The Challenge of Staying Happy
Despite the obvious connection—that we love anything Hap—we’re also excited for a sort of prescription for maintaining happiness coming out of the latest scientific research. A set of scientists have developed a two-part model to maintain higher levels of happiness after happy events.
“Although the Declaration of Independence upholds the right to pursue happiness, that search can be a never-ending quest,” says Kennon Sheldon, professor of psychological sciences at the University of Missouri. “Previous research shows that an individual’s happiness can increase after major life changes, such as starting a new romantic relationship, but over time happiness tends to return to a previous level.”
Keeping Up The Happy
The new model, which helps people prolong the happiness felt after major events, consists of two major components: to keep having new and positive life-changing experiences (variety) and to keep appreciating what you already have and not want more too soon (appreciation).
Sheldon addresses the happiness created by a new relationship: “for example, they stopped doing fun things with their new boyfriend and started wishing he was better looking.” As people lose the variety and the appreciation, their happiness returns to its previous level.
The Hedonic Adaptation Prevention (HAP) model specifies two routes by which the well-being gains derived from a positive life change are eroded—the first involving bottom-up processes (i.e., declining positive emotions generated by the positive change) and the second involving top-down processes (i.e., increased aspirations for even more positivity). The model also specifies two moderators that can forestall these processes—continued appreciation of the original life change and continued variety in change-related experiences.
Leveling Up Happiness
Basically, this HAP model says that we aren’t doomed to one level of happiness. Sheldon’s research suggests that people can train themselves to stay at the top of their possible range of happiness: “A therapist can help a person get from miserable to OK; our study shows how people can take themselves from good to great,” Sheldon says.