Neurobiology of Well-Being

Neurobiology of Well-Being

Pamela A. Jackson (Radford University, USA), M. Joseph Sirgy (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, USA) and Gabriel D. Medley (Radford University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5918-4.ch007
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This chapter is designed to review much of the research on the neurobiology of well-being. A distinction between hedonic well-being and eudaimonic well-being is made. The brain reward center was discussed in relation to well-being, which was followed by an in-depth discussion related to drugs, neurotransmitters, and well-being. Neurochemicals related to hedonia and eudaimonia were then discussed, followed by another discussion on gene expression. Finally, brain structures involved in well-being were the discussed followed by concluding thoughts.
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Well-Being: Hedonic and Eudaimonic

There is a plethora of concepts directly related to the psychology of well-being, including but not limited to life satisfaction, domain satisfaction, positive and negative affect, emotional well-being, hedonic well-being, perceived quality of life (QOL), happiness, psychological well-being, eudaimonia, authentic happiness, flourishing, positive mental health, psychological happiness, prudential happiness, perfectionist happiness, the good life, etc. Philosophers and psychologists of well-being have much to say about these concepts and their meaning (Sirgy, 2012).

In a review of the literature on subjective well-being, Diener, Suh, Lucas, and Smith (1999) defined subjective well-being as a broad category of phenomena that includes people's emotional responses, domain satisfaction (satisfaction in important life domains such as satisfaction with family life, health life, work life, leisure life, social life, etc.), and global judgments of life satisfaction. Diener and his colleagues added that each of these concepts should be studied separately, although the constructs often correlate substantially with each other.

Sirgy and Wu (2009) assert that true happiness occurs when an individual experiences satisfaction in terms of their basic needs (based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs), but also in terms of their growth needs (i.e., social, esteem, self-actualization, knowledge, and aesthetic needs). This type of satisfaction is referred to as eudaimonic or psychological well-being. Ryff refers to eudaimonic well-being as human flourishing. Ryff’s construct involves six dimensions: self-acceptance, positive relations with others, personal growth, purpose in life, environmental mastery, and autonomy (e.g., Ryff, 1989, 2017; Ryff & Singer, 2008; Ryff et al., 2016). Whereas the hedonic approach to well-being focuses on pleasure attainment and pain avoidance (Kahneman, 1999), the eudaimonic approach focuses on meaning, self-realization, and purposefulness. Throughout this chapter hedonic well-being and eudaimonic well-being will be referred to as two major components that define overall well-being.

In sum, well-being is an umbrella concept that captures hedonic well-being and eudaimonic well-being. Hedonic well-being is the affective dimension that reflects preponderance of positive affect over negative affect. Eudaimonic well-being focuses on experiences related to personal growth and character development.

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