Theory and research have identified two facets of well-being (Ryan & )

Theory and research have identified two facets of well-being (Ryan & )

The first facet of well-being can be defined as the person’s general happiness with his/her life (hedonic well-being: Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1998), while the second one is concerned with self-realization or personal growth (eudaimonic well-being: Ryff & Keyes 1995). These different facets of well-being are posited to be related (e.g., one may be happy when reaching self-realization), but also to constitute separate factors of psychological well-being (e.g., one may be suffering while trying to reach one’s potential see Miquelon & Vallerand 2006). In the present paper, I refer to both types of well-being without distinction. As will be seen below, this is because passion, and especially harmonious passion, can positively contribute to both.

I submit that a passionate activity that people have been engaging in for years (and sometimes a lifetime; Rousseau & Vallerand 2003) under similar conditions may just do as well and maybe better

Of interest is the fact that not much attention has been given to how psychological well-being can be increased, let alone maintained following increases. There are several reasons for this (see Seligman 2011), including the fact that research reveals that there seems to be a psychological well-being set point for each individual determined by hereditary causes (e.g., Lykken & Tellegen 1996). Furthermore, should there be some gains in well-being, these are expected to be momentary as people apparently adapt to change (e.g., the hedonic treadmill; Brickman & Campbell 1971).

Although it is undoubtedly true that there is probably a hereditary set point with respect to psychological well-being and that people may habituate to events and circumstances, this does not mean that increases in psychological well-being are not possible or that such increases cannot be sustained over time. Indeed, some authors (e.g., Lyubomirsky et al. 2005; Seligman 2011) have suggested that engaging in certain activities may lead people to experience positive benefits as pertains to their well-being. Lyubomirski et al., in particular, posit that a certain class of activities they label “happiness-relevant activities” may actually lead to sustainable positive gains in well-being. What characterizes these activities is that they are intentional in nature and are deployed with effort. Examples are activities such as expressing gratitude (Algoe 2008), counting your blessings (Froh et al. 2008), and writing about life goals (King 2001) that have indeed been found to have positive effects on one’s well-being. In addition, activities that reflect a person-activity fit, that allow people to reach goal-attainment, and that leave room for variety would appear important (Sheldon 2002). Based on these findings, Lyubomirsky and colleagues recommend that people “find new activities to become engaged in, preferably activities that fit their values and interests. They should make a habit out of initiating the activity while at the same time varying their focus and timing in terms of the way they implement the activity” (p. 126).

I agree with several of their suggestions

The position of Lyubomirsky and colleagues is refreshing and important. Their work opens up an avenue of research and interventions that could have drastic implications for the understanding of processes involved in facilitating the experience of sustainable psychological well-being. For instance, engaging in “intentional” activities has the potential to yield some important psychological benefits to the individual and in fact, better than circumstances that simply happen to people. Furthermore, psychological benefits are more likely to happen if such activities are in line with one’s interests and values. However, my perspective differs from theirs on a number of points. First, I do not believe that it is necessary that an activity be new (or engaged in under new and varied conditions) to lead to some sustainable positive effects. This is because when passionate about a given activity, people become “expert” in this activity, they grow psychologically as individuals, and their self in this sphere of activity becomes increasingly complex. Consequently, the same activity can offer opportunities for some renewable elements that will sustain the increases in psychological well-being. I even propose that if the activity is not passionate it may even be discarded along the way, especially if it is too demanding (e.g., exercise, especially initially). This will not be the case when people are passionate about an activity.

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