What is psychological well-being, and what’s involved in being “psychologically well”?
First, what it’s not is – necessarily – happiness, because leading a happy life is about emotional, rather than psychological, well-being.
Psychological well-being, on the other hand, has more to do with having the mental attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours that will help you make the most of your life.
Years before the establishment of the positive psychology movement, American psychologist Carol Ryff proposed a six-factor model of psychological well-being in a 1989 paper that has since been cited over 10,000 times.
That’s an indication of its enormous impact on the world of psychology.
I really love Professor Ryff’s work, while also believing that almost thirty years on it could be useful to translate her model into a form that you and I can ourselves easily use, without needing specialist psychological expertise.
My goal, therefore, was to simplify and distil, by constructing a new system around the six-letter acronym S.P.I.R.I.T.
Each letter corresponds to one of the original (mainly renamed) psychological well-being factors, and it feels not inappropriate that they should spell out a word that can mean courage, energy, and determination.
In a series of six posts (see below) I’ve explored simple, practical ways that all of us can nurture these qualities.
I’ve also created a simple summarising chart that can be printed out and stuck on your fridge or bathroom wall as a reminder of what psychological well-being is all about.
The truth is, these strengths will come from within you, and I sincerely believe that you already have the inner resource to unlock and develop them. It will just take a little practice.
One simple idea? Experiment with working on one strength a day.
And since there are six of them, once a week you could even take a day off.
Which is, in itself, a happy thought.
Finally, the six strengths in text form (the subtitles link to posts looking at each strength in turn).
+ I aim to keep a positive attitude towards myself, being happy with who I am
+ I recognise and accept that there are multiple sides to me, and that these inevitably include both good and bad qualities
+ It’s my choice to feel mainly positive about my past life
+ There’s a sense of direction to my life, and I have clear goals
+ My life, both present and past, has meaning
+ I hold personal beliefs that help to give my life purpose
+ My daily life is structured around aims and objectives
+ Whenever appropriate, I determine my own direction in life, independently
+ Social pressures don’t sway my thoughts and actions
+ Self-control enables me to regulate my behaviours
+ I don’t make judgements by comparing myself to others
+ I try to enjoy managing everyday life, feeling a sense of achievement
+ If things go wrong, I’m generally able to adapt and adjust
+ I like spotting opportunities and making the most of them
+ I feel a certain sense of control over the world immediately around me
+ I work hard at maintaining warm, satisfying relationships with others, and am concerned about their welfare
+ I enjoy feeling close to people, and empathetic
+ I appeciate that all human relationships involve a degree of give and take, and compromises
+ My life is always developing, and I’m continually growing and expanding
+ I’m always open to new experiences
+ I believe I’m realising my potential, and understanding more about myself every day
The original research:
Happiness Is Everything, or Is It? Explorations on the Meaning of Psychological Well-Being
Carol D. Ryff – University of Wisconsin-Madison (1989)