What Does Wellbeing Mean?

What does wellbeing mean? 

Well-being is defined by Seligman (2011) as not only the absence of illness, but also the presence of positive emotions, which can lead to a promoted sense of wellbeing. Seligman presents research findings with ill patients. Although these patients were not always able to recover from illnesses, Seligman cited that those who possessed a stronger sense of wellbeing were more likely to recover than those who were pessimistic, angry, hateful, or depressed. Optimistic patients were shown to accept medication more effectively than their pessimistic counterparts.

Seligman (2001) continues that a positive attitude is a direct cause of enhanced wellbeing. His research states that optimists are more likely to cultivate healthier attitudes and lifestyles than pessimists. Optimists are more likely to make discerning dietary choices, exercise regularly, and get an adequate amount of sleep. Studies measuring welbeing and optimism are still underway.  

Martin Seligman’s PERMA model describes the five factors that are influential in the study of wellbeing; Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment. Wellbeing's connection to happiness is Seligman’s (2002) theory in his book Authentic Happiness.

What Does Wellbeing Mean and How Does it Connect to Judaism?

Maimonides who is viewed as a pioneer in the domain of Positive Psychology indicates throughout his writings that emotional and spiritual wellbeing is vital for leading an upright, spiritual life. Well-known for his groundbreaking Judaic and medical writings, Maimonides warned against becoming angry for its destructive effects on a person. Anger causes severe strain on the body as well as premature aging and reduced longevity.

“Anger is a most evil quality. One should keep aloof from it to the opposite extreme, and train oneself not to be upset even by a thing over which it would be legitimate to be annoyed… The life of an angry person is not truly life. The sages have therefore advised that one keep far from anger until being accustomed not to take notice even of things that provoke annoyance. This is a good way.” —Maimonides, Mishneh Torah (Book II, chapter 3)

Essentially, Positive Psychology is a study that is concerned with life-strengthening emotions, such as optimism and gratitude. Its goal is lessening the force of negative emotions. When we distance ourselves from anger and other negative emotions, we are promoting our sense of wellbeing, allowing ourselves to become vessels of optimism and gratitude, thereby fulfilling Maimonides’ prescription for a good life.

“The pure righteous do not complain of the dark, but increase the light; they do not complain of evil, but increase justice; they do not complain of heresy, but increase faith; they do not complain of ignorance, but increase wisdom.” —Abraham Isaac Kook

What Does Wellbeing Mean? to Jewish Positive Psychology