Beyond Happiness: Well-Being and beyond that?

Today’s post is dedicated to our Uncle Albert.  On April 9th he will be 90 years old and today he is celebrating in style with family and friends!  

ZioAlberto90Uncle Albert has always been the youthful, fun, hip uncle who represents our hope for everlasting health and wellness.  He is in great physical and mental shape, having lived his life being active, eating well, and deeply caring about his family and friends.  

Happy 90th Birthday, Zio!


IMG_3621A few weeks ago, in our post On the Matter of Happiness, we wrote about the theory of happiness through Dr. Martin Seligman’s eyes. Today we’re going to continue the discussion we started by moving beyond happiness and into well-being.  And, a little beyond that!

As you may recall from the last post, Seligman is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and continues to research topics related to positive psychology. Based on his work and that of others, he has expanded his thinking about happiness and its role in life. He concludes that human beings want more in life than to increase life satisfaction through happiness. In his view, human beings seek to flourish in life by “increasing positive emotion, engagement, meaning, positive relationships, and accomplishment.” (1) He calls this state of flourishing well-being.

Like happiness, well-being is a “state” or “idea” made up of various conceptual elements. For example, when you ask someone how they are doing, they may answer differently based on what they are experiencing at the time. We could be feeling great about our relationships but short on meaning. The Theory of Well-Being is about the general sense of being psychologically in a good place – feeling like you are flourishing.

How to achieve Well-Being

IMG_3552Seligman, as a practical psychologist, gives us some concrete things at which to look so we can make sense of well-being, and so we can achieve it in our lives. He suggests that there are 5 measurable elements to well-being, some of which are subjectively measured and others objectively. No one element defines it but each contributes to well-being. These he calls for short PERMA and include the 3 measures he originally used for defining happiness:

Positive emotion – feeling joy, ecstasy, pleasure
Engagement – feeling flow, absorbed in the moment
Meaning – feeling like you are serving a larger purpose in life


Relationships – basic human need for feeling connected, accepted, loved, understood by others
Achievement – achieving success, accomplishment, winning, mastery for its own sake

In Seligman’s words, “well-being is a combination of feeling good as well as actually having (engagement) meaning, good relationships, and accomplishment. The way we choose our course in life is to maximize all five of these elements.” (1 p. 24)

Beyond Well-Being?

IMG_3262Seligman’s focus is on the psychological aspect of flourishing. We propose that flourishing be expanded to include physical well-being. Being of healthy mind and body are intricately connected, and one without the other is not flourishing. If you have visited any elderly relatives in assisted living or long-term care facilities recently, you will understand how having one without the other is not flourishing in life!

So, what is beyond well-being as defined by Seligman? Some people would say it’s ‘wellness’, while others would suggest that wellness leads to well-being. Whatever term you’d like to use, we suggest you look at flourishing as a three-legged stool:

  1. Psychological well-being (as defined by Seligman and PERMA)
  2. Physical health (fitness, nutrition, preventive disease actions)
  3. Spiritual well-being (connecting to your human spirit, soulful needs, nonmaterial world)

photo_2468_20070711These three aspects are a tall order for many of us to achieve at the same time! Living busy lives often leads to working on one or two aspects, while ignoring the others. That’s okay. In our view, achieving flourishing is a life-long goal that is worth pursuing.

Take an inventory every so often to see how you’re doing on your psychological, physical, and spiritual well-being. Then, figure out what you want to expand in your life. Go where your energy takes you because that energy will drive you to achieve it.


  • Seligman, Martin E.P., Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Wellness, Free Press, NY: 2011.

Recipe of the Week: Turkey Chili

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About aspireperspirenourish

We are sisters who share a passion for healthy living! Each of us brings different knowledge and skills to this project, some similar experiences and a whole lot of shared passion for mindful, fit and nutritious living. This blog is our way of spreading our knowledge and passion about motivation, fitness and nutrition for everyday living. It is also our forum for finding like-minded people from whom we can learn. To learn more about us, please see our "About" page.
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