The 6 Dimensions of Psychological Well-Being

· September 20, 2017

When you think that someone has “good health” or is “healthy”, it’s possible that you might think that individual is in good physical shape. But, the concept of health includes physical health, as well as mental and emotional health. It includes dimensions such as self-acceptance, social skills or the perception of control over what happens in your surroundings.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as “A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not solely the absence of ailments or diseases.”

Thus, psychological well-being includes a group of sensations which refer to how we judge our lives at a global level. Furthermore, it’s not necessarily related to experiencing pleasant situations or to satisfying our personal desires, because this would be fleeting. Instead, it refers to a wider set of dimensions.

“He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.”
– Marco Aurelio –

The psychologist Carol Ryff has dedicated her life to studying which factors or dimensions have a significant contribution in our quality of life. The researcher has developed a questionnaire aimed at measuring an individual’s psychological well-being, and has extracted 6 criteria which are essential in order to reach self-realization and the very potential of an individual. The studies that this psychologist performed, using the emotional well-being questionnaire, prove that psychological well-being is related with one’s age, sex, social-economic status and ethnicity (Ryff and Singer 2008).

girl stretching in open field

The 6 dimensions of psychological well-being

The six dimensions reflected within psychological well-being are as follows:

  1. Self-acceptance

This dimension speaks of the acceptance of every aspect of an individual and of one’s own past, just as it happened. This means without falling into a pit of impotence for wanting to modify or intervene in what happened.

Think about whether you accept your body, your emotions and your thoughts. If you do, you’ll have a more positive view of yourself. Instead, if you have low self-esteem and struggle to accept who you are, it’s possible that due to this dissatisfaction, you’ll feel so overwhelmed that you don’t even know where to begin changing those aspects you actually can intervene in.

  1. Control over your surroundings

This dimension refers to the ability to deal with a difficult environment, having the ability to adapt to adverse circumstances.

If you have a high perception of your control over your surroundings, you’ll feel capable of influencing your environment and managing complicated situations. Instead, if you have low control over your surroundings, according to the psychological well-being questionnaire, you’ll have greater difficulty overcoming the adversities which arise in your day-to-day life.

“Life is a journey, and if you fall in love with that journey, you’ll be in love forever.”
– Peter Hagerty –


  1. Positive relationships with others

This dimension measures the ability people have to interact with others in an open and sincere way.

If you’re capable of having satisfactory relationships with others, you will promote bonds which will provide you with better emotional quality. This implies having a greater capacity of empathy and openness towards people. If you have a lower score on this scale, it’s possible you struggle to interact with others. You might have difficulties opening up and trusting others, as well as difficulties maintaining your relationships.

holding hands

  1. Autonomy

This dimension evaluates the independence of people in different aspects of their lives. The sensation of being able to choose and make their own decisions, of maintaining a personal criteria and personal and emotional independence despite others not being in agreement.

A high degree of autonomy implies that you’re able to deploy a greater force of resistance against social pressure and your own impulses. If, instead, you have a low degree of autonomy, you might be letting other people’s opinions guide you. You also might pay attention to what others say or think about you and might let yourself be led by social pressure within your social circle.

  1. Personal growth

This dimension measures the ability people have of learning from themselves, being open to new experiences and challenges.

If you promote your personal growth, it’s possible you feel that you’re on a continuous journey of learning. You might feel that you have the ability to learn from what you receive and know that you have the resources needed to improve. If this whole personal growth thing is not your style, you might feel stuck, bored and demotivated. You might not really want to develop new lessons and new growth behaviors. Or, you might simply feel incapable of it.

  1. Life purpose

This measures the need people have of finding a purpose that will give meaning to their lives. People need to set clear and acceptable goals for themselves. These need to be realistic objectives.

If have a high score in this dimension, it means that you feel your life has meaning. You give meaning to your past, present and future. If, instead, you score poorly in this dimension, you don’t have a clear purpose. It’s possible you feel that your life lacks direction or you might even feel disoriented and lost.

7. Social support: the best pillar of our well-being

Social support is a protective factor against various diseases. It’s very important how our social relationships are and also how we perceive them to be.

How does emotional intelligence influence our psychological well-being?

People who are emotionally intelligent are more optimistic, have higher self-esteem and have a greater capacity for empathy. This contributes to the improvement of our psychological well-being. People who know how to identify their emotions feel more satisfied with themselves. Therefore, they feel a greater sense of overall well-being.

If you encourage your personal growth, it’s possible you feel that you’re on a continuous journey of learning. You might also feel you have the ability to learn from what you receive, and you’ll know you have the resources necessary to continue improving.” 

lady smiling

How can you improve your psychological well-being and have a more fulfilling life?

  • Find your passion

It might be at work, since that’s where you spend many hours of your day. And it’s best if you spend them doing something that motivates you. But you can also find something you like in a hobby which makes you feel fulfilled. For example, music, a sport or craftsmanship.

  • Don’t try to change yourself

Accept yourself in the dimensions you cannot change. Trying to change yourself is going to generate unease and rejection. You will improve your well-being is you give yourself and your own nature a chance. This way, all of the positive things you find will serve to improve your self-esteem, because you will acknowledge it as your own. The same thing will happen with the negative things you find.

  • Surround yourself with people who have a good energy

Positive relationships, being with people you like and who fulfill you is an important factor which directly influences you physical and emotional well-being. Toxic people will reduce your psychological well-being and add stress to your life.

  • Learn from your mistakes

Not everything in life will come out as you planned. Knowing how to adapt to your circumstances and how to deal with your frustrations is an essential part of leading a happier life with less expectations which stray from reality. Keep in mind that you are imperfect, just like the rest of us. This is something you simply cannot change. It’s in your hands to exploit the positive side to your own imperfection.

girl laying on the grass

  • Dare to try new things

Stepping out of your comfort zone and exploring unknown areas will keep you active and motivated. Regardless of your age, there are always new places to visit, people to meet and things to learn. For example, try new activities, meet new people, take new routes to work, etc.

  • Believe in your own potential

You have an incredible potential to explore, many inner resources and a marvelous opportunity to grow as a person. Believe in yourself and your possibilities. Visualize your objectives and start taking small steps towards accomplishing them. Psychological well-being, therefore, can grant you a greater degree of maturity, stability and capacity of self-knowledge. It’s all about starting with one small action. Keep in mind that it is never too late to cultivate your physical, psychological, emotional and social well-being.