Positive psychology is a field of study that focuses on understanding and promoting human happiness and wellbeing. Within this discipline, wellbeing is approached from various dimensions, each shedding light on different aspects of the human experience. In this article, we will delve into three prominent dimensions of wellbeing: subjective wellbeing, psychological wellbeing, and social wellbeing. Furthermore, we will explore Martin Seligman’s expansion of happiness, which encompasses the pleasant life, the engaged life (eudaimonia), and the meaningful life. Together, these dimensions and perspectives provide a comprehensive framework for understanding and enhancing wellbeing.
Subjective wellbeing, as defined by Ed Diener, is centered around an individual’s personal evaluation of their life satisfaction and overall happiness. It focuses on subjective experiences, emotions, and judgments about one’s own life. Diener emphasizes that wellbeing goes beyond objective circumstances and material possessions, as it is primarily influenced by internal factors such as mindset and attitude.
Within subjective wellbeing, Martin Seligman expands upon the concept of happiness by introducing three distinct paths: the pleasant life, the engaged life, and the meaningful life.
a) The Pleasant Life
The pleasant life refers to the pursuit of positive emotions and pleasure. It involves maximizing positive experiences, savoring the present moment, and cultivating a sense of enjoyment in life’s simple pleasures. While pleasure is an essential component of wellbeing, the pleasant life alone may be fleeting and superficial if not balanced with other dimensions.
b) The Engaged Life (Eudaimonia)
The engaged life, also known as eudaimonia, is centered around the concept of personal growth, self-actualization, and the pursuit of meaning and purpose centered on one’s strengths. It involves identifying and utilizing one’s strengths, engaging in activities that align with one’s values, and experiencing a sense of flow and deep engagement in everyday life. The engaged life goes beyond momentary pleasure and seeks to cultivate a sense of fulfillment and flourishing.
c) The Meaningful Life
The meaningful life revolves around a sense of purpose, connection, and contribution to something greater than oneself. It involves engaging in activities and relationships that hold significance and provide a sense of meaning. This dimension often involves acts of kindness, empathy, and making a positive impact on others or society. The meaningful life adds depth and richness to one’s wellbeing by fostering a sense of connectedness and leaving a lasting legacy.
Psychological wellbeing, as conceptualized by Carol Ryff, emphasizes personal growth, self-acceptance, autonomy, positive relationships, environmental mastery, and a sense of purpose. It focuses on the psychological aspects of wellbeing that contribute to a person’s overall functioning and fulfillment.
Ryff’s model identifies six key dimensions of psychological wellbeing:
a) Self-Acceptance: The ability to accept and have a positive attitude towards oneself, including accepting both positive and negative aspects.
b) Personal Growth: The continuous development and realization of one’s potential, pursuing new challenges, and striving for personal improvement.
c) Autonomy: Having a sense of independence, self-determination, and the ability to make choices in alignment with one’s values and beliefs.
d) Positive Relationships: Nurturing and maintaining healthy and fulfilling relationships, characterized by mutual respect, support, and intimacy.
e) Environmental Mastery: The capacity to manage and adapt to the external world effectively, feeling a sense of control over one’s surroundings.
f) Purpose in Life: A sense of direction and meaning, driven by personal goals, values, and a broader understanding of one’s place in the world.
3. Social Wellbeing
Social wellbeing, as proposed by Corey Keyes, emphasizes the importance of positive social connections, social contribution, and social integration. It recognizes that human beings are inherently social creatures, and our wellbeing is deeply influenced by the quality of our social relationships and interactions.
Keyes identifies five components of social wellbeing:
Social Acceptance: This component refers to the perception of being accepted and valued by others within one’s social networks. It involves experiencing positive social interactions, support, and a sense of belonging.
Social Actualization: Social actualization involves the belief in one’s potential for growth and development within social contexts. It includes the pursuit of personal goals, the realization of one’s capabilities, and the belief in one’s ability to make a meaningful impact on others.
Social Contribution: Similar to what was previously mentioned, social contribution emphasizes actively contributing to the well-being of others and society as a whole. Engaging in acts of kindness, altruism, and making a positive impact on others fosters a sense of purpose and social connectedness.
Social Coherence: Social coherence refers to the sense of understanding and coherence in one’s social environment. It involves perceiving social relationships and interactions as meaningful, predictable, and comprehensible.
Social Integration: Social integration, as mentioned earlier, relates to the extent to which individuals feel connected to their communities, have a sense of belonging, and participate in social activities. It encompasses social relationships, networks, and a sense of being a part of a larger social group.
Wellbeing is a multi-dimensional concept that encompasses subjective, psychological, and social aspects. Understanding and cultivating wellbeing requires attention to various dimensions, including personal evaluation of life satisfaction, personal growth and self-acceptance, positive relationships, and social integration and contribution. Martin Seligman’s expansion of happiness further enriches our understanding by incorporating the pursuit of pleasure, engagement, and meaning in life. By acknowledging and nurturing each of these dimensions, we can work towards a more holistic and fulfilling existence, ultimately enhancing our overall wellbeing.