What Is Positive Psychology?

By the late 1990’s, the field of psychology was about a century old. For various reasons, scientists in the field almost exclusively studied mental illness and dysfunction.

It was at about that time that a few pioneering researchers—like Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, now well-known to the public for their successful books—felt a need to bring balance to the field by studying human strengths and well-being.

In a nutshell, Positive Psychology aims to understand and foster the factors that allow human individuals and communities to thrive. It moves away from a disease-focused model to instead focus on qualities that build to positive outcomes. The goal is to discover what truly makes life worth living.

“From” vs. “Towards” – Rather than asking “What conditions prevent people FROM functioning normally?”, Positive Psychology asks “What conditions move people TOWARDS living a better life?”

Now a new and blossoming field of science, Positive Psychology making huge strides in humanity’s understanding of their own well-being.

There is a ton that could be said about Positive Psychology: its history, its role in the world, where it’s going and the challenges it currently faces. However, exploring these topics will not be the purpose of this page. If you’re interested in learning more about Positive Psychology, here are some helpful resources to check out:

Instead, this page will provide a specific look at the various models of well-being that have emerged from the field of positive psychology. Well-being refers to optimal psychological functioning and experience – essentially, what constitutes a good life.

This page will:

Foundation: What Is Well-Being?

First, let’s revisit and expand on a useful framing for looking at well-being.

Hedonic vs. Eudaimonic Well-Being

If you’ve read the page on Happiness vs. Joy, you’re familiar with this concept already:
In defining well-being, we must distinguish between feeling certain emotions versus meeting certain criteria. Functionally, this is why psychologists distinguish between the two in well-being research.

Colloquially—throughout this site, and in most research—Hedonia and Eudaimonia are also used to make a general distinction between pleasurable, subjective experiences, and experiences of virtue, like meaning, purpose, etc.

Another Aristotle Legacy

For Aristotle, happiness (hedonia) was not the primary reason for living.
In his ethical treatises, Aristotle called attention to eudaimonia and aretê (‘virtue,’ ‘excellence’) as the traits of a good life.

Throughout positive psychology literature, eudaimonia is often introduced as Aristotle’s brainchild. But contrary to popular belief, Aristotle didn’t originate the concept of Eudaimonia. It existed in Greek vocabulary hundreds of years before he was born. (Haybron 2016)

**It can be fun to look at ideas of the good life from long ago. You can see a list of ancient conceptions of well-being here.

Another broad and functional definition of eudaimonia is “Activities and experiences included in, or resulting from, the development of valuable individual potentials and social relations.” (Vittersø 2016)

By now there are many descriptions of eudaimonia (see page 10 of the Handbook on Eudaimonic Well-Being). Concordantly, they each echo a fundamental theme of modern positive psychology, and the theme of this website: Meaning, its components and applications, is key to a well-lived life.

So, if you walk away from reading this page with only one model in mind, let it be this one—the distinction between hedonia and eudaimonia—in order to foster the consideration and effort you put toward eudaimonic aspects of well-being.

The Power of Meaning

One of the central concepts explored on this site is meaning in life.  The science doesn’t lie: meaning is an underrated, keystone aspect of human well-being.

Check out the Why Meaning page, the Power of Meaning infographic, and the video below on hedonia as a hindrance to a good life:

*Click to see the full version.

After the models, we will importantly revisit the hedonia/eudaimonia concept, presenting how it helps researchers discern between subjective and (more) objective measures of well-being. We’ll also question the limits of this dichotomy in consideration of other measures like Psychological Richness. But more on all of that later. 🙂

4 Leading Models

Researchers are presenting more-honed models every year. There are many to choose from, and these are among the best.
(Of course, we’re partial to our own models presented below, and think they offer about as comprehensive and helpful a map of well-being as you can find.)

Ryff’s 6-Factor Model

There’s no acronym or metaphor for Carol Ryff’s “6-Factor Model of Psychological Well-Being,” but it has nevertheless cemented itself, and it has been useful for countless research projects since its original conception in her landmark 1989 paper. Ryff’s 6 factors are:

  1. Autonomy – Being independent and regulating one’s behavior independent of social pressures. “I have confidence in my opinions, even if they are contrary to the general consensus.”
  2. Environmental Mastery – Making effective use of opportunities and having a sense of mastery in managing environmental factors and activities, including managing everyday affairs and creating situations to benefit personal needs. “In general, I feel I am in charge of the situation in which I live.”
  3. Personal Growth – Continuing to develop, welcoming new experiences, and recognizing improvement in behavior and self over time.”I think it is important to have new experiences that challenge how you think about yourself and the world.”
  4. Positive Relations with Others – Engagement in meaningful relationships with others that include reciprocal empathy, intimacy, and affection. “People would describe me as a giving person, willing to share my time with others.”
  5. Purpose in Life – Strong goal orientation and conviction that life holds meaning. “Some people wander aimlessly through life, but I am not one of them.”
  6. Self-Acceptance – Positive attitude about oneself. “I like most aspects of my personality.”


In 1998, Martin Seligman was ushered in as president of the American Psychological Association. During his inaugural address, he condemned the strictly “from” approach of traditional psychology and stressed the importance of understanding well-being. He challenged psychologists across the globe to shift their study to what a good life is and how we attain it.

One could say this was the moment Positive Psychology was born, and why Seligman is considered the founder of the field.

A few years later, Seligman published his groundbreaking book Authentic Happiness, which laid some groundwork for popular conception of PP. However, it wasn’t until 2011 that Seligman published Flourish, wherein he revised the approach of the first book and presented the PERMA model. (Flourish is our favorite book of all on the topic of ‘happiness.’)
Seligman actually disliked the title of his first book and detests the word happiness. Like us, he prefers to reign in the broken concept of ‘happiness,’ instead using the term well-being as the stated goal of PERMA and positive psychology.

These are the elements of the PERMA+ model:

  1. Positive Emotion – Like hedonic well-being, this can come from many sources and refers to the subjective experience of ‘good’ feelings.
    Examples: Feelings of enjoyment, fun, play, gratitude, calmness, etc.
  2. Engagement – This is in line with the popular concept of Flow, including lower forms of absorption as well. It is losing yourself in the moment while focusing on a task or activity.
    Examples: Hobbies and tasks like playing music, sports, or many others.
  3. Positive Relationships – This refers to the social interactions that frame our lives. The model asserts that humans are inherently social creatures, and we need this component to have a good life.
    Examples: Family, friends, partners, coworkers, and even our wider community.
  4. Meaning – Seligman describes meaning as “belonging to and serving something that you believe is bigger than the self.” He loosely refers to it as having a purpose in life.
    Examples: Believing in a spiritual faith or existential order, being involved with organizations or causes you believe in.
  5. Achievement – Mastery, competence, accomplishment…this component is a sense of working towards and reaching our goals. This component calls attention to intrinsic goals and growth, working toward something for the sake of pursuit and improvement.
    Examples: Milestones in school or work, and reflecting on/celebrating successes.
  6. The ‘+’ – Seligman points out the incompleteness of PERMA, especially considering context-relevant factors, such as environmental factors that can make or break the other elements of the model. For example, he has generalized the ‘+’ to refer to Vitality, including physical health and things like Optimism and Hope.
    Examples: Exercise, general physical health, positive mindset, and other Enablers.

Other Notes About the PERMA+ Model:

  • Seligman highlights the leading role of positive relationships as the most important, and conducive to all the other elements. This aligns with this site’s use of people/relationships as the branches ‘framing’ our experiences in our Landscape of Meaning model.
  • Seligman states that his 24 ‘Signature Strengths’ from Authentic Happiness underpin all elements of the PERMA model. (You can find your strengths with the VIA survey.)
  • Positive emotion is the only wholly subjective component. The other 4 have both subjective and objective components, meaning “you can believe you have engagement, meaning, good relations, and high accomplishment and be wrong, even deluded.” More on subjective vs. objective measures later.
  • PERMA lacks empirical validation as a model of well-being, (Donaldson 2022) with findings still giving mixed results. And Seligman concedes this, clarifying that the value of PERMA is as a ‘framework’ rather than a model… like a helpful mental aid for understanding well-being. The same is true of other models on this page (and most ‘models’ generally). Indeed, they can still be valuable constructs for people seeking well-being.


In 2006, Harvard University hosted a class, Positive Psychology 1504, which taught students how to be ‘happier’ and share ‘happiness’ with others. It ended up being Harvard’s most popular class of all time.

That class was taught by Tal Ben-Shahar, a renowned writer, leadership instructor, and founder of numerous institutes and businesses across the domains of individual and organizational well-being and leadership.

In 2007, Ben-Shahar published Happier, his first breakout book on well-being, which presented the SPIRE model. The model offers a loose, bird’s-eye view of the domains from which individuals draw well-being. Here are the descriptions of each component from Ben-Shahar’s Wholebeing Institute:

  1. Spiritual – Leading a meaningful life and mindfully savoring the present.
  2. Physical – Caring for the body and tapping into the mind/body connection.
  3. Intellectual – Engaging in deep learning and opening to experience.
  4. Relational – Nurturing a constructive relationship with self and others.
  5. Emotional – Feeling all emotions, reaching towards resilience and positivity.

Ben-Shahar, like many other positive psychologists, begrudges the broken concept of ‘happiness,’ stating in his newer book:

“I would argue that to leave the concept of happiness undefined—to settle for a murky and unclear approximation of what the good life entails and exacts of us—is to compromise on our ability to understand, pursue, and attain it.” – from Happiness Studies

He thereby offers a reframing of ‘happiness’ as “Wholebeing.” He builds off of the SPIRE model with the 12 Principles of the Wholebeing Approach, which he currently uses in an attempt to integrate happiness studies into schools.

Perhaps the best thing about Tal Ben-Shahar’s model is his sunlight/prism/rainbow metaphor. In his writing, Ben-Shahar calls attention to the paradox of pursuit (learn more about that here), and offers that chasing ‘happiness’ directly can be self-defeating. Instead of staring directly at ‘the sun,’ it behooves us to focus on and pursue the components of the rainbow instead.

Scott Barry Kaufman’s Transcendence Models

There is a new ‘every person’s’ psychologist on the scene. Scott Barry Kaufman is inspiring millions through the breadth and depth of his writing and research. He writes regularly for Scientific American, hosts the often-insightful Psychology Podcast, and has worked on redefining the concept of intelligence.

One of Kaufman’s most relevant books is Transcend: the New Science of Self Actualization. The book is both a revision of Abraham Maslow’s works through a modern lens and a reformulation of theories of well-being through modern scientific lenses. Kaufman points out that, despite its ubiquity, Maslow never actually used a pyramid to represent his hierarchy of needs.

In reconceptualizing Maslow’s theory of self-actualization, Kaufman lays forth a both hedonic and eudaimonic well-being model that, framed as human needs, captures a decent symbolic model for living a good life. The model is a sailboat:

At times, our boat may have holes (our needs for security aren’t met), and staying afloat and moving through the ocean of life can be difficult. When our needs for safety, connection, and self-esteem are fulfilled, we can lower our sails of growth, moving in our most valued directions, living well, and fulfilling our human potential. With wind in our sails, we even become more resilient against the winds and waves of life.

Finally, when we are sailing steadily, we might experience the emergent phenomenon of transcendence. Transcendent states happen on a continuum of perceived unity, and they can be the most wondrous moments of life, when we feel most connected and harmonious with everything.

Check out this article from Kaufman for a more full breakdown of the sailboat metaphor.

More Models

There are many other models worth mentioning, each with their own pros and cons. Some have names, some have metaphors, some are academic, and some are not.

Each is worth its own consideration. You are encouraged to click through to the respective resources and learn more.

Layard’s BIG 7 and ‘GREAT DREAM’

In his book Happiness, Prof. Richard Layard offers his ‘big 7’ causes for ‘happiness’ as Family Relationships, Financial Situation, Work, Community and Friends, Health, Personal Freedom, and Personal Values.

Now, after teaming with other researchers, sociologists, and educators (and with the patronage of the Dalai Lama), Layard is working on a forward-thinking organization called Action for Happiness, where they present 10 Keys to Happier Living based on the latest research. Following the acronym GREAT DREAM, those keys are giving, relating, exercising, awareness, trying out, direction, resilience, emotions, acceptance, and meaning.

Gallup’s 5 Essential Elements of Well-Being

If you’re aware of the WEIRD problem plaguing psychology (the fact that most studies are conducted with western college students), then it may have (understandably) bothered you so far while considering other models of well-being. Well, this will be a breath of fresh air. Gallup and Healthways have amassed what they claim to be the “world’s most comprehensive, definitive source of well-being measurement,” which utilizes over 2 million well-being interviews from people all over the world.

With it, they present a model of 5 Essential Elements: career well-being, social well-being, financial well-being, physical well-being, and community well-being. You can see a full breakdown of the elements and other findings on their website or by reading their book, Wellbeing.

Gallup’s framing and findings on well-being are very sociological and economical in nature, and their conclusions are very general too. But it is nevertheless the highest-numbered dataset on well-being out there.

Lyubomirsky’s Sustainable Happiness Model (SHM)

A leader in Positive Psychology research is Sonja Lyubomirsky. For a couple of decades, this prolific scientist has been researching ‘happiness’ and collaborating with some of the best in psychology. She has shed light in a remarkably informative, well-delivered way with her two hit books, The Myths of Happiness and The How of Happiness.

The latter of those two is one of our six favorite books on ‘happiness.’ The book makes an assertion about our happiness ‘set point’ and—even on its cover—states that ‘up to 40%’ of one’s happiness is within one’s power to change. This is a bit misleading and has since been validly refuted, which Lyubomirsky confirms. However, it plays a small part in a book that is otherwise an excellent, no-fluff, practical, science-informed guide to living better.

The book presents Lyubomirsky’s Sustainable Happiness Model (you can check out a revised version here), and the 5 Hows of Sustainable Happiness: positive emotion, optimal timing and variety, social support, motivation effort & commitment, and habit.

The SHM model continues to mature in research in academia, and Lyubomirsky’s work continues to guide the PP movement. The model has spurred other helpful models, like the Eudaimonic Activity Model, Hedonic Adaptation Prevention Model, and Positive Activity Model.

Raj Raghunathan’s 7 Deadly Sins

Let’s come out and say it: there are too many books on ‘happiness’ by business executives. Go to the self-help section of your local bookstore, and you will find books by professional ‘happiness’ researchers sitting next to books by Oprah, each claiming to offer keys to optimal living.

Raj Raghunathan is a business and marketing professor who writes on consumer psychology, leadership, and economics. So, it can be surprising to read his book and find so many points aligned, well-researched, and informed by modern science. It has a comprehensive list of references that have been put to use after years of study.

The book is called If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy? It presents valuable advice by pinpointing the utmost barriers to well-being and their antidotes. While it’s not a model, per se, it is worth mentioning here for its validity. Raghunathan presents 7 ‘Deadly Sins’ that prevent ‘happiness,’ and for each a habit/exercise/practice for reigning it in:

  1. Devaluing happiness
  2. Chasing superiority
  3. Desperation for love
    • The need to love (and give)
  4. Being overly controlling
    • Gaining internal control
  5. Distrusting others
    • Exercising “smart trust”
  6. Passionate/indifferent pursuit of passion
    • Dispassionate pursuit of passion
  7. Mind addiction

You can learn more about Raghunathan’s approach, do exercises, and even take some valuable assessments on his site, happysmarts.com.

Models on AMeaningOfLife.org

What’s different about the models of well-being you’ll find here?

Most of the models above focus on a few pieces of the whole picture to keep things simple. With less interdependence among factors—like picking out a few islands to map out—they don’t aim to plot every facet of the well-being sea.
And that’s ok. It is very likely impossible to form a completely comprehensive model of human well-being. And measuring every aspect may hold too much complexity for any research to presume, as we’ll see later.
Nevertheless, the models on this site aim to offer a map of this whole ‘sea.’ For the sake of practical use in one’s own life, they aim to serve as a more comprehensive consideration of well-being and all it entails, rich with metaphor and welcoming complexity.

You’ll see many aspects of the models above echoed, with a few specific keystones:

The 4 Elements Model of Well-Being

Overall well-being (the grand, colloquial ‘happiness’) is composed of 4 Elements:

  1. Ephemeral Pleasures – Essentially positive feelings, or hedonic well-being, the first element describes simply feeling good. Pleasure tends to over-assert itself in our minds and activities, but it can be optimized for overall well-being.
  2. Flow & Engagement – Deeper than pleasure, these high-performance psychological states are where we learn fastest and produce our best work. Like pleasures, there are pros and cons to this element, and they can be harnessed for even greater well-being through community, discovery, and more.
  3. Perspective – This element is sort of a meta-element, as it comes into play in everything we do. It is about our wisdom and our stories. This is that joy that comes from ‘the inside’ and is untouchable by circumstances.
  4. Meaning – Meaning in life is the most important aspect of one’s well-being. This is the missing part of hedonia that is covered by eudaimonia.

The 4 Cornerstones Model of Meaning

For its powerful and decisive role in a life well-lived, we stress Meaning as the most important Element of Well-Being. And as an element, it is itself composed of 4 Cornerstones. They are interwoven and complex, and helpful considered in these categories:

  1. Expression – This is the sense of meaning we experience through living outwardly and sharing our authentic selves with the world. It could be art, speaking to our friends about something we care about, or doing work that we feel uniquely skilled at.
  2. Service – This is when we work towards goals that are larger than ourselves. It can be closely wrapped up with Purpose and can be found all over one’s life.
  3. Discovery & Exploration – This is the meaningful process of coming into the world and oneself. Learning about life, the world, and even one’s own personality and identity.
  4. Love – This is a sense of meaning through relating: relationships like partners, friends, and family—even relating to larger concepts like ‘the world’ or our community. This cornerstone is deeply interwoven with the others.

Check out the Landscape of Meaning page for a full explanation of this model, which considers more than just the 4 cornerstones.

Other Models on this Site

You’ll find many other models on this site. With the breadth and depth sought here, you’ll stumble across many visual aids, mnemonic devices, and acronyms that aim to simplify the complexity of well-being and make it memorable and practical. Here are a few more of note:

The Bliss Map offers a very handy heuristic for finding work that suits you well. You may have seen it before as a visual infographic of the “Ikigai” concept.

Levels of Consideration offers a metaphorical model of the depth and intention with which we approach life. How rich and varied is your existential vista?

The ‘Enablers’ is a collection of the MANY tangential and/or interwoven skills of life that aid in the process of finding greater well-being. It includes big skills like Habit, Hope, Gratitude, and Mindfulness, and even lesser-considered ones like Play and Awe.

Find More Detail on Our Models

There is a page that goes into more detail on the models of well-being used throughout this site? Check it out:

It doesn’t end here.

There are countless ‘models of well-being’ out there. Every person, researcher, author…every religion, guru, and motivational speaker…every uncle has ideas on how to live well. Most ideas contain grains of truth and spectrums of concepts within concepts.

So, how do we approach all this noise? What should we be aware of while considering all of these models?

An Elephant in the Room: Subjectivity and Complex Constructs

By this point, are you getting a strange sensation like the models and their constructs are blending together? Do you feel the terms slipping into one another in a complex soup of non-discrete units?

There seems to be a way of everything sort of…becoming everything else in psychology (like in philosophy, and even other sciences, for that matter). But not everything holds the same sort of truth and relevance.

Subjective vs Objective Measures

There are 2 primary angles from which we can measure a so-called ‘good life’ and its elements.

Subjective Measures:
What people say they experience on their own terms.
A subjectivist approach: A good life is ‘well-lived’ from the perspective of the person living it.

Objective Measures:
What people experience according to predefined, measurable terms.
An objectivist approach: A good life is ‘well-lived’ according to some standards, like virtues or metrics dictated by research, society, etc.

Note: we can definitively say that the latter is more objective, but not that it is wholly objective. These are still complex constructs, even if they’re commonly used.

“Moral philosophers agree that welfare matters. But they do not agree about what it is, or how much it matters.” – L.W. Sumner, Welfare, Happiness, and Ethics

In 1984, Ed Diener defined Subjective Well-Being (SWB) simply and at face value. Since then, SWB has become a catch-all for self-reported measures of well-being generally. Many researchers in Positive Psychology use SWB as one definition of happiness, and some camps believe that it is the best—or even the only—reliable way for us to measure a ‘good life.’

“SWB should be thought of as the facet or specific form of well-being that captures how people evaluate their own lives.” (Diener 2018)

But is self-reporting really the only reliable place to look for ‘happiness?’
Recall Aristotle’s position that happiness is not the primary reason for living. Do you agree, even in part? A ‘good life’ isn’t as face-value as one’s own judgments of their emotions.

Is all of this sounding familiar? This distinction between subjective and more-objective measures has matured and blended into the dichotomy of Hedonia vs Eudaimonia.

Now, these terms offer psychologists important frameworks for talking about well-being and how to measure it. This is about so much more than simple research methods. It reflects 2 different rationales for thinking about well-being. Vitterso (2016) even proposes referring to them as System 1 (subjective only) vs System 2 (objective only) thinking, or Happiness 1 vs. Happiness 2.

This visual shows a very helpful conception of Hedonic (in white) vs Eudaimonic (in blue) well-being. And, importantly, it highlights 2 key points:

  1. Hedonic well-being (SWB) considers only subjective measures of well-being. Eudaimonic well-being considers subjective AND objective measures.
  2. Hedonia and Eudaimonia are incomplete without the other. They are interdependent. 

In other words—even though the research is messy and requires a mixed approach—we must consider subjective AND objective aspects (whether hedonic or eudaimonic) when we think about a well-lived life as a whole.

Hell(s) and Paradise(s)

A fun and interesting mixture of objective vs subjective well-being was illustrated by Michalos and Robinson in 2012, when they proposed this classification in 4 categories:

  1. ‘Real Paradise’ – people living in good conditions who evaluate their lives as good
  2. ‘Real Hell’ – people living in bad conditions who evaluate their lives as bad
  3. ‘Fool’s Paradise’ – people living in bad conditions but evaluating their lives as good
  4. ‘Fool’s Hell’ – people living in good conditions but evaluate their lives as bad

Complex Constructs

“Perhaps the most common cause of bad reasoning is the use of ambiguous terms, which mean one thing in one place and another thing elsewhere. A word with two distinct meanings is really two words.” – William Jevons, economist, 1890

The other, perhaps biggest, problematic elephant in the room is language.

Yes, psychology is a real, legitimate science. And, there is a reason why some folks consider it to be a ‘soft’ science. The fact of the matter is that psychology necessitates high levels of abstraction. So, a better way of saying it would be:

Psychology is a higher-order science.


When a physicist refers to the constant pi, they are calling on a pure, explicit, objective aspect of existence. ‘Hard’ sciences like physics and math are full of ‘low-level’ systems and components.

Yet, in sciences like psychology, there is a constant—if not subtle—separation between the words we use and to what, exactly, those words refer. Nearly every important, operating word in psychology is a complex construct with fuzzy edges, blending into the related words and concepts around it.

Much of the work of psychology is the work of tightening the boxes around the fog:

Psychologists are the scientists studying the human experience. They perform factor analyses, create new words, and refine concepts that we might otherwise throw around nonchalantly. They do the impossible, staring down the variability of ideas like ‘happiness’ and making sense of it. Psychologists do what they can, at the least by bravely working toward consensus of definitions. Positive Psychology simultaneously gets us closer to understanding well-being and affirms its variability/relativity.

“At this point, given the amount of research that exists, a thorough and detailed overview of what we know about subjective well-being, including the strength of support for specific research findings or theoretical models would be impossible.” (Diener 2018)

“The foundation of any scientific field is measurement. The value of scientific evidence rests on valid connections between theoretical constructs and their measures. For well-being, countless constructs and associated measures have been developed: a 2016 review identified a staggering 99 different measures capturing 196 different well-being constructs (Linton, Dieppe, & Medina-Lara, 2016), with more measures published since. Yet there is little clarity and agreement on how to organize these measurement components in a satisfying way.” (Disabato 2020)

There is always more subjectivity to be found in the phenomena of individual experience. Not even mentioned here is the permeating role of culture, for example. (Kitayama 200) And we are still realizing entire modalities of well-being that have been right under our nose, like Psychological Richness. (Oishi 2021)

Though it is exceedingly simple to point out, it behooves us all, scientist or not, to remember where we stand in modeling well-being. It is a messy yet necessary collaboration of imperfect brains and language. There are so many models and aspects to consider, some more or less valid than others, and yet they ALL rely on some heuristics, ALL humbled by some amount of subjectivity.

We are infants on a collective path toward understanding ourselves, the cosmos, and how they fit together.

All models are wrong, and some are still useful.

via SMBC

In Closing…

There is no ‘Grand Unified Theory’ of ‘Happiness.’ It is unlikely that there will ever be one.

But not all models are equal. Our 4 Elements model of well-being, models you’ll find in these recommended books, and the models mentioned above, are very likely much better and more accurate than the clever quotes you get tagged in from your uncle on Facebook.

Beware the noise. Everyone is seeking well-being, so leagues of people are selling their recipes for it. Most are hogwash.

As you walk your path and consider the deep questions, look to academics and research, non-profits (this project is a 501c3), and thinkers or institutions with less profit-motive and more conviction. Understand that nobody’s recipe is 100% correct. Foster a healthy degree of acceptance of that uncertainty.

Most of all, practice.

As you grow your awareness of well-being and its components, reflect on how it applies to your life. Personalize your understanding by using tools like our Assessment Center, in which you can measure 50 factors of well-being in your own life. Fill out the Well-Being Diary. Read other sections of this site and do the practice and exercises provided throughout each subject. Keep a gratitude journal.
Do the work.

We’re here to help.

Poke around on the site. There is a wealth of content and many ways to orient to it. If you’re new to the site, you can check out different ways to explore it here.


  • Diener, E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 95(3), 542–575. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.95.3.542
  • Ed Diener, Richard E. Lucas, Shigehiro Oishi; Advances and Open Questions in the Science of Subjective Well-Being. Collabra: Psychology 1 January 2018; 4 (1): 15. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/collabra.115
  • Disabato, D., Goodman, F. R., & Kashdan, T. B. (2019, December 31). A hierarchical framework for the measurement of well-being. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/5rhqj
  • Haybron, D.M. (2016). The Philosophical Basis of Eudaimonic Psychology. In: Vittersø, J. (eds) Handbook of Eudaimonic Well-Being. International Handbooks of Quality-of-Life. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-42445-3_2
  • Kitayama, S., & Markus, H. R. (2000). The pursuit of happiness and the realization of sympathy: Cultural patterns of self, social relations, and well-being. In E. Diener & E. M. Suh (Eds.), Culture and subjective well-being (pp. 113–161). The MIT Press.
  • Michalos, A. C., & Robinson, S. R. (2012). The good life: Eighth century to third century BCE. In K. C. Land, A. C. Michalos, & M. J. Sirgy (Eds.), Handbook of social indicators and quality of life research (pp. 23–61). Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer
  • Oishi, S., & Westgate, E. C. (2021, August 12). A Psychologically Rich Life: Beyond Happiness and Meaning. Psychological Review. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/rev0000317
  • Ryff, C. D. (1989). “Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 57 (6): 1069–1081. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.57.6.1069. S2CID 29135711.
  • Ryff CD (2022) Positive Psychology: Looking Back and Looking Forward. Front. Psychol. 13:840062. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.840062
  • Vittersø, J. (2016). The Most Important Idea in the World: An Introduction. In: Vittersø, J. (eds) Handbook of Eudaimonic Well-Being. International Handbooks of Quality-of-Life. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-42445-3_1