellbeing. As a final point, we recognize this
is a novel framework that requires validation in future research. As such, for each form we
offer hypotheses that could be explored, followed in the conclusion by some broader ideas for
a research program into this new taxonomy.
Figure 2. An expanded taxonomy of happiness.
Feeling Types
1. Hedonic
These first five forms pertain primarily to feelings. By far the most widely studied is what is
often called hedonic happiness. The dominant construct here is SWB, comprising two main
dimensions: cognitive (life evaluation/satisfaction) and affective (hedonic tone). We reserve
hedonic happiness for the latter though, with the former which is not really about hedonism,
conventionally understood constituting a distinct form of evaluative happiness, discussed
below. This affective dimension pertains to how people feel right now (or relatively recently),
usually conceptualised in terms of a ratio of positive to negative affect (Watson et al., 1988).
Calculations of this ratio thereby generate an appraisal of the affective dimension of SWB,
hence on our conceptualization here of hedonic happiness. Appraisals of positive affect
usually focus on high arousal forms, possibly reflecting the valorisation of such emotions in
Western cultures (Tsai et al., 2006). As such, low arousal forms like calmness tend to be
overlooked. One option would be to ensure hedonic happiness includes these. However, to
emphasise their distinctiveness, we treat low arousal states as a separate form of contented
happiness, considered next. So, we define hedonic happiness as a mental experience of
quality in relation to one’s present emotions and feelings, with particular emphasis on higher
arousal varieties. Another potentially relevant point of distinction may be attention. Although
hedonic happiness has higher levels of arousal than contented, we predict it may actually
have lower attentiveness, particularly orienting and executive forms of attention (Posner &
Petersen, 1990), since the latter are primarily about attentional control, and evidence links
high arousal pleasure to reduced attentional control (Schwebel et al., 2009).
2. Contented
This first neglected form of happiness covers the emotional territory of low arousal positive
affect (McManus et al., 2019). While often overlooked in favour of high arousal forms, as
noted above, scholars are now paying greater attention to cultural perspectives that emphasise
these emotions. In psychospiritual traditions like Hinduism and Buddhism, for instance,
qualities of equanimity and detachment are valorised as reflecting an ability to eschew
attachments (seen as a cause of suffering), as captured by the Quiet Ego scale (Wayment et
al., 2015). To that point, such traditions corroborate our hypothesis that attentiveness may be
higher in contented than hedonic happiness, since they have a wealth of meditative practices
which, (a) function primarily by training attention, and (b) are associated in particular with
contented happiness (Kabat-Zinn, 2003). This observation prompts another hypothesis: since
research on meditation shows attention can be trained, this suggests that contented happiness
can be more readily cultivated (e.g., through meditation) than hedonic happiness (which is
less about attentional control, so in that respect is less easily generated). Moreover, such
happiness may be more universally valued than often appreciated. Exploring lay perceptions
of happiness in 12 countries across five continents, Delle Fave et al. (2016) found the most
prominent definition was one of inner harmony, involving inner peace, contentment, and
balance. Similarly widespread patterns were also observed in the Global Wellbeing Initiative,
which found that low arousal states were universally sought and experienced (Lomas et al.,
2022). While some scholars may prefer to expand hedonia to encompass these forms, the
connection between hedonia and high arousal is so established as are broader cultural
associations with hedonism that low arousal forms are better treated as their own distinct
form, defined as a mental experience of quality in relation to one’s present emotions and
feelings, with particular emphasis on lower arousal varieties.
3. Mature
While contented happiness covers relatively neutral positive emotional states, some theorists
argue that happiness can even encompass negatively valenced states. To that point, Wong has
proposed the notion of mature happiness (Wong & Bowers, 2019). A key influence here is
Frankl (1963), who powerfully argued meaning and redemption can be found even amidst the
difficulties of life. Going further, these issues may even be sources of positive mental states.
This insight rests on the recognition that people’s very experience of suffering may actually
be causally connected to subsequent experiences and appreciation of wellbeing an insight
similarly recognised in the literature on post-traumatic growth, described by Tedeschi et al.
(1998) as “positive changes in the aftermath of crisis.” However, this realisation does not
necessarily come easily, but may require hard-won experience, hence mature. This form
might thus be conceived as a mental experience of quality regarding the way one has dealt
with suffering in one’s life. Although a relatively new construct per se, Wong and Bowers'
Mature Happiness Scale has begun to receive empirical validation (Carreno et al., 2021).
Moreover, there is an extensive literature on phenomena pertaining to mental wellbeing that
can be viewed through the lens of mature happiness, including post-traumatic growth, work
on “redemption narratives” (McAdams et al., 2012), and new research on people’s preference
for a psychologically rich life, involving diverse experiences and emotions, including
negatively valenced ones (Oishi & Westgate, 2021). In terms of better understanding the
dynamics here, an intriguing research question concerns the distinction between affective
versus cognitive valence (i.e., thoughts being positive or negative in tone). Even if mature
happiness usually has negative affective valence, we suggest it is likely characterised by
positive cognitive valence, with even negative emotions interpreted in constructive ways.
4. Chaironic
Although hedonic happiness focuses on high arousal forms of positive affect, it tends not to
broach its most intense or significant forms (instead invoking less highly charged states like
enjoyment and pleasure). As such, Wong (2011) has also proposed the idea of chaironic
happiness, based on the Greek chairo, which has meanings like gladness, joy, bliss, grace and
blessing. Given its etymology, one might construe this as a form of spiritual happiness,
defined as “feeling blessed and fortunate because of a sense of awe, gratitude, and oneness
with nature or God” (p.70). Again, while a relatively new construct, it rests upon a substantial
literature connecting spirituality to happiness and wellbeing more broadly a paradigm
known as the religion health connection (Ellison & Levin, 1998). Although most such work
treats spirituality as a factor which influences happiness, some presents spirituality itself as a
form of happiness (Fisher, 2010), which we label chaironic happiness, defined as a mental
experience of quality in relation to some kind of spiritual or transcendent reality. This of
course overlaps with the subtly different idea of spiritual wellbeing, with chaironic happiness
being an experience of such spirituality, rather than the state of spiritual wellbeing itself.
Spirituality of course is itself a complex and contested construct (Hill et al., 2000), so further
research is needed to further elucidate this form. To that end, we suggest different forms of
happiness may vary in the frequency with which they are experienced. So, drawing on work
such as Maslow’s (1962) concept of peak experiences, we hypothesise chaironic happiness
may be among the rarest forms, both in terms of populations (i.e., relatively few people
experience it), and people themselves (i.e., those that attain it do so relatively infrequently).
5. Vital
Of the five forms classified as primarily involving feelings, this last brings into consideration
the different ontological territory of the body. Among the 16 forms, three branch away from
mental wellbeing, and intersect with other wellbeing dimensions. Chaironic happiness links
to spiritual wellbeing, and below relational happiness is associated with social wellbeing.
Completing the trifecta, vital happiness pertains to physical wellbeing. Just as we use
“happiness” for positive mental health, one might deploy “vitality” to cover the realm of
positive physical health. However, from a critical perspective, the whole distinction between
physical and mental is somewhat artificial and constructed, as the mind permeates the body
and vice versa (Bostic et al., 2000). In objective terms, the physical body and brain constitute
one interconnected system. Likewise, subjectively, qualia tend to involve both embodied
physical sensations and mental manifestations. In that respect, in objective terms, vitality
might mean high physical energy or skill, while subjectively it could include feelings of zest
and vigour (Ryan & Fredrick, 1997). As such, although vitality fundamentally pertains to
physical wellbeing, conceptually and experientially it overlaps with mental wellbeing
(Lomas, Ritchie-Dunham et al., 2022). Indeed, aspects may pertain more to mind than body,
with Ryan and Frederick's (1997) Subjective Vitality Scale described as indexing “a positive
feeling of energy and aliveness.” Elucidating this, they share our view of vitality as straddling
physical and mental dimensions, describing it as “a reflection of both organismic and
psychological wellness” (p.532). Other scales likewise overlap the dimensions, such as the
Vitality Plus Scale (Myers et al., 1999), which collectively have generated a broad literature
(Lavrusheva, 2020). We therefore refer to the more mental manifestations of vitality as vital
happiness”: a mental experience of quality with respect to one’s physical being. Given the
affinities between vital happiness and physical wellbeing, we hypothesise that vital happiness
may be especially impaired even more than other forms of happiness by physical issues
and behaviours, from overwork to impaired sleep quality (Sampaio et al., 2014).
Thinking Types
6. Evaluative
These next five forms pertain primarily (though not only) to thinking. This first is the most
widely studied form of happiness, involving the great wealth of research into the cognitive
component of SWB. Over the years many influential concepts and measures have been
developed, from Cantril's (1965) ladder to the Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener et al.,
1985). These usually reflect a global assessment (i.e., all elements of life together) of one’s
life in general (i.e., over a reasonable span of time). Although this tends to be conflated with
hedonia, as noted above, we regard it as a distinct form, as evaluative happiness is primarily
cognitive, being a mental experience of quality with respect to evaluating one’s life, either as
a whole, or in specific domains. Given the vast literature on this form, we need not dwell
further on its details. One salient point to address though is the suggestion that since such
evaluations concern life as a whole, this form might offer an ultimate summary assessment of
happiness, or even all wellbeing. However, someone may be dissatisfied with life overall
(there are aspects with which they are unhappy), yet satisfied in what matters most to them
(e.g., chaironic happiness). It is not clear such people would trade the latter for the former.
Indeed, research on Nozick’s “experience machine thought experiment suggest many people
would not want a simulated existence of perfect satisfaction, and instead prefer a real life in
all its vicissitudes (Hewitt, 2010), a point also borne out by the notion of a “psychologically
rich life.” That said, such speculations are relatively untested. As such, we might speculate
that, (a) if asked to rank forms of happiness in terms of importance to them, most people
would not place evaluative happiness at the very top; moreover, (b) of these people, if asked
whether, to preserve their experience of their most valued form, they would significantly
sacrifice evaluative happiness for example dropping several rungs on Cantril’s ladder a
significant minority would assent.
7. Meaningful
This next form broaches territory usually associated with eudaimonia, as captured by Ryff’s
(1989) model of psychological wellbeing” (with its six dimensions of self-acceptance,
positive relationships, autonomy, environmental mastery, purpose in life, and personal
growth). However, as noted above, eudaimonia has now become a catch-all for anything
happiness-related outside SWB, so an expanded taxonomy allows some qualities often
bundled up within it to be acknowledged as distinct forms of happiness in their own right. In
so doing, we reserve eudaimonia for self-development the cultivation of character and
virtue, as elucidated below as this more closely aligns with classical theorizing on the
concept. Doing so moreover allows other dimensions in Ryff’s model to be valued on their
own terms. After all, some do not necessarily involve any such self-development, removing
them from the scope of eudaimonia as classically understood. This concern applies to the
notions of meaning and purpose. Extensive research has shown these to be integral to mental
wellbeing, such as work using Steger et al.'s (2006) Meaning in Life Questionnaire. However,
while cultivation of meaning/purpose may well involve self-development, crucially, people
can experience these without any such development. For example, Seligman (2011) suggests
meaning/purpose are above all found in “belonging to and serving something that you believe
is bigger than then self” (p.17). Crucially, many people find meaning in forms of communal
participation, like supporting a sports team, that require no self-cultivation per se. So, distinct
from eudaimonia, there is merit in identifying a separate form of meaningful happiness, as a
mental experience of quality with respect to one’s meaning and purpose in life. That said, we
might nevertheless predict that a given state of meaningful happiness would be stronger if it
is combined with feelings of eudaimonic happiness (i.e., a sense of one’s own development).
8. Intellective
This next form also relates to eudaimonia, but tends to be overlooked by modern researchers.
Nevertheless, it was certainly present in classical theorising. In his Nicomachean Ethics
pivotal in elucidating the idea of eudaimonia Aristotle suggests the highest happiness
comes from the highest exercise of virtue, namely, reflective study, contemplation, and
understanding of what is best and most noble in life. For people spiritually inclined, such
contemplation may take on a religious character (thus overlapping with chaironic happiness).
In his interpretations of Aristotle, St. Aquinas for instance depicts such contemplation as a
perfect happiness, involving a full, final intellective vision of God. Such considerations
suggest one may attain elevated and rarefied states of being in thoughtful contemplation or
understanding of some great good. We thus call this intellective happiness”: a mental
experience of quality relating to one’s intellectual or contemplative life. Although some
scholars might simply enfold this within an expanded eudaimonia, we suggest it is distinct
enough from self-development per se to merit its own form. That said, not only is the
construct of intellective happiness new, there does not appear to be any empirical work
pertaining to it (unlike most others, where even if the label is novel there is still a substantial
research base). So, work will especially be needed on this. One line of enquiry is whether
there are individual differences in people’s likelihood of valuing, seeking, and experiencing
specific happiness forms. In that respect, we might envisage that intellective happiness will
be higher in people with greater cognitive capacities (e.g., as indexed by IQ), and/or with a
personality profile characterised by conscientiousness, introversion, and openness.
9. Aesthetic
While intellective happiness is an experience of quality relating to the contemplation and
cognitive understanding of an object or idea, this is not the only kind of valued relationship
one can have with such phenomena. Many people experience happiness through perception
of natural beauty or some object; likewise, for millennia humans have produced art forms that
appeal, at least partly, to sensual perception and appreciation. While such experiences may
involve the intellect, they do not necessarily do so principally, and many may elude cognitive
understanding altogether. In this realm for instance one might include states of awe, which
Keltner and Haidt (2003) describe as “a moral, spiritual, and aesthetic emotion on the
upper reaches of pleasure and the boundary of fear” (p.297). Thus, aesthetic experiences
could be deemed a distinct class of happiness experience: not merely a factor that influences
it, but a form of happiness in its own right (Lomas, 2016), being a mental experience of
quality concerning one’s sensual perceptions. While there is currently not much work on this
notion, there is certainly a substantial literature on the psychological dimensions of aesthetics
such as the Desire for Aesthetic Experience Scale (Lundy et al., 2010) which could be
interpreted through the lens of our definition. Nevertheless, more research will be needed to
explore this form. One resource for exploring its dynamics is Keltner and Haidt’s work on
awe, which draws upon Romantic notions of the sublime. A particularly interesting aspect
of that construct is it may not only involve positively valenced emotions, but sometimes
negatively valenced ones too, as explored by second wave positive psychology (Wong, 2011;
Lomas & Ivtzan, 2016). Indeed, one might speculate that the most powerful experiences of
aesthetic happiness will involve some negative emotional valence combined with positive
valence in a potent mixed emotion (Lomas, 2017) thereby elevating the experience in
complexity and profundity beyond those that are just positively valenced.
10. Absorbed
The fifth form relating to thinking uses this term in its broadest sense, referring to cognition
in general. This form concerns the way attention modalities are deployed, involving valued
states like absorption, engagement, and flow. A key notion in this space is Csikszentmihalyi's
(1990) concept of flow, involving activities experienced as intrinsically rewarding, and well
matched to one’s skills, with an accompanying sense of total involvement, absorption, or
concentration, such that one is completely task-focused (e.g., no extraneous thoughts). Such
activities are not enjoyable per se otherwise they might be classed under hedonism even if
people describe enjoying them afterwards. This terrain also encompasses the multitude of
meditative practices and states, all of which involve training and developing attention skills,
such that one can deploy these to benefit one’s wellbeing (Kabat-Zinn, 2003). We view such
states as “absorbed happiness” – a mental experience of quality relating to one’s attentional
engagement though adjectives like engaged or attentive also suit it. Indeed, as noted above
vis-à-vis band 3, Seligman (2002) suggests engagement is one of three distinct pathways to
overall mental wellbeing alongside pleasure and meaning with each described as “neither
sufficient nor redundant; therefore necessitating cultivation of each to achieve the full life”
(Schueller & Seligman, 2010, p.253). In terms of further research, an interesting question is
what differentiates mindfulness and flow. Although sometimes treated as similar or even
identical, scholars are increasingly sensitive to potential differences (Cathcart et al., 2014),
with a possible point of divergence being self-presence how self-conscious versus selfless
a state is (Millière, 2020). While selflessness is an ultimate goal of many forms of meditation,
we predict that overall it is more easily and frequently attained during flow than mindfulness.
Doing Types
11. Eudaimonic
The final six forms are primarily about doing, of which the most well-known and studied is
eudaimonia. However, although this term often serves as a catch-all for all happiness-related
experiences outside SWB, we use it more narrowly to refer to self-development aligning
with classical depictions of the concept being a mental experience of quality in relation to
one’s sense of character development. Such development may be somewhat intangible and
difficult to experience in the moment. It is more an appraisal that requires a person to observe
and assess their life from some distance, over time. Nevertheless, one can, at a given moment,
sense whether one is progressing towards one’s ideal version of oneself. In Ryff’s (1989)
model of psychological wellbeing, for example, the personal development subcomponent is
exemplified by someone who “has a feeling of continued development; sees self as growing
and expanding [and] sees improvement in self and behavior over time.” In terms of research
questions, our suggestion pertains to us situating eudaimonia as primarily a form of doing.
Our reading of eudaimonia leads us to hypothesise that, while it can be experienced when one
is relatively quiescent (e.g., sitting in reflection), it is more likely encountered in the midst of
physical behaviour (e.g., action in service of one’s values). Moreover, this form of happiness
may also involve negatively valenced emotions; indeed, one sign that a person is making
progress is they are outside their comfort zone, mentally, physically, socially, or spiritually.
Doing so may feel challenging, but ultimately can be integral to a sense of development. So,
we further suggest the more difficult/challenging the behaviour, the greater the eudaimonia.
12. Masterful
We now consider two further forms which are usually included in eudaimonia, but which also
fall outside its boundaries as classically conceived, and are better valued on their own terms.
This first refers to skilfully navigating life captured in Ryff’s (1989) model as mastery
defined as a mental experience of quality concerning the development and use of one’s skills.
While eudaimonia is primarily about character, mastery concerns skills, and although skills
and character sometimes overlap, they are not identical (one can be skilled at abilities that
matter little to one’s personal values but are nevertheless conducive to wellbeing). Moreover,
skills are not necessarily about blossoming into one’s “best self the essence of eudaimonia
but the fit between oneself and one’s environment, and tend to be context-dependent and
situationally relevant. This form of happiness also encompasses the rewards one may receive
from successful skill use, both social (e.g., status) and non-social (e.g., material benefits, like
safely negotiating one’s environs). Although this form lacks a research base per se, it pertains
to phenomena with a vast literature and associated construct and measurement development
especially coping and resilience. Although the latter are usually explored in the context of
mental illness rather than health, there are also moves to consider these in the context of
positive wellbeing. For instance, Akin and Akin (2015) found that “coping competence”
mediates the relationship between mindfulness and SWB. Moreover, we submit that such
mastery is not only associated with happiness, but itself constitutes an experience of quality,
hence being a form of happiness in its own right. The experience of acting masterfully can
itself be rewarding, shown by an extensive literature connecting work engagement to mental
wellbeing (Li et al., 2022). While this form overlaps with absorbed happiness, it is temporally
broader, extending beyond specific states of absorption per se; indeed, of all happiness forms,
we suggest masterful may be among the most long-lasting (in an extended, continuous sense).
13. Accomplished
Closely related to mastery yet worth differentiating is accomplishment/achievement.
Mastery often, but not always, leads to achievement, while achievement will sometimes but
not always require mastery. Independent of mastery, accomplishment is a pillar of Seligman’s
(2011) PERMA model of flourishing (with positive emotions, engagement, relationships, and
meaning, which align respectively with hedonic, absorbed, relational, and meaningful
happiness). While mastery concerns skill use in the present, accomplished happiness is more
about the past and the outcome, constituting a mental experience in relation to what one has
achieved. Once again, although as a specific construct this is a novel proposition, a wealth of
research can be interpreted through its lens, like extensive literatures on the interrelated topics
of motivation and goals, both of which intrinsically involve accomplishment (Covington,
2000). Indeed, a common way to understand the very concept of valence is through notions
of approach versus withdrawal, with feelings of pleasure and reward arising in relation to the
extent one is progressing towards a goal. So, although construing accomplishment as a form
of happiness per se is novel, there is a substantial literature for viewing such experiences as
mental states of quality. In further exploring this form, an interesting angle is the question of
moral worth (Nash et al., 2013). In that regard, we predict accomplished happiness will be
heightened to the degree one appraises the successes it reflects as having such worth.
14. Harmonic
A key finding of the Global Wellbeing Initiative is the importance of balance and harmony in
life. As with contented happiness, these notions are closely associated with Eastern cultures,
and likewise are linked to low arousal positive emotions. However, as with the latter, the
World Poll data shows balance and harmony are experienced and valued globally (Lomas,
Lai, et al., 2022), as did Delle Fave et al.'s (2016) analyses of lay perceptions of happiness.
The importance of these ideas has also been captured by Kjell et al.'s (2016) Harmony in Life
Scale, focusing on “psychological balance and flexibility in life”. In this and follow up work
by Kjell and Diener (2021), the authors suggest such harmony constitutes a distinct aspect of
the cognitive component of SWB. Rather than this component being unidimensional (just life
satisfaction), they argue it has two factors (i.e., also involving harmony in life). Such findings
augment the process of granular disaggregation we are deploying with SWB. We separated
its cognitive aspect into its own form of evaluative happiness, and differentiated the affective
aspect into two forms high arousal (hedonic) and low arousal (contented). Complementing
this process, Kjells work suggests we should likewise differentiate the cognitive component
into evaluative and harmonic happiness, the latter being a mental experience of quality with
respect to how well the different elements of one’s life are ordered and operating together.
This is still a new area of enquiry though, so more work is needed. In terms of hypotheses,
we suggest harmonic and evaluative happiness ought not to be too highly correlated (e.g., at
least below 0.7), which would justify Kjell and colleagues’ suggestion of treating them as
separate components of SWB’s cognitive dimension.
15. Nirvanic
This taxonomy has mainly drawn on contemporary academic concepts relating to happiness.
However, many religious/spiritual traditions have also developed detailed ideas in this area,
and moreover continue to meaningfully contribute to our understanding, including insights
presently not well understood by modern science. Buddhism in particular has a wealth of
psychologically-oriented theories about happiness of all kinds. Uppermost is its ultimate goal,
nirvāṇa, a complex concept which alludes to the complete and lasting cessation of dukha
(roughly, suffering), and attainment of moka (total freedom), resulting from following the
Buddhist path (Collins, 2010). This path involves various actions (e.g., ethical behaviour),
hence positioning this form as relating to doing. Thus, nirvanic happiness might be
conceived as a mental experience of quality with respect to one’s capacity to be relatively
permanently free of suffering. While rarefied and even esoteric territory, such teachings
remind us we have yet much to explore and understand in this arena. To that point, although
this form lacks a substantial modern empirical research base, a voluminous literature has
developed within traditions over the centuries around such states, elucidating their properties
in depth. We accord with modern scholars of such accounts in taking them seriously as
illuminating significant potentials of the human condition (Fontana, 2007). Indeed, some
empirical inroads are being made: there is now considerable research on the neurophysiology
of meditation, for instance, including advanced transcendent states (Wahbeh et al., 2018).
Still, much more work is needed. To that point, while this form is ostensibly linked to
Buddhism, similar themes appear in other traditions, and many cultures have concepts that
represent a similar apotheosis. Thus, we predict mental states with significant similarities to
nirvāṇa will be found across cultures and religious traditions.
16. Relational
This final form is as per chaironic and vital happiness of a different ontological order to
the rest: happiness as a relational phenomenon. The others can all be conceived as individual-
level phenomena. Even if they involve other people e.g., relationships are one component
of Ryff's (1989) notion of psychological wellbeing all are conceptualised as existing within
the person as an inner psychological state, potentially reflecting the individualism of the
Western cultures that shaped psychology (Christopher & Hickinbottom, 2008). By contrast,
some other cultures especially those seen as “collectivistic” – prioritise perspectives on
happiness that are fundamentally relational (Izquierdo, 2005). However, even in relatively
individualistic Western cultures, people still need close relationships and recognise their
importance, as per the voluminous literature on social capital (Putnam, 1995). Indeed,
arguably the apex of relational happiness is love, which most people would surely regard as
universal. Such relational happiness which Hitokoto and Uchida (2015) call interdependent
happiness is intersubjective, existing at the level of multiple people as an emergent gestalt
phenomenon. Nevertheless, it is still experienced by individuals, so can be defined as a
mental state of quality arising from an interpersonal dynamic. This of course overlaps with
social wellbeing, as vital and chaironic happiness did with physical and spiritual wellbeing.
However, as in those cases, it is also worth having this as a mental experiential concept. The
key point here is that relationships are not merely a factor that influences happiness, but in
themselves may constitute a form of happiness, one which only exists in an interpersonal
way. More work is needed to explore this form, though some progress has already been made
through Hitokoto and Uchida's (2015) Interdependent Happiness Scale, which has started to
be explored in contexts like Italy and Poland (Mosca, et al., 2021) and Turkey (Demirci,
2022). In that respect, we predict relational happiness will be more highly sought, valued, and
experienced than people often expect, especially in contexts usually viewed as individualistic.
This paper has proposed an expanded taxonomy of happiness, featuring 16 distinct forms.
However, this is a novel framework, and will require corroboration in future research. To that
end, for each form, we offered a hypothesis that may help establish its validity. Building on
these predictions, we conclude by adding some general hypotheses and considerations that
apply across all forms, and provide a roadmap for exploring the contours of happiness in
greater detail. First, a general principle is that for the taxonomy to be upheld, it should be
possible to differentiate the forms empirically. Thus, an overall prediction is that self-report
scales for the forms ought to not correlate too highly, while there will nevertheless be some
correlation. One might envisage that, just as any given set of intelligence tests tends to result
in a common g factor (general intelligence), so might we find a common h factor, where
overall a person’s scores on different forms of happiness tend to coalesce around similar
levels influenced for instance by genetically-influenced temperament (Lomas, Bartels, et
al., 2022). Indeed, several overarching constructs have been proposed that might serve as a
potential unifying factor, including positive orientation (Caprara et al., 2010), and the joyful
life (Robbins, 2021). A fruitful line of enquiry will be to explore the extent to which these
concepts map onto and potentially if serving as an overarching h factor encompass all 16
forms. If assigning figures, we might expect a range of correlations between the forms of .3
to .7 (based on Ryff’s (1989) work on psychological wellbeing, with correlations between its
dimensions ranging from .32 to .72). Currently not all forms have scales notably intellective
and nirvanic happiness and their development will be a key aspect of future research. As for
the remaining 14, these do have scales that would serve as a basis for empirical enquiry.
Where possible, psychometric analyses could ideally be augmented by other methods,
especially qualitative and neurophysiological approaches. First, gaining rich qualitative data
about the forms would help elucidate their nature (in addition to any psychometric analysis).
Participants could perhaps be recruited based on experiencing a given type, and asked about
it through in-depth interviews, with the results analysed by Interpretative Phenomenological
Analysis, which allows in-depth exploration of subjectivity. Complementing such analyses
are neurophysiological assessments of these states. For example, there are already hundreds
of such studies of meditative states, giving valuable clues about their neurophysiological
signatures (Lomas, Ivtzan, et al., 2015). Even more powerfully, the neurophenomenology
paradigm combines both approaches, triangulating phenomenological analysis of qualia with
neurophysiological analyses of brain states, providing integrative accounts of how realms
might intersect (Cahn & Polich, 2006). This kind of program could be employed to explore
all forms of happiness. This would require inducing these while a person is connected to a
relevant neurophysiological recording device. One possibility is using virtual/augmented
reality technology to immerse people in digital environments geared towards generating
specific forms of happiness. For instance, Chirico et al. (2021) used virtual reality to induce
experiences of the sublime (a concept discussed above in relation to aesthetic happiness).
Although they did not conduct neurophysiological assessment during this experience, one
could easily add it to the paradigm. In such a way, we would obtain a neurophysiological
signature of the sublime. One could then augment this with qualitative interviews to truly
obtain a detailed picture of this state. One could aim to similarly elicit and study all happiness
forms in this manner, thereby developing detailed understanding of not only their subjective
dynamics, but how these dynamics relate to the corresponding neurophysiology, which will
truly allow us to chart the fine-grained forms of happiness in all their rich complexity.
Finally, future work would ideally trace the relationships between this taxonomy and
other theories and frameworks that also pertain to the broad terrain we are labelling happiness
or more generically, mental wellbeing but which conceptually carve it up in other ways.
One important example is Maslow’s work on self-actualization, as for example interpreted by
Kaufman (2023), whose new scale of self-actualization features ten dimensions, in which one
can arguably see refracted the various happiness forms, including: continued freshness of
appreciation (e.g., aesthetic, absorbed, chaironic, intellective); acceptance (mature, contented,
harmonic, evaluative); authenticity (eudaimonic, mature); equanimity (contented, mature);
purpose (meaningful, masterful, accomplished); efficient perception of reality (aesthetic,
intellective); humanitarianism (relational, harmonic); peak experiences (hedonic, chaironic,
nirvanic); good moral intuition (eudaimonic, relational); and creative spirit (intellective,
aesthetic). As one can see, these dimensions potentially capture all forms here, except vital,
interestingly, which perhaps reflects the way the body has largely been overlooked by
psychology. Another key framework in the arena of mental wellbeing is self-determination
theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Again, one can picture how the happiness forms might pertain
to the core needs of relatedness (especially relational happiness), achievement (especially
masterful, accomplished, and evaluative happiness), and autonomy (with the most relevant
perhaps being eudaimonic happiness, albeit less directly). However, that the latter lacks an
obvious candidate speaks to the fact that our taxonomy may not be exhaustive, and may
warrant including additional forms. Vis-à-vis autonomy, for instance, one might imagine an
further form centred on experiences like individuation, liberation, freedom, etc., perhaps as a
form of “liberated happiness.”
In addition to these multidimensional frameworks are specific constructs which also
pertain to mental wellbeing. In the sections above we identified ones that pertain to different
forms. However, some such are not easily pigeonholed, and are more overarching, spanning
numerous forms. We already noted that positive orientation and the joyful life potentially
cover all forms. Besides these are various others which, if not as all-encompassing, at least
pertain to several forms. Resilience for example not only relates to coping and adaptation, but
has been explored from a virtue perspective as a positive by-product of having endured
adversities while transforming them into insightful opportunities for renewal” (Kim et al.,
2018, p.195). Such qualities would appear integral to numerous forms, not only masterful (as
discussed above), but also mature, accomplished, eudaimonic, and nirvanic. Another fecund
concept is love of life (Abdel-Khalek, 2007), which taps into many forms, especially hedonic,
chaironic, aesthetic, absorbed, and nirvanic. Finally, besides relating the taxonomy to other
ideas concerning mental wellbeing specifically, it will also be valuable to situate it relative to
concepts across psychology more broadly. A prime example is the Big Five model of
personality; indeed, not only have factors like extraversion been linked to happiness (Lucas &
Fujita, 2000), but “stable extraversion” has been proposed as constituting happiness (Frances,
1999). However, such research tends to focus on hedonic and evaluative happiness, and it is
unclear how personality dimensions would map onto other forms. That said, one might
hypothesise that openness to experience may pertain especially to intellective, absorbed, and
aesthetic happiness, agreeableness to relational, contented, and harmonic happiness, and
conscientiousness to eudaimonic, accomplished, and masterful happiness. However, this will
need exploring in future. At the very least, as this conclusion has indicated, there is fertile
ground to explore not only in developing an enriched conception of happiness, but situating
its constructs within the broader network of ideas in psychology, and beyond that within the
still-wider web of concepts across myriad fields interesting in wellbeing. It is hoped this
paper will provide a foundation and impetus for this kind of enquiry, allowing us to develop a
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... 70). Moreover, the picture may be more complicated still; indeed, we (Lomas & VanderWeele, 2023) have developed a taxonomy featuring 16 forms of mental health identified in the literature. While it is beyond our scope to dwell on its details, the salient point is that mental health can be differentiated into numerous forms. ...
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The Oxford Handbook of the Positive Humanities is the foundational scientific reference for the new and rapidly growing field of the Positive Humanities, an emerging interdisciplinary domain of inquiry and practice focused on the arts and humanities in relation to human flourishing. This Handbook comprises 38 chapters authored by nearly 70 leading experts across a wide range of academic disciplines. The volume begins with an overview of the science and culture of human flourishing, covering historical and current trends in this literature. Next, contributors consider the well-being benefits of engagement with the arts and humanities, identifying neurological, cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and social pathways to human flourishing. These pathways lead to detailed investigations of individual fields within the arts and humanities, including music, art, theatre, film, literature, philosophy, history, and religion. Along the way, the book synthesizes theory, research, and exemplary practice, concluding with thought-provoking discussions of avenues for public engagement and policy. With its expansive coverage of both the field as a whole and specialized disciplinary and interdisciplinary drivers, this Handbook advances the literature on the theory and science of well-being and extends the scope of the arts and humanities.
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Our understanding of well-being, and related concepts such as health and flourishing, is shaped by the metaphors through which we think about such ideas. Current dominant metaphors—including a pyramid, ladder, and continuum—all have various issues. As such, this paper offers two other metaphors which can better do justice to the nuanced complexities of these notions, namely, a garden and an orchestra. Through these metaphors, this paper articulates a comprehensive framework for conceptualizing and appreciating the nature of well-being (and associated concepts), which it is hoped will generate further insights and research into these valued and sought-after phenomena.
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Vitality has been underappreciated and underexplored by academia at large. This oversight is potentially explained by the Western-centric nature of most fields, with vitality having been comparatively neglected in the West relative to elsewhere. One explanation for this lacuna is that vitality is not easily pigeonholed within the ontological categories dominant in the West, such as mind and body. This paper therefore aims to learn from cultures that have cultivated a greater understanding of vitality, doing so by engaging with relevant 'untranslatable' words (i.e., those without exact equivalent in English), thus enriching our conceptual map of this topic. Over 200 relevant terms were located and analyzed using an adapted form of grounded theory. Three themes were identified, each with four subthemes: spirit (life force, channels, soul, and transcendence); energy (fortitude, channeling, willpower, and recharging); and heart (desire, passion, affection, and satisfaction). The paper thus refines our understanding of this important topic and provides a foundation for future research.
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Scholarly understanding of happiness continues to advance with every passing year, with new ideas and insights constantly emerging. Some constructs, like life evaluation, have been established for decades, generating extensive research. Cantril’s “ladder” item on life evaluation, for example – the question in the Gallup World Poll upon which this report is based – was created in 1965.1 By contrast, other well-being related topics are only beginning to receive due recognition and attention, including balance and harmony.
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Recent decades have seen an intensification of scholarship on wellbeing. Looking ahead, the next frontier may be engaging with the possibility of non-human forms of wellbeing. This paper reviews the main candidates for what these forms may be, limiting its considerations to entities that are living and capable of conscious experience. However, what makes this topic so complex and fascinating is that what exactly constitutes life or conscious experience is not self-evident. Thus, this paper considers various potential life forms, which vary in the extent to which they challenge standard conceptions of life, including organic life forms on earth, matter, AI, and extra-terrestrial life. Some possibilities are unlikelier and more speculative than others, but all have at least a non-zero probability, so merit at least some consideration and attention. Moreover, the paper articulates why these possibilities have considerable relevance for human wellbeing, and so warrant the attention of wellbeing scholars.
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Happiness is an increasingly prominent topic of interest across academia. However, relatively little attention has been paid to how it is created, especially not in a multidimensional sense. By ‘created’ we do not mean its influencing factors, for which there is extensive research, but how it actually forms in the person. The work that has been done in this arena tends to focus on physiological dynamics, which are certainly part of the puzzle. But they are not the whole picture, with psychological, phenomenological, and socio cultural processes also playing their part. As a result, this paper offers a multidimensional overview of scholarship on the ‘architecture’ of happiness, providing a stimulus for further work into this important topic.
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The purpose of this study was to explore whether work engagement during the work period affected the specific recovery process during the non-work period. According to the Work-Home Resources (W-HR) model, this study from a day-level perspective used work engagement as a predictor of non-work mastery experiences as well as control experiences and explored whether the mediating role of recovery level at the end of the workday was established, which was beneficial to re-understand the role of work engagement in promoting employees’ well-being in the transition from work to non-work. A daily diary design was adopted, with 2 measurement occasions per day for 1 workweek (N = 112 persons, 510 valid data sets in within-person level). Results about day-level relationships confirmed that work engagement was positively associated with the non-work mastery experiences as well as control experiences, recovery level at the end of the workday played a mediating role between daily work engagement and non-work control experiences, but the mediating role between work engagement and non-work mastery experiences was not established at the within-person level. Practical and theoretical implications for work engagement and non-work recovery were discussed.
A wealth of research has suggested the West tends toward individualism and the East toward collectivism. We explored this topic on an unprecedented scale through two new items in the 2020 Gallup World Poll, involving 121,207 participants in 116 countries. The first tapped into orientations toward self-care versus other-care (“Do you think people should focus more on taking care of themselves or on taking care of others?”). The second enquired into self-orientation versus other-orientation (“Which of the following is closest to your main purpose in life? Being good at what you do in your daily life, Caring for family and close friends, or Helping other people who need help?”). We anticipated that self-care and self-orientation would index individualism (hence be higher in the West), while other-care and other-orientation would index collectivism (hence be higher in the East). However, contrary to expectation, there was greater self-care in the East (45.82%) than in the West (41.58%). As predicted though, there was greater self-orientation in the West (30.20%) than in the East (23.08.%). Greater self-care in the East invites one of two interpretations. Either these items: (a) index individualism and collectivism as anticipated, so in some ways the East is more individualistic and the West less individualistic than assumed; or (b) do not index individualism and collectivism as anticipated, so the concepts are more complex than often realized (e.g., collectivism may involve prioritizing self-care over other-care). Either way, the findings help complexify these concepts, challenging common cross-cultural generalizations in this area.
The starting point in the wellbeing research of this chapter is that life is full of suffering, just as the living environment is full of bacteria, viruses, and toxins. Therefore, a realistic strategy to research sustainable happiness needs to include at least two components: (1) the capacity to overcome or live with suffering and stress, as measured by a comprehensive misery index, and (2) the process to achieve mature happiness and flourishing despite the dark side of human existence. This two-pronged approach is based on the second wave of positive psychology (PP 2.0). At the broadest level, wellbeing research needs to be situated in the context of universal human suffering, while a middle level of theorizing needs to specify the special circumstances and people. Furthermore, a complete theory needs to integrate the best evidence and wisdom from both the East and West. Mature or noetic happiness is characterized by a sense of acceptance, inner serenity, harmony, contentment, and being at peace with oneself, others, and the world.
In this commentary, we offer some remarks concerning distinctions that might be drawn between psychological well-being, emotional well-being, well-being more generally, and flourishing. We put forward a flexible map of flourishing to help understand the relative place of these and other terms, and their respective nestings. We discuss some of the challenges concerning terminology related to the use of ordinary language, as well as practices of branding ordinary language expressions that potentially threaten understanding, and we offer some suggestions as to how to navigate some of these terminological challenges in the well-being literature.