What is Wellbeing?

Wellbeing is a concept that is murky at best.

Most of us have a vague idea what wellbeing is, but perhaps few of us know how to define it. Does any person truly understand the components of wellbeing?

According to authors Tom Rath and Jim Harter, in their book, “Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements,” wellbeing is comprised of:

  • Personal Wellbeing
  • Financial Wellbeing
  • Physical Wellbeing
  • Social Wellbeing
  • Career Wellbeing

“While 66% of people are doing well in at least one of these areas, just 7% are thriving in all five,” the authors write. [Yet] “. . . the single biggest threat to our own wellbeing tends to be ourselves.”

It’s true.

These areas of wellbeing are obtainable. They are not otherworldly nor are they “pie-in-the-sky” ideals. Much of our own wellbeing has to do with areas of our lives that we have control over. According to the authors, synching up or short-term needs with our long-term goals is a key idea in order to achieve wellbeing.

“As long as we allow short-term desires to win, it will be difficult to effect long-term behavioral change. However, we learned from people with the highest levels of wellbeing that there is a simple solution to this problem: If we can find short-term incentives that are consistent with our long-term objectives, it is much easier to make the right decisions in the moment,” the authors write.

Career and social wellbeing are often times intertwined, while personal, physical, and social wellbeing are often separate. That said, however, more generally, all areas of wellbeing tend to be interconnected in some way. In terms of physical wellbeing, for example, it includes things like, diet, sleep, and exercise . . . not surprisingly.

“It may seem counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to combat fatigue is by exercising,” the authors write. “We might use being too tired as an excuse to avoid working out, but that’s the worse time to skip exercise. A comprehensive analysis of more than 70 trials found that exercising is much more effective at eliminating fatigue than prescription drugs used for this purpose.”

Finally, personal, social, financial, career, and physical wellbeing are all part of the same thing. If we allow ourselves to work on each part of wellbeing, we may, in fact, find wellbeing.

Blocking the sunset on a perfect afternoon


Rath, T., and Harter, J. (2010). Wellbeing: The five essential elements. Gallup Press, New York, NY.

Brooke Lamberti

Brooke Lamberti is a content writer based out of Scranton, Pennsylvania. She received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Marywood University, and has prior career experience working in social work and domestic violence advocacy. She has a passion for writing and helping others.

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