Beautiful Ideas and the Scientific Enterprise: Sources of Intellectual Vitality in Research on Eudaimonic Well-Being

  • Carol D. RyffEmail author
Part of the International Handbooks of Quality-of-Life book series (IHQL)


This chapter examines a model of eudaimonic well-being (Ryff CD, J Personal Soc Psychol 57(6):1069–1081, 1989) that was built on points of convergence in multiple conceptions of optimal human functioning. Together, these perspectives are shown to be in the spirit of Aristotle’s eudaimonia. His guidelines for how to live gave emphasis to realization of personal capacities and becoming the best one can be. What makes all of these ideas beautiful is their commitment to distill the upside of the human condition. Via translation of these ideas to empirical assessment tools, new lines of scientific inquiry have unfolded. Select findings are briefly described. An overarching theme in recent research is that experiencing one’s life as worthwhile and meaningful appears to contribute to better health and increased longevity. Other inquiries are explicating underlying processes (physiological, brain-based, genetic) as well as documenting the protective benefits of well-being in contexts of significant adversity. Intervention studies have also grown up around this model of eudaimonic well-being, both in clinical efforts to treat depression and anxiety as well as school- and community-based programs seeking to nurture well-being in hopes of preventing future distress (mental or physical). Collectively, such initiatives in science and practice are transforming decades of prior research preoccupied with explicating pathways to disease, disability, and death. New directions, wherein health is studied as health (rather than illness) and the human capacity for resilience is demonstrated, are beautiful as well.


Happiness Wellbeing Eudaimonia Psychological well-being 


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute on Aging/Department of PsychologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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