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  • Writer's pictureStudent Wellbeing Service

Six Key Elements of Psychological Wellbeing

Updated: Aug 14, 2020


Wellbeing can be defined as the capacity to realise your own abilities, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively, make a contribution to your community (which may be the workplace, family or neighbourhood), and possess the skills to develop and maintain healthy relationships.

Psychologists use the term wellbeing to describe the type of happiness that is based on meaning, purpose, and fulfilling one’s potential. Research on psychological wellbeing has identified six important components:

1. Autonomy

Autonomy is the ability to make your own decisions about how to think and behave, rather than over-relying on others’ opinions or approval. Autonomous people resist social pressures that are inconsistent with their inner standards or preferences. They pursue freely chosen goals that they genuinely value.

2. Competence

Competence means having knowledge, skills, and abilities and using them to solve problems and accomplish worthwhile tasks. Competent people can manage the responsibilities and demands of daily life and get things done. They make good use of their opportunities and arrange their living environments in ways that suit them.

3. Healthy relationships

Most people need connections with others. Some enjoy large circles of friends, family, and coworkers; others prefer more solitude and independence. The ability to develop caring, trusting, and supportive relationships is an important element of psychological health, whether you seek many relationships or only a few.

4. Self-acceptance

Self-accepting people understand that, like everyone else, they have strengths and weaknesses. They recognise that life has ups and downs; that everyone makes mistakes, misses opportunities, and feels regret, disappointment, and other unpleasant emotions. They are understanding and nonjudgmental of themselves and how their lives have gone so far.

5. Personal growth

People who value personal growth are open to learning and new experiences. They recognise that perspectives change with time and see themselves as maturing and developing. They are interested in broadening their horizons and fulfilling their potential.

6. Purpose in life

People with purpose have a sense of direction in life. They understand what they value most deeply, such as being a loving parent, supportive friend, productive professional, or contributing member of a community. They find satisfaction in setting goals and working to achieve them and feel that their lives have meaning.

Cultivating these six elements of wellbeing can be challenging. Standing on our own principles can be difficult, especially when others disapprove. Managing daily demands can be stressful. Even the healthiest relationships have delicate, uncomfortable moments. It is painful to face up to our failures and imperfections, to feel awkward and nervous while learning new skills.

Research consistently shows that people who cultivate meaning and purpose, develop skills and competencies, exercise autonomy, attend to their relationships, and try to contribute to things they care about, even when it is stressful and difficult, are psychologically healthier than those who don’t. They have higher self-esteem, lower risk of depression, and greater satisfaction with their lives.

The University of Sheffield Student Wellbeing Service - Wellbeing Wheel

Here at The University of Sheffield Student Wellbeing Service these six key elements inform our approach to emotional wellbeing (as illustrated in our service Wellbeing Wheel above) and guide us in our aim to ensure that student wellbeing is fully supported at Faculty level.

We take a holistic approach to wellbeing and emotional health, and we recognise that both psychological understanding and self-care play an important part in helping to

promote and maintain positive wellbeing and enable you to make the most of your University experience.

If you are feeling down, overwhelmed, or struggling to adjust we can provide proactive, preventative support, to educate and enable you to manage your wellbeing. We can help you to explore and understand your difficulties and identify areas of change, offer self-help techniques and practical advice and help you make connections that support your wellbeing and get you back on track.

For more information about our service or to book an appointment please visit the Student Wellbeing Service website

Steve Race

Manager - Student Wellbeing Service

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