Most of us have a pretty good understanding of what wellbeing means, that it’s not just about eating well or scheduling monthly massages, but rather it’s about how we feel and function taking into consideration the health of our physical, mental, emotional and social states.

Researchers have identified two ‘types’ of wellbeing:

  1. Subjective wellbeing (SWB) which focuses on the hedonic aspect of wellbeing, i.e. the pursuit of happiness and living a pleasant life; and
  2. Psychological wellbeing (PWB) which focus on living a meaningful life and fulfilling our human potential.

According to the World Health Organisation our mental health is defined as ‘a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.’  This state of wellbeing is much deeper and more complex than just being happy, it’s referring to our psychological wellbeing.

In 1989 psychologist Carol Ryff built a model consisting of the following six components of psychological wellbeing:

  1. self-acceptance (the need to have positive self regard)
  2. purpose in life (capacity to determine and construct meaning in life)
  3. positive relationships (develop and maintain warm, affectionate and trusting relationships)
  4. autonomy (self-determination, independence and self-regulation)
  5. environmental mastery (design external surroundings to suit one’s personal needs and capacities)
  6. personal growth (continual process of developing one’s potential)

As you can see from the list above, our psychological wellbeing extends beyond the pursuit of happiness (subjective wellbeing) and can be achieved by a balance of engagement in each of these six areas.

In order for us to identify how well we’re engaged in each of these six areas, Ryff developed a measurement tool called the ‘Ryff Scale’. This self-reported assessment tool consists of a number of statements which are rated according to how true each statement is for the individual.  The higher the score in each area, the higher the wellbeing level in that area.

Becoming aware of the six components of psychological wellbeing and knowing how we’re tracking in each area is the first step that we can take to looking after our mental health.

If you would like to know more about the Ryff Scale or find out how to increase your psychological wellbeing in any of the six areas, please shoot me a quick email.