Motivation and emotion/Book/2022/Hedonic adaptation prevention model

Hedonic adaptation prevention model:
What is the HAP model and how can it be applied?


This chapter looks at Kennon Sheldon and Sonja Lyubomirsky’s HAP model, and how we can prevent hedonic adaptation and maintain the glow of positive life events for longer.

Focus questions:

  • What is the HAP model?
  • How can the HAP model be applied?

Hedonic adaptationEdit

The concept of hedonic adaptation is that we have an individual baseline level of happiness, and that despite both positive and negative changes in our lives, we adapt to the positive or negative affect and return to our individual baseline level of happiness.

Figure 1. Illustration of hedonic adaptation.

Figure 1. Illustration of hedonic adaptation

For more information on hedonic adapation[spelling?], also known as the hedonic treadmill, please refer to the hedonic treadmill book chapter.

Let’s talk about George. George is a generally happy guy. George thinks he will be happier when he moves from his apartment into his new house. George is right, he is happier!

Although he is happy with his new house, after a while George has settled into a new routine and is used to living in his new house. George is as generally happy as he was when he lived in his apartment.

The hedonic adaptation prevention (HAP) modelEdit

Sheldon and Lyubomirsky's HAP model is focused on our adaptation to positive changes, and how, when we experience a positive life change, such as moving into a new house, the HAP model can be applied to 'maintain the glow' (Sheldon and Lyubomirsky, 2021).

The HAP model was first published in the Oxford Handbook of Happiness (Sheldon, Boehm and Lyubomirsky, 2013), and was revisited by Sheldon and Lyubomirsky in 2021.

"According to the hedonic adaptation prevention model... adaptation unfolds via two paths – through decreases in positive emotions (bottom path) and through increases in aspirations (top path)" (Bao and Lyubomirsky, 2014).

Figure 2. HAP model

How can the HAP model be applied?Edit

The HAP model details two paths to prevent adaptation and sustain the initial happiness boost.

Figure 2. The HAP model.[missing something?]

Bottom-up emotional approachEdit

The first is a bottom-up emotional approach – and adaptation is moderated by variety in the number of positive events, and the number of positive emotions we feel in relation to the positive change.

If George wants to prevent adapting to his new house, and sustain the initial boost to his happiness, he needs to continue to interact with the positive change, in a variety of ways. George could purposefully use the rooms in his house, he could plant a garden or set up a library, or he could invite his friends over, to do a variety of activities.

Top-down aspirational approachEdit

The second is a top-down aspirational approach – and aspiration is moderated by appreciation. Adaptation is accelerated by our expectations and judgmental processes. As we adapt to a positive life change, we may compare our circumstances to others. We may then want more for ourselves, and be tempted to believe we deserve it. The glow starts to fade, in comparison to whatever someone else has or what we could have.

If George wants to prevent adapting to his new house and sustain that initial boost to his happiness, George needs to appreciate what he has. George could remind himself that what he has now is what he once wanted. He could be grateful he has a house, and appreciate what he has already achieved, and what those achievements have meant for him.

Other aspectsEdit

The HAP model is one small piece of the happiness research puzzle. Doubts about the possibility of increasing and maintaining happiness apparently come from four areas of research, genetic predisposition, hedonic adaptation, personality, and the dark side of the pursuit of happiness (the detrimental effects of disappointment in the pursuit of happiness) (Boehm, Ruberton, and Lyubomirsky, 2017).

The HAP model fits into the hedonic adaptation area of research, and is focused on ‘hedonic adaptation to positive experience as a critical barrier to raising happiness’ (see (Bao & Lyubomirsky, 2013; Lyubomirsky, 2010; Sheldon et al., 2012; Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2012).

If people become accustomed to (and take for granted) anything positive that happens to them, then how can they ever become happier? The HAP model suggests that adaptation to positive experience proceeds via two paths: 1) through diminished positive emotions and 2) through increased aspirations. The key to achieving increased and lasting well-being thereby lies in effortful, intentional activities that slow down or preclude the positive adaptation process. The hypothesis is that such activities share several properties that potentially help them to effectively forestall adaptation: they are dynamic, episodic, novel, and attention-enticing. (, 2022)

Sonya’s research takes a construal approach to happiness (see Why are some people happier than others: the role of cognitive and motivational processes in well-being, 2001 for her earlier framework) and many of Sonya’s and her colleagues’ happiness research projects have resulted in a model, that contribute to the broader happiness research (such as the Sustainable Happiness Model (SHM) (2005) incl. the happiness pie chart, and from that thinking the Eudaimonic Activity Model (EAM) (Sheldon, 2017), the Hedonic Adaptation Prevention (HAP) model (2012) (also the HAPNE model, 2010), and the Positive Activity Model (PAM) (2013).

Research that tests the HAP modelEdit

How it can be applied?Edit

This included research on romantic relationship (Bao and Lyubomirsky, 2013) and a longitudinal study of undergraduate students (Sheldon and Lyubomirsky, 2019), the outcomes of which supported the HAP model.


The most important point to remember is that hedonic adaptation is meant to happen, we are meant to adapt to the positive and negative events in our lives, and having a baseline level of happiness is not a limitation. Happiness fades, and there is nothing the matter with us when it does. There are, however, ways we can hold onto rather than chase happiness, and to maintain the glow of positive life events for longer.

The answer, in the HAP model is moderated aspiration, variety and appreciation.

See alsoEdit


Bao, K. J., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2014). Making happiness last: Using the hedonic adaptation prevention model to extend the success of positive interventions. The Wiley Blackwell handbook of positive psychological interventions, 373-384.

Bao, K. J., & Sonja Lyubomirsky (2013). Making it last: Combating hedonic adaptation in romantic relationships, The Journal of Positive Psychology: Dedicated to furthering research and promoting good practice, DOI:10.1080/17439760.2013.777765

Diener, Ed., Lucas, R. E., & Scollon, C. N. (2006). Beyond the Hedonic Treadmill: Revising the Adaptation Theory of Well-Being. The American psychologist, 61(4), 305-314.

Lyubomirsky, S. (2011). Hedonic adaptation to positive and negative experiences. In S. Folkman (Ed.), Oxford handbook of stress, health, and coping, 200-224. New York: Oxford University Press.

Lyubomirsky, S. (2001). Why are some people happier than others? The role of cognitive and motivational processes in well-being. The American Psychologist, 56(3), 239–249.

Sheldon, K. M., Lyubomirsky, S. (2021). Revisiting the Sustainable Happiness Model and Pie Chart: Can Happiness Be Successfully Pursued?, The Journal of Positive Psychology, 16(2), 145-154, DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2019.1689421

Sheldon, K. M., Boehm, J., Lyubomirsky, S. L. (2013). Variety is the spice of happiness: The hedonic adaptation prevention (HAP) model. In Boniwell, I., David, S. (Eds.), Oxford handbook of happiness, 901-914. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Sheldon, K. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2012). The Challenge of Staying Happier: Testing the Hedonic Adaptation Prevention Model. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(5), 670–680.

Sheldon, & Lyubomirsky, S. (2006). Achieving Sustainable Gains in Happiness: Change Your Actions, not Your Circumstances. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7(1), 55–86.

External linksEdit