The 2 Types of Happiness in Psychology

People from all around the world value happiness.

Many different cultures, great leaders, and philosophers have been contemplating what happiness is for thousands of years.

Positive psychology, by comparison, has only been studying it a short time. While their approach is more evidenced-based, their theories still draw inspiration from ancient, philosophical thinkers.

And one of the basic lessons we’re learning, is that there are really two types of happiness. And knowing about each of them can help you cultivate more happiness in your own life.

Psychology’s 2 Types of Happiness

First, it’s important to mention psychology’s recent plunge into the study of happiness. Because happiness is a relatively new subject, researchers are still defining what happiness is, what it’s made of, and how to measure it.

It can be a tricky thing. Happiness is highly subjective. Not everyone finds happiness in the same ways or doing the same things.

Today, however, psychologists largely agree that there are two basic components of happiness when they conduct research.

What are the 2 types of happiness in psychology?

Researchers classify happiness as either being hedonic or eudaimonic. These schools of thought are largely attributed to the Greek philosophers Aristippus and Aristotle, respectively.

Hedonic happiness is largely defined as increased pleasure and decreased pain. It revolves around a person’s current feelings and emotional state. Positive emotions include feelings of pleasure, joy, curiosity, pride, awe, and excitement. Negative emotions include feelings of anger, shame, guilt, stress, or sadness.

Eudaimonic happiness revolves around a person’s satisfaction with their life. It is more reflective of their life experiences and actions. Irrespective of their current state of emotions. Purpose and meaning in life, flourishing, growth, and self-actualization are all concepts that are related to, or a part of, eudaimonic happiness.

Another easy way to think about the two is like this. One is concerned with the short term, transient feelings or emotions. It can be influenced by moods or daily experiences.

The other is a reflection of how a person sees their life and longer term outcomes. Their pursuits, actions, values, and the direction in life.

Researching the 2 Types of Happiness

Most research today tries to incorporate both types of happiness. They want to get a better, more accurate picture of the effects of happiness and how people can obtain it.

When they combine both types, they won’t call it “happiness.” They’ll give it a different name like like flourishing, subjective well-being, psychological well-being, or P.E.R.M.A.

This has produced similar, and sometimes competing, concepts. Making it confusing for the public, but also researchers. The results of research can be hard to measure and interpret if people disagree on definition or basic concept.

Currently, more and more researchers are adopting the term “subjective well-being”, and I’m sure we can expect further progress as the field matures.


Why It’s Important To Know About the 2 Kinds of Happiness

The distinction between the two is important, mostly because it can clear up some misconceptions that people sometimes make.

For example, you’ve probably heard that the pursuit of happiness can actually make you less happy. Yes, research studies have found this to be the case. But it’s very important to understand how and why.

This occurs is because hedonic happiness and eudaimonic happiness are sometimes at odds with each other. Pursuing short term pleasure doesn’t always bring you long term happiness.

Parenting is a great example that demonstrates this point. Parents make tons of sacrifices for their kids, which stresses them out and lowers feelings of joy. However, it gives their life a lot of meaning and purpose, and boosting their well-being in the long run. Many parents will tell you that the sacrifice is more than worth it.

It’s also important because researchers recognize the relationship between the 2 types of happiness is complex. They overlap and are connected, yet still distinct from one another.

Each has its pros and cons, and the benefits have even found to be different. For example, eudaimonic happiness is more strongly linked to better health than hedonic happiness. Other research has found that they can affect our genes in different ways.

Which Type of Happiness is More Important?

Philosophers have argued the best way to live a happy life. Is it one with the most pleasure? Or the one with the most meaning or growth?

I would say the question is less about which is more important. Instead, living the happiest life is striking the right balance between both.