The "three happinesses" and the "happiness formula" : evidence from Hong Kong

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Ho (2006) proposed that there are three kinds of happiness: retrospective happiness, happiness in process, and prospective happiness. Retrospective happiness refers to the state of happiness of a person as he ponders his past: he may be satisfied with his past endeavors, or cherish the sweet moments that he had spent with his loved ones; or he may be still hurting from past traumas, grievances, or regrets. Happiness in process refers to the happiness as a person is engulfed in what he is doing. An artist may be enjoying his artistry; a musician may be enjoying his playing of a great piece; a singer may be enjoying his singing. One can also be simply “enjoying life”, or enjoying family life or the company of people around him. On the other hand he may be suffering from an ailment, or the agony of some unpleasant experience. Prospective happiness refers to the happiness experienced by a person as he looks forward to the things that are about to happen. A couple about to be married may cherish the prospect of raising a family; a scientist may cherish the prospect of a major discovery. Despite the different descriptions, paradoxically perhaps, all three kinds of happiness are experienced at the moment and are therefore realized on the spot. For example, anxiety about the future as well as remorse gives rise to unhappiness NOW. Similarly, satisfaction about one’s past achievements or the expectation of an achievement gives rise to happiness NOW. The immediacy of the retrospective or prospective happiness or unhappiness is no different from that caused by an experience that is going on.


CPPS Working Paper Series No.196 (Sep 09)

Recommended Citation

Ho, L. S. (2009). The "three happinesses" and the "happiness formula": Evidence from Hong Kong (CPPS Working Paper Series no.196). Retrieved from Lingnan University website:

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