What is Well-Being in Positive Psychology?

What is Well-Being in Positive Psychology?

What is Well-Being?

In this article, I discuss what is well-being from a positive psychology perspective, highlighting its different sides and approaches according to research.

What is ‘Well-Being’ in Positive Psychology 

In the field of positive psychology, It’s is by consensus considered a multidimensional construct, where distinctive theoretical interpretations of its elements have been suggested by researchers. For a review of the many definitions and theories, see Hone, Jarden, Schofield, & Duncan (2014).

A well-established definition states that “wellbeing can be understood as how people feel and how they function, both on a personal and social level, and how they evaluate their lives as a whole, how well someone’s life is going for them” (Mental Health Commission of NSW, 2017, p9). A key construct from research, adds that wellbeing consists of the nurturing of 5 elements: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment (known as PERMA, developed by Seligman (2002).

The Two Sides of Wellbeing

It is useful to briefly define the two sides to wellbeing. The first, eudemonic wellbeing, focuses on meaning and self-realisation, where wellbeing has to do with the degree to which an individual is fully functioning. Hedonic wellbeing, the other side, is about the happiness element, defining wellbeing in line with its pleasure attainment and pain avoidance (Ryan, 2001).

The Two Key Approaches in Defining Well-being: Subjective and Psychological Well-being.

There are two key approaches in defining : subjective and psychological well-being.

Subjective well-being comprises many different factors and is used as an umbrella term (Kun & Gadanecz, 2019). Subjective well-being generally refers to a mental and/or emotional evaluation of one’s life (Diener et al., 1999). It is considered subjective because it is about experiencing a high level of positive affect, low levels of negative affect, and a high degree of life satisfaction (Deci & Ryan, 2008).

The two sides of Well-being are Eudemonic Wellbeing, which focuses on meaning and self-realisation & Hedonic Wellbeing, which is about the happiness element.


Psychological is a state where someone realises their potential, copes well with normal life stress, works effectively and meaningfully and contributes to their community. However, more importantly, psychological wellbeing is both a condition and sign of positive feelings and functioning (Keys, 2002). This points to ways in which the broaden and build theory might aid in our understanding of the application and outcomes of psychological wellbeing, given that the theory explains how positive emotions serve as a means of achieving psychological growth and wellbeing via resources and skills.

Psychological is focused on an individual’s optimal functioning, comprising concepts such as hope and purpose in life (Ryff, 1989). Some subjective well-being theories concentrate on emotion, the striving of positive emotions and pleasure (hedonic aspects of well-being), some focus on eudaimonic aspects (i.e., the good life, self-actualisation), and other theories blend both domains (Ryan & Deci, 2001).

Written by Aisha Meguid
Well-Being Teacher, Educator, Consultant & Coach

This article is an excerpt from an essay written during my Masters Degree in Applied Positive Psychology (Melbourne University)

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