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Happiness vs well being

Happiness vs Well Being

Happiness vs well being, what is the difference? It’s the start of a New Year and people are making resolutions left and right, but did you realize less than 8 percent of those who are making resolutions are actually successful at keeping them longer than the first three months of the New Year. Some of the most popular resolutions and changes include being happier or having better well being, how can you separate the two? You can have well being without being happy and you can also have happiness without having well being, which is more important?

What does the dictionary say?

As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary well being is “the state of being happy, healthy or successful,” while the same dictionary defines happiness as either “the state of being happy” or “an experience that makes you happy.” While both are nouns each has a different meaning to them.

Positive psychology: happiness

When you look at each of these from a positive psychological perspective happiness can be defined using three different elements which we choose for their own sakes. These elements are:

  1. positive emotion (feeling positive feelings such as comfort, calmness)
  2. engagement (flow, getting lost in in an activity, overcoming challenges by achieving flow)
  3. meaning (being in service of something bigger than yourself.)

Which is interesting, as the above is science. So many of us equate happiness already as just positive emotion daily, if that even. They may consider flow, but yet few understand that happiness is created by also being in service. Just positive emotions on their own are simply “a pleasant life.” So if you aren’t focusing on achieving flow or being in service, the road to happiness if far off for you. Perhaps start by doing activities more that cause flow for you, and serve a greater purpose than just yourself.

Happiness vs well being

Ultimately, happiness is about creating life satisfaction. That’s it. It is really one dimensional when you think about it. It’s completely subjective.

Now, well being is not necessarily happiness, and when you look at well being from a positive psychological way there are five measureable elements that make it up. It incorporates happiness but it is so much more.

The elements are:

  1. positive emotion
  2. engagement
  3. relationships (positive relationships.)
  4. meaning and purpose (finding your purpose and being in service of the greater good.)
  5. accomplishment (completing goals lets say, having successes.)

So, you can see how these two are easily confused and yet very much different. For instance one can have life satisfaction feeling pleasure, you can be happy while having no accomplishments and being really disliked by people around you.

Well being is multi-dimensional. It Well Being theory is about all five pillars, the underpinnings of the five elements is the strengths.  Though positive emotion is really subjective like in happiness. But meaning, relationships paired with accomplishment are not just subjective, they are objective. They indeed can be measured and seen externally.

What would you do?

Which would you choose to work on more in your own life?

Personally, I choose to have well being over happiness, when you have well being it is easy to achieve a general happiness but if you have happiness you might not ever achieve well being. You can choose to do something because it makes you happy not necessarily because it makes us better. For example if I got a massage would you think that benefits my happiness or my well being? If you said well being you are wrong, I would choose to have a massage to make myself happy and have that massage for its own sake not any other reason. Another example from personal experience if I attended my nieces dance recital because it is my duty as an aunt, not just because makes me feel good, it is also part of well being because as a aunt it is my duty to be there for her and support them in whatever she does.

Conclusion: happiness vs well being

This is why I cringe a little when people talk about happiness in Global NLP Training, and I keep saying “well being.”



Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being – Martin Seligman, Ph.D


Global NLP happiness series

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