Skip to content

2 Dimensions of Well-Being

by Beth on February 5th, 2014

According to researchers in positive psychology, our well-being depends on more than just being happy. In Flourish, Martin Seligman explains that positive emotions are one element of well-being, but well-being is about more than just feeling good. It also comes from using your strengths in the pursuit of meaningful activities that fully engage you.

In a similar vein, Jennifer Hecht makes a distinction between good-day happiness and good-life happiness in her book, The Happiness Myth. Good-day happiness is associated with positive emotions that can fluctuate on a daily basis, while good-life happiness comes from engaging in tasks that give your life meaning. She concludes that positive emotions contribute to our well-being, but that we also need obstacles and challenges for our lives to have meaning.

So our well-being appears to be determined by two key dimensions. The first one relates to the experience of positive emotions or “feeling good”. The second dimension represents engagement in meaningful goals that make a positive impact or “doing good”.

People who are high on the feeling good dimension are happy. People who are high on the doing well dimension have a sense of meaning in life because they feel they are making progress toward valued goals and are making a difference in the lives of others. People who are low on both dimensions are languishing.

In order to thrive, you need to be high on both dimensions. Being more mindful, grateful, and hopeful can move you higher on the feeling good dimension toward happiness, but in order to maximize your well-being you also need to commit to a purpose aligned with your values that engages your strengths and lets you make a meaningful contribution. Nurturing your relationships will move you higher on both dimensions to arrive at the sweet spot where you will thrive!

Dimensions of Well-Being

Feeling Good

Happy Life



Meaningful Life



Doing Good

  1. HI Beth – this is very interesting. I have wondered for quite a while if everything doesn’t come down to positive emotions and meaning/purpose. When you look at Seligman’s other elements of PERMA, I could see that people enter into a relationship because it provides pos emo or meaning/purpose. People achieve accomplishments because it provides either pos emo or meaning/purpose. Similar for engagement – I would suspect that most activities that provide flow are intrinsically meaningful in some capacity and provide some form of satisfaction, another positive emotion. Just musing and pondering….

  2. Beth permalink

    Thanks for your comment, Lisa! I agree that there are several different elements of well-being, but they all seem to contribute in some way to either positive emotions and/or meaning/purpose. Best, Beth

Comments are closed.