Well-being, a multidimensional concept

If you search for the definition of well-being in the Oxford dictionary, you will come across the terms “comfortable”, “healthy”, “happy”.

Well-being is defined as the state of being healthy and happy. Would this definition suffice when you ask yourself – “Am I doing well”? Is knowing what things make you happy enough to recognise how well you are doing?

Well-being is not limited to a person’s wealth, degree of happiness or lack of medical condition, it has a much broader concept. A notion that is yet to be discovered and understood by all. Well-being is not just theory; it is a multidimensional concept. It is an idea that is a combination of a person’s physical, psychological, spiritual, mental, and social health.

A study done on the impact of industrialisation on the British peoples’ well-being in 1780-1850, revealed changing trends in human well-being depending upon wages, working hours, health status, and inequality. The focus of the research was whether industrialisation is in fact a blessing when considering the well-being of people during that period of change. The study revealed that a person’s well-being is not about wealth or health or stress, considered independently, rather it was a combination of these factors.

What causes mortality?

Before we dive to understand the idea of well-being, you need to acknowledge its importance. Why do you think you need to achieve physical, emotional, mental or social wellness? How does it change your life for the better?

Well-being predicts longevity. Your emotional health and happiness determine your physical health. A person with higher well-being is found to live a longer life than a person with lower well-being.

It is essential to gain an understanding of what are the causes of death. A better knowledge of the risk factors associated with premature illness or death can help eliminate these risks, which in turn can reduce the number of casualties caused by it.

Risk factors relating to dietary and lifestyle factors such as blood pressure, blood sugar level, smoking are found to dominate the index. There are also other factors such as environmental factors including sanitation and clean water that fall under the risk factors causing death.

The causes of deaths vary from country to country mostly depending on the economic condition. Non-communicable diseases remain the primary cause of death in high-income countries, while in low-income countries, deaths are mostly caused by infectious diseases, malnutrition, nutritional deficiencies and more.

Cardiovascular diseases are the primary cause of death worldwide, followed by cancer.

It is not about mortality, rather it is about how you want to live. Your well-being doesn’t make you mortal, it only cuts down the risks of you dying prematurely or having a low quality of life. No one wishes to die broken, or exhausted, or frustrated. Most people aspire of a long life, a quality life.

Yet, the way we work and our attitude or behaviour towards work may be at loggerheads with this desire.

Understanding well-being

Oftentimes we ignore measuring our well-being and happiness. This might lead to severe consequences. There is nothing more important than well-being and happiness. Research shows that emotional well-being and happiness has an impact on physical health. People who are happy or have emotional well-being tend to live around 8-9 years more than someone who almost always stressed, burned out or ‘burned in’.

Not being miserable is one of the things everyone needs to learn and practice.

The theoretical description of well-being does not do much justice to its importance. But in today’s time, positive psychology has a major interest to organisations, in particular HR and leaders.

Here’s why.
● Well-being results in optimal performance at work.
● Well-being impacts your relationships. The happier you are, the more you keep others happy. It helps strengthen your relationships, both personal and professional.
● High well-being boosts morale and makes a person more active. It improves physical health conditions, results in an improved immune system, cuts down the risk of coronary heart diseases and reduces anxiety and stress.
● People with higher well-being have more self-control and coping abilities.
● People who are emotionally well and happy have fewer chances of becoming prone to anxiety or depression.

According to Martin Seligman, credited as the father of Positive Psychology, well-being consists of five elements. Each of these five elements contributes to a person’s well-being and can be measured independently. He calls these elements PERMA. Here’s how the PERMA concept can be defined.

P- Positive emotions or happiness

There are a few misconceptions we have about being happy. You might believe that if you have a high paying job and you are doing good and able to meet all your requirements, you are going to be happy and satisfied. Is that so?

If you go to someone who is highly paid and has a good position, and who believes he is happy with life and ask them if they are okay with their salary or do they wish they were paid more, what do you think will be their answer?  Think about it.

Studies reveal that 50% of happiness is heritable, and it can increase by 10% depending on the circumstances you live in. The remaining 40% can be influenced.

Quoting Robert Frost, “Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.”

Positive emotions influence your physical well-being and improve memory and awareness. So, what are you doing to influence the 40%?

E- Engagement

How engaged are you when you are at work? Engagement is another element of well-being. It is how you as an individual deploy all your strengths, skills and attention into completing a task or achieving a goal.

When a person is in flow i.e., when they work on a stretch goal or task that matches their highest strengths, optimal performance, engagement, and well-being are at its best.

R- Relationships with others

Human beings are strange; we mostly do not wish to be alone. As humans, we need of social acceptance and social belonging. Man is a social animal, and rightly so. We cannot survive entirely by ourselves. We actively seek out love, compassion, trust, teamwork, and other tribe-bound emotions.

Your ability to build relationships with others impacts your social wellness. Our relationships act as motivation when we lack focus. Sometimes relationships give our life purpose. How you celebrate these relationships, either work or personal impacts your well-being.

M- Meaning

When you work for something bigger than yourself, you give your life meaning and purpose. Sometimes going out of your way to help someone in need can give your life meaning. It can make you happier even in the most difficult of times. This element can be understood as a sense of purpose greater than oneself.

PRO TIP! Whenever you feel you’re in a rut, go out and help another person. It can act as a temporary boost for you that will help you refocus your energy and focus to move on.


What are accomplishments? For a student, it is receiving good grades. For a manager, it can be  the reward for reaching targets. For a leader, it may be being promoted or headhunted.

People chase success. We all put in the effort to achieve our checklist, even though it might not bring them the happiness they are hoping for.

Well-being, a skill

Well-being has become a very important topic of discussion today. Research is being done to know more about the scientific factors that shape well-being. Why? Because a high state of well-being is the sign of a flourishing life.

Research has found that well-being is a skill that can be learnt and practiced with time.

“It is the neuroscientific evidence, particularly which shows us that the circuits in the brain that are important to underlying well-being exhibit plasticity—it changes as a consequence of experience and because of training. We know that the brain is constantly being changed, wittingly or unwittingly.”
~ Dr Richard Davidson

It is in our hands to train our minds in a manner that strengthens our well-being.

Just like riding a bicycle requires time and practising it daily to speed up and reinforce the behaviour change, well-being is also a skill that will require practice, patience and time. Knowing how to ride a bicycle and riding one are two different things. Similarly, knowing about what makes you happy is not actually sufficient for you to be happy. You need to practice it to achieve the optimal level you want. Knowing is just half the battle. Mentally training yourself can help improve your well-being.


Your ability to recover from your past experiences, what we call resilience is one factor that decides your well-being. You might have a tough time dealing with adversity, change or stress but you’re able to pick yourself up, pull through and come back stronger.

Self-awareness and self-regulation result in improved resilience.

Different people handle being under pressure differently. For some, it is easier to learn and move on from these experiences, whereas others are easily triggered with these memories, resulting in them falling into depression, having high anxiety and stress or other mental health problems.

Constrained and unsupported, your talents may not be in the best frame of well-being to bring and give the best version of themselves at work.

Harnessing positives

Having an optimistic outlook is another factor that affects well-being. Being able to see the goodness in others or being good to others increases the level of dopamine in our brains, elating us.

The feelings like kindness, gratitude, enthusiasm, and curiosity can influence physical and psychological well-being. Also, being optimistic also slows down the ageing process.

Learning to have an optimistic outlook or harnessing the positives is not difficult, all it requires is a practice of skills like playing devil’s advocate, getting the counsel of a critic, or doing a pro-con exercise.

INSIDER SECRET: We make a distinction between optimism and toxic positivity.  While optimism balances both the positives and negatives; toxic positivity dismisses the negative and focuses solely on false reassurance.  Important components when we discuss EQ for building teams or EQ for Team Excellence.

Being attentive

Studies show that usually, people spend 47% of the time they are awake being non-attentive to what they are doing. Can you imagine spending 47% of your time lost in thoughts without even realising it?

When you are attentive towards what you are doing, there are fewer chances of you desiring something you don’t have. This means you are satisfied and happy with what you have. You are satisfied with yourself resulting in increased well-being.

Being attentive requires awareness.  Many of us have been conditioned by the need of being accepted that we may not realise we’ve been overusing or under using some abilities that are important to our optimal performance. Which is why assessments are useful for recalibration.

Empathising and Caring

Attributes like care, compassion, and kindness set humans apart from each other.

There is scientific data that show how being generous activates circuits in the brain that fosters well-being. Being able to empathise with others and helping them out adds to social and psychological well-being.

Well-being holds so much importance in our life, hence it should not be ignored. Even a little step each day can help us lead a healthier, happier and longer life.

Now that you have developed a broad understanding of well-being, let us hope you measure your well-being from time to time and practice ways to develop the skill.

In this competitive world, we are so busy chasing goals that we have forgotten to stop and think if we are happy leading the life we are. Asking yourself these questions will help you with the first step – self-awareness.

5. Photo by Margarida Afonso on Unsplash

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