The Elements of Wellbeing

“[There are five] universal elements of wellbeing that differentiate a thriving life from one spent suffering” -Rath and Harter, Well Being: The Five Essential Elements.

spending 6 hours a day socializing increases your health and wellbeing. Photo Credit: Photosightfaces via Compfight cc

spending 6 hours a day socializing increases your health and wellbeing. Photo Credit: Photosightfaces via Compfight cc


In preparation for my Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) I have been doing a lot of reading up on different theories of health and wellbeing. While I love yoga, I don’t want to make the mistake of thinking the Yogic/Ayurvedic way is the only way to health. After all, isn’t that the mistake I already made with the Western medical system?

As someone who has been ill and hopes to help others who are currently ill, it can be easy to focus on different treatments and cures. However, I think that overlooks a huge part of our health- our overall wellbeing. Being physically well is not, in itself, a recipe for health and happiness. It is our overall wellbeing that defines the quality of our lives.

Tom Rath and Jim Harter, in their book Well Being: The Five Essential Elements, highlight career satisfaction, financial stability, physical well being, social well being, and community well being as the five key elements that measure our life satisfaction. They are all interconnected but can also be measured separately.  The most important thing about these factors is that they are all “aspects of our lives that we can do something about” (Rath and Harter). Whatever your genetic or nurtured environment, you can increase these aspects of your wellbeing- and it’s not as hard as it looks.

Career wellbeing doesn’t mean we all need to work in corporate offices with foozball tables and high pay, nor does it mean we all need to work for organizations that aim to end poverty or war. It simply refers to how you occupy your time. If you are unable to work a “normal” job for health or other reasons (such as raising children) career wellbeing simply refers to how you occupy your time. Do you sit in front of the TV all day? Or are you volunteering for a few hours? Running a blog? Writing the next twilight novel?

While the five elements of wellbeing may seem unattainable to those already living with chronic illness, you would be surprised at the changes you can make, and the effect they will have on your overall wellbeing – even reducing the symptoms of illness, and aiding in a quicker recovery.

To learn more about wellbeing, visit

How would you rate your wellbeing in each of the five areas?

How has illness affected this?

Which areas can you improve on, even if your physical health does not change?

Get Yoga and Health Articles!

4 Responses

  1. Interesting read, thanks for the link!
  2. Great post! I'll have to check out that link.
  3. Really loved this. I feel like I have noticed that with physical stuff going on, and my physical experience being at the forefront of my mind - literally and metaphorically, wellbeing has seemingly gone on the back bench. It's not really something I have been focusing on or even remembering it is a thing to think of. All i have been focusing on is HEALTH and the lack of, the journey i am on towards it, and the parts of me that still have it - even if seemingly small they feel like they have real significance and hope. But the last week I realise I have flipped my isolation and desperate feeling of unsupportedness on the head, by calling people more if I can't go out and see them, going out but asking for the support I need in doing so (like someone walking me over a dodgy bit that scares me) or treating myself to a taxi if where I'm going is too far, and ensuring I support myself in the process. Cushions, food, nurturing myself from within whilst still interacting. And going out in moderation. Not doing everything, just doing one thing or half of it. Then, I feel able to do it. And I realise after reading this that I've been focusing more on my wellbeing without realising. Like, health isn't the whole picture. When I think of health I do think of emotional and soul/spiritual health, but I like the idea of wellbeing more - or as well as - because it feels more valuable to life, and also more attainable and achievable. Because wherever I'm at or whatever I'm doing, wellbeing is still to be had and still can be had, it just can change what it looks like as time goes on, and we move into different stages of our lives. It's kinda keeping up with that that I find hard - keeping up with the way your capabilities and needs change as we unfold - but the more I'm getting older (I'm only 26, ha!) and the more shit keeps happening, I realise this is life's journey. Like, where we're at emotionally and physically and in our life constantly changes and I think - and hope and believe - that the keeping up with it gets easier as we continue to learn how to cater for what we need isn't as scary and overwhelming as we think. Just like the art of meeting our needs of wellbeing changes over the years, and days. It must be something that gets easier and something you don't have to be so so aware of perhaps. Or maybe not. Maybe it's a constant art form that we grow on through life. Who knows. I guess we'll just have to find out :) This was a slightly sleepily written reply! Thanks for the post x
    • Thanks for the comment! I love the idea of self care and wellbeing being an art that we have to work on, while also growing and changing throughout our lives. I'm sure it gets easier at times, and harder at others depending on internal and external circumstances!
  4. […] finding your purpose in life. The topics covered reminded me of the book I read a few years ago, The Elements of Wellbeing, except written for people with a chronic […]

Leave a comment