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The Five Components of Well-Being

Photo by Esther Driehaus on Unsplash

If someone were to ask you what impacts your well-being, what would you say? Psychologist and founder of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, describes five core areas of well-being. In fact, he calls them the “building blocks” of well-being, or what most people would call “happiness.” If you are interested in increasing your well-being, you may want to focus on Seligman’s five areas: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishments.

Positive Emotions

When Seligman talks about positive emotions, he’s specifically interested in enjoyment rather than pleasure. What’s the difference? Seligman differentiates the two as one (pleasure) being physically based and the other (enjoyment) being mental, such as enjoyment resulting from creativity or other use of our minds. One focus of this component is on having a positive perspective as much as possible. Remember, our minds are wired for a negativity bias, meaning our brains focus on the negative rather than the positive. (See my blog post for more on the negativity bias).


Engagement refers to being involved or caught up in an activity that is enjoyable. This might be knitting, gardening, playing the guitar, fishing, writing, or other activities. When you are occupied (engaged) in this manner, your brain releases many neurotransmitters and hormones which contribute to the feeling of well-being.


Relationships does not mean only romantic relationships; it also includes other social relationships. The key is that these relationships promote love, intimacy, physical interactions, and emotional interactions. Examples of such relationships include: family relationships (parents, siblings), peers, coworkers, and friends. The key is creating connections with other people.


This component encompasses religion and spirituality. It’s the beliefs we have of the “why” or meaning of life. Religion and spirituality are not the only ways to have meaning in one’s life, however. We can derive meaning through our families, through creative processes, through volunteering for a greater cause, through our work or through other activities that give ours lives purpose.


Having goals and achieving them can help us have a sense of accomplishment. Goals should be realistic and when you do achieve them, celebrate them. Really experience the feelings of accomplishment rather than simply moving the goalposts so you must continue to strive. And even if you never actually reach your goal, you can still feel a sense of accomplishment from making the effort to try. After all, you could have stayed in bed scrolling through your phone instead!

Take a few minutes to evaluate your life in terms of each of these five components. Are there any areas which could use some improving? For example, perhaps you don’t allow yourself to spend time on activities that are purely or largely for enjoyment. By identifying an activity or two that you would enjoy doing and allowing yourself the time to do them, you could begin improving your feeling of well-being immediately.

If you want to increase your well-being but aren’t sure how to get started, give me a call or text me at (816) 226-4678 and let’s get started developing your plan!

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