What Is Emotional Wellbeing

In recent years, there has been a major shift in psychology toward the study of optimal human functioning and adaptive tendencies.5 This "positive psychology" movement has been intended as a corrective to the field's long-term tendency to focus on ill-being and psychopathology rather than on well-being and positive adjustment. Part of this movement has involved a rekindling of earlier interest in what might be termed hygiology—that is, "locating and developing personal and social resources and adaptive tendencies,"6(p 5) even in the midst of distressing or abnormal life conditions.

The notion of hygiology implies that health can be defined in relative terms. For instance, different individuals faced with the same life-threatening physical illness may differ markedly in their psychological adaptation based, in part, on the strengths, resources, and coping methods at their disposal. Rather than focusing only on ameliorating psychological symptoms (e.g., anxiety, depression, anger) that they may experience, a positive psychology or hygiological response would be more concerned with how to bolster these individuals' positive coping tendencies and resources. Although the goals of reducing symptoms and increasing positive adaptation may draw on overlapping therapeutic strategies (and, indeed, the one process may partly enable the other), it is also reasonable to assume that a focus on restoring emotional well-being (i.e., enhancing positive adjustment) may profitably entail development of unique methods, compared to those involved only in mitigating worrisome symptoms.

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