How to Improve Your Psychological Well-Being

Your emotional health is key to a happy life

In This Article

The phrase “psychological well-being” is used to describe an individual’s emotional health and overall functioning. The author of a study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well‒Being describes psychological well-being as “the combination of feeling good and functioning effectively.”

Researchers have also found that the absence of distress doesn’t necessarily indicate a person has high psychological well-being. High psychological well-being is about feeling happy and doing well. People with high psychological well-being report feeling capable, happy, well-supported, and satisfied with life.

Ways to foster positive thinking
Illustration by JR Bee, Verywell

Why It Matters

Studies have discovered that people with higher psychological well-being are more likely to live healthier and longer lives. They are also more likely to enjoy a better quality of life. Better psychological well-being is also associated with fewer social problems. For instance, research has found that people with high psychological well-being are less likely to engage in criminal activity or abuse drugs and alcohol.

In addition, positive psychological well-being tends to predict higher earnings and more prosocial behavior (such as volunteering).

People are more likely to enjoy positive psychological well-being when they have their basic needs met. Living in a safe area, having enough food, and having adequate shelter are all important factors for emotional health.

If you’re looking to improve your psychological well-being, there are several things you can do to feel and function better.

Creating Purpose

Living a life with meaning and purpose is key to improving your psychological well-being. Your purpose doesn’t necessarily have to involve changing the world or finding a career devoted to helping others. Instead, you might make it your purpose to be kind every day. Your purpose might involve making the world better by encouraging others to take care of the environment or adopt pets from the shelter.

If you feel like your life lacks purpose, don’t worry. There are many ways you can find purpose in life and build a life that has more meaning. You can begin by thinking about the legacy you would like to leave behind. Write down how you’d like to be remembered at the end of your life, or think about the impact you want to leave on the planet. Then, establish some objectives that can help you reach those goals.

Working toward your goals will give you a reason to get out of bed every day, beyond earning money.

Positive Thinking

Thinking positively improves your psychological well-being. In turn, as your psychological well-being improves, it becomes easier to think positively and feel good overall. Fortunately, you can begin creating that positive cycle with a few simple strategies.

Write About a Better Future

Take a few minutes and write down all the good things that could happen to you in the future. Imagine how you could be spending your time and who you would be spending it with if you were living your best life.

Recall Positive Life Events

Spend time thinking about some of the best memories of your life. Whether it's a family vacation you went on 10 years ago or you won an award at work two years ago, recalling the happiest times in your life can bring more positivity to your mindset.

Perform Acts of Kindness

Doing nice things for other people reminds you that you have the power to make a difference in the world. Giving to others also helps you think more positively and feel happier. Helping a neighbor in need, volunteering for a community activity, or raising money for a charity are just a few simple ways to improve your psychological well-being.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness has been linked to a multitude of benefits, ranging from increased happiness to better resilience. Mindfulness is a skill that takes practice and dedication, but over time, you can get better at learning how to be present and in the moment.

Express Gratitude

Whether you send letters to tell people how much you appreciate them or you write about the things you feel thankful for in a journal, expressing your gratitude will keep you focused on all the good things in life. It’s a simple but effective way to boost your psychological well-being every day.

Identify Your Strengths

It’s important to feel capable and confident. One of the best ways to do this is to remind yourself of the things you’re good at or the character strengths you possess. Try reflecting on your past achievements and the qualities that helped you succeed.

Practice Forgiveness

Letting go of past hurt and anger is key to good psychological well-being. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to allow that person to hurt you. Instead, it’s about releasing yourself of the anger that could keep you from putting your energy into more positive things.

Fostering Relationships

Studies show that loneliness takes a serious toll on your emotional and physical health. In fact, one study found that being lonely was as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.

Just being around people, however, isn’t the solution. Instead, it’s important to form deep connections with other people. The quality of relationships matters more than the quantity when it comes to improving your psychological well-being. While contact over social media can be a good way to keep in touch when you can’t visit a friend in person, there’s no real substitute for the benefits of face-to-face contact.

Have coffee with a friend, eat dinner with your family, and call a loved one just to chat. Strong social support is key to staying psychologically healthy. If you lack a support system, take steps to meet more people. Join community activities, get acquainted with your neighbors, or reach out to old friends.

A Word From Verywell

Psychological well-being is a key part of feeling happy and able to function day-to-day. It's easier than you may think to develop healthy habits that can foster your emotional health. Start small and try practicing one or two strategies to maximize your psychological well-being, such as writing down a few of your strengths or happy memories. Over time, you will see the effects that these kinds of practices will have on your positivity and overall mental health.

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Article Sources
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  1. Huppert FA: Psychological well-being: Evidence regarding its causes and consequencesApplied Psychology: Health and Well‒Being. 2009;1: 137–164. doi:10.1111/j.1758-0854.2009.01008.x

  2. Kubzansky LD, Huffman J, Boehm J, Hernandez R, et al. Positive psychological well-bBeing and cardiovascular disease: JACC health promotion seriesJournal of the American College of Cardiology. 2018;72:1382-1396. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2018.07.042

  3. Tiwari SC. Loneliness: A disease?. Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 2013;55(4):320-322. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.120536

Additional Reading
  • Huppert FA: Psychological well-being: Evidence regarding its causes and consequences. Applied Psychology: Health and Well‒Being 2009, 1: 137–164. DOI: 10.1111/j.1758-0854.2009.01008.x

  • McNulty JK, Fincham FD: Beyond positive psychology? Toward a contextual view of psychological processes and well-being. American Psychologist 2012, 67: 101–110. DOI: 10.1037/a0024572