What is wellbeing? These 4 key concepts shape how we feel

Anke Neustadt

Type ‘wellbeing’ into Google and press search, and you’ll be confronted by hundreds of websites sharing tips and tricks for living a better life. Interest in self-improvement has surged over the last couple of years and, as such, there is now a myriad of information available about how to feel, eat and perform better.

While it’s great to see so many accessible resources available, the sheer amount of content out there can sometimes feel a little overwhelming – especially if you’re not sure what ‘wellbeing’ actually means. 

We all want to live our best lives, but identifying what that might look like can be tricky to say the least. 

But thanks to a new piece of research, things are about to get a lot easier. According to a new study by psychologists at the University of Girona in Spain, your overall wellbeing is defined by four central ‘nodes’ or factors which interact with one another in a kind of push-pull relationship – and focusing on these four areas can help to bring about positive changes in other areas of your life, too.

The four areas that the researchers believe define ‘wellbeing’ are as follows:

  • Most of the time, I feel proud of who I am and the life I lead
  • In general, I feel positive and confident about myself
  • I enjoy making plans for the future and working to make them a reality
  • In general, I feel I am in charge of the situation in which I live 
A woman smiling against the sky
The concept of ‘wellbeing’ can be confusing to understand.

While these statements may feel a little arbitrary at first, they’ve been developed from an existing scale used to measure wellbeing across the world – and incorporate key psychological concepts such as self-acceptance, life purpose and environmental mastery. 

In short, these statements describe the key qualities that make us feel good – and as such, can help us to identify the areas of our lives we might want to work on.

Indeed, as the psychologist and author Susan Krauss Whitbourne writes in Psychology Today: “Rather than spend your energy sifting through all the many potential ways you could improve your wellbeing, start with these four and see whether the positive energy starts spreading elsewhere.”  

She continues: “These items all provide the advantage of being easy to understand and relatively self-explanatory. You can roll up your sleeves and start to work with each of them rather than have to worry about more complex and perhaps less readily translatable strategies.”

Improving your wellbeing may not be as straightforward and easy to understand as improving your fitness or skill set at work, but this new framework is a useful way to think about the concept and focus on the areas of your life you might want to change in the long-run. 

Life is messy and complicated – but by understanding what makes us feel good, we can start to make positive changes that have real, long-lasting effects.  


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