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Regular version of the site

Moscow. International symposium “Happiness beyond Wellbeing”

On June 1-2 International Laboratory of Positive Psychology of Personality and Motivation has held an international symposium “Happiness beyond Wellbeing”, where some of the most distinguished researchers in the field of positive psychology discussed the phenomenon of eudaimonic happiness.

The symposium was aimed at stimulating the dialogue and developing a common perspective on eudaimonia, making it a better defined concept. It was opened by Dmitry Leontiev, Head of the International Laboratory of Positive Psychology of Personality and Motivation. Dr. Leontiev set course for further discussion. Maria Falikman, Head of Psychology Department of Higher School of Economics, also greeted the symposium participants and expressed her sympathy towards the topic and hope that the symposium would bring many new ideas and research trends in the field of positive psychology.

The program of the symposium included seven keynote lectures that summarized the current state of the problem:

·     Kennon Sheldon (University of Missouri, USA and Higher School of Economics, Russia)

·     Joar Vittersø (University of Tromsø, Norway)

·     Ilona Boniwell (Positran, France and Anglia Ruskin University, UK)

·     Dmitry Leontiev (Higher School of Economics, Russia)

·     Ruut Veenhoven (Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands)

·     Veronika Huta (University of Ottawa, Canada)

·     Evgeny Osin (Higher School of Economics, Russia)

Kennon Sheldon touched upon the issue of “Balkanization” of happiness, its being split into several concepts endorsed by separate groups of researchers. As a way to solve this problem, Dr. Sheldon proposed the usage of subjective wellbeing measure as an “honest signal” of thriving to facilitate comparisons across studies.

Joar Vittersø presented his team’s empirical findings and argued that there are two different phenomena, which are usually mixed: emotions related to need satisfaction and positive experiences, which lie beyond well-being and emotional balance. He then highlighted the need to operationalize the latter and do more research to find out whether those positive experiences constitute different constructs or one construct with different names.

Ilona Boniwell described the case of Bhutan whose government adopted Gross National Happiness (GNH) as a new development paradigm 30 years ago. The project included developing new policies aimed at maximizing GNH of its citizens in nine domains: health, living standards, education, psychological well-being, community, cultural diversity and resilience, time use, governance, and ecological diversity.

Concluding the first day of the Symposium, Dmitry Leontiev has given an analysis of the issue, whether happiness and well-being are synonyms, as it is often assumed, and if not (as it is the case), what can account for their distinction. He noted a consensus regarding the understanding of well-being and widely diverging definition of happiness. He suggested treating well-being as the common dimension of different forms of happiness, both rather simple hedonic ones and more complicated eudaimonic ones. The latter suggest more dimensions that require to consider, besides positive and negative emotional evaluations, the contexts of life, needs, agency and meaning. He proposed several theoretical models of happiness to disclose the relationships between well-being and happiness: a 2-level, a 2-dimensional and a 3-dimensional ones.

The second day of the Symposium started with Ruut Veenhoven’s presentation on the ethics of using happiness as a moral lead. By gradually deconstructing the concept of happiness into hedonic and eudaimonic happiness and comparing strengths and weaknesses of each, Dr. Veenhoven concluded that any single moral lead is insufficient, and moral choice requires pluralism. He then asserted that “happiness plus” or combination of hedonic and eudaimonic happiness is indeed a strong moral lead.

Veronika Huta presented her way of distinguishing between hedonic and eudaimonic orientations based on a large amount of data collected over the years. Hedonic orientation was related with pleasure and comfort and represented “here and now” tangible outcomes, while eudaimonic orientation was related to authenticity, meaning, excellence and growth and represented long term, global and abstract outcomes.

Evgeny Osin in his presentation summarized the concept of eudaimonic happiness developed in collaboration with Ilona Boniwell. Starting with philosophical inquiry, followed by empirical exploration, they developed a concept based on eudaimonic experience, self-determination, personal meaning, self-transcendent meaning, openness, and capacity for effort.

Also, a number of researchers presented their posters:

·     Pathways to Well-being: Optimistic Attributional Style as Mediator of the Effect of Basic Psychological Needs (T. Gordeeva, O. Sychev, M. Lunkina)

·     Healthy self-esteem contingency as predictor of subjective well-being, optimism and academic achievements in adolescents (M. Lunkina)

·     Savoring the Moment is a Predictor of Subjective Happiness, Mental Well-being (V. Titova, T. Gordeeva)

·     Through the lens of personality development: when mindfulness and self-reflection come into balance (A. Tonkikh, V. Kostenko)

·     The learning to be basic competence in higher education: teaching personal strengths and evaluating in terms of happiness? (A. Belykh)

·     Meaningfulness as the general presence of intrinsic worthiness – Well-being, morality, contribution and authenticity as types of intrinsic values (F. Martela)

·     Тesting Russian version of Flow Short Scale: some preliminary results  (L. Alexandrova, I. L’vova)

·     Social Environment and Subjective Wellbeing in Rural Teenagers  (S. Tyulyupo, B. Dashieva, L. Alexandrova)

·     The Role of Subjective well-being in Stress Development of Arctic Children (A. Lebedeva, A. Fam)

 The symposium was concluded by a round table where the participants discussed the emerging concept of eudaimonia and directions of future research on this topic. Dmitry Leontiev stated that the Symposium was successful in meeting its goals and expectations and has a chance to open a new line of joint research. Kennon Sheldon called the Symposium “an interesting and brave attempt to solve some persistent problems in the positive psychology field, having to do with the definition and the conception of happiness, and distinguishing between higher and lower forms of happiness”. Veronika Huta added that the Symposium participants reached a high degree of consensus and although there is still a long way to go, considerable progress has been made.