Positive Psychology: What are we measuring? Well-being, Happiness, or Subjective Well-being?

In positive psychology, words like well-being, happiness, and Subjective Well-being are interchanged and often confused. So, it is good to understand the differences.

  • Well-being: is a perfect physical and psychological equilibrium between past (contentment), present (happiness), and future (optimism). So essentially, it measures the sound or impaired physical and psychological aspects of health. This term is used more in the term of measuring health.
  • Happiness: Happiness is the current state of positive emotion, and it can fluctuate depending upon internal perceptions and external events. Eating a nice meal or listening to music will bring happiness for a short time but will it last long?
  • Subjective Well-being (SWB): This is the correct term to measure long-term happiness. It measures life satisfaction and the current state of positive and negative affect. In addition, some scientists also add a sense of purpose and meaning to our life. 

Martin Seligman’s PERMA™ theory of Subjective well-being describes five building blocks for us to flourish and succeed in life. 

  • Positive Emotions: within limits, we can improve our positive emotions by being content with the past, savoring the present, and cultivate hope for the future. 
  • Engagement: This when we enjoy so much that we get into flow or zone. Here we forget our constantly neurotic self, and our perception of time disappears. 
  • Relationship: Truly great relationships bring greatness out of us through kindness, love, compassion, teamwork, and self-sacrifice. 
  • Meaning: A sense of purpose from belonging to something bigger than self. These are the societal institutions like religion, medical society, work, or even fighting for a cause. 
  • Achievement: we pursue achievement, competence, success, and mastery in one or more domains of life. This pursuit does not necessarily bring positive emotions for a short time. 

Next time we will talk about why should we pursue happiness? What’s the evidence of it?