ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (3): 481-491.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2021.00481

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Homeostasis and transition of well-being: A new integrative perspective

SUN Junfang1,2, XIN Ziqiang3, BAO Hugejiletu1,4(), LIU Min1, YUE Heng1   

  1. 1School of Psychology, Inner Mongolia Normal University, Hohhot 011517, China
    2School of Educational Science, Jining Normal University, Ulanqab 012000, China
    3School of Sociology and Psychology, Central University of Finance and Economics, Beijing 100081, China
    4School of Physical Education, Inner Mongolia Normal University, Hohhot 010022 , China
  • Received:2020-06-24 Online:2021-03-15 Published:2021-01-26
  • Contact: BAO Hugejiletu


Previous empirical and theoretical studies hold different views on the stability and variability of well-being (or subjective well-being). Set-point theory holds that people can psychologically adapt to the ups and downs of objective environment, and the influence of objective environment on well-being can be neglected. The individual well-being usually maintains at a certain set-point level determined by genes or personality. Dynamic equilibrium theory (and its variant— subjective well-being homeostasis theory) further emphasizes that well-being usually keeps in equilibrium level based on stable personality traits or genes, and external stimulus such as life events will cause well-being to deviate from the equilibrium level for a short time. After a period of time, well-being will return to the set-point (range) and be in dynamic equilibrium. On the basis of dynamic equilibrium theory, hedonic adaptation theory considers from the perspective of emotional adaptation that the individual well-being usually keeps at a certain equilibrium level, and external stimulus or events may cause strong positive or negative emotions, but individuals will gradually adapt to this stimulus and their emotional response will gradually weaken, so that well-being will return to the initial equilibrium level. All three theories emphasize that well-being should be maintained at a certain equilibrium level. In contrast, sustainable well-being theory holds that the factors affecting well-being include genetic factors, environmental factors and intentional activities. It emphasizes that intentional activities can cause continuous changes in well-being, which can significantly improve well-being and maintain long-term effects. The essence of the difference between these theoretical perspectives lies in how the stability and variability of well-being are viewed. On the basis of the concepts of homeostasis and allostasis in biology and the concept of transition in physics, we firstly analyze the influencing factors, processes and mechanisms of the stability and variability of well-being from the perspective of homeostasis and transition. All four theories hold that genetic factors or emotional adaptation which are inherent in individuals, can explain the stability of well-being, environmental factors can cause short-term changes in well-being, and intentional activities can cause long-term changes in well-being. Set-point theory, dynamic equilibrium theory and hedonic adaptation theory hold that well-being usually maintains at a certain equilibrium level, the process of its stability and variability is similar to homeostasis, and the adjustment mechanism is negative feedback. Sustainable well-being theory emphasizes that intentional activities can make well-being form a new equilibrium state, and its process of stability and variability is similar to allostasis. Homeostasis occurs transition, causing well-being homeostasis to adjust. Its adjustment mechanism is positive feedback. Therefore, from the perspective of homeostasis, allostasis and transition, we believe that well-being is usually within a certain set-point range, and the external stimulus may make well-being temporary deviation from the equilibrium state, after a period of time, well-being will return to the original dynamic equilibrium state, but if it is affected by strong or continuous stimulation, well-being may deviate from the set-point range for a long time and form a new homeostasis. This integrated perspective provides a new explanation framework for well-being research and has enlightening implications for the continuous improvement of well-being.

Key words: well-being, homeostasis, allostasis, transition, stability, variability

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