An Extraordinary Figure in Well-being Science

Andrew Soren co-authored a paper with Carol Ryff called "Well-Being and Health: Enhancing a Eudaimonic Vision." Carol Ryff, a psychologist, has greatly contributed to the concept of eudaimonia. Andrew shares Carol’s work on positive psychology.

Psychologist, Carol Ryff’s impact on positive psychology

Nick: This is a paper you co-authored with Carol Ryff. Do you want to touch on Carol's impact on positive psychology and her contribution to the paper?

Andrew: Absolutely. Carol Ryff is an extraordinary psychologist. Absolutely my hero in so many ways, in terms of her research on the idea of eudaimonia, which is an idea that I'm sure that we will get into in a little bit.

Her contribution to the field, in the mid 80s, when she was doing her graduate work, she was looking back over the history of the 20th century, and in a lot of the psychological contributions of humanists and existential psychologists, who are doing a lot of work, trying to understand what well-being might mean in different kinds of contexts.

This was before anybody was talking about positive psychology or that movement really started to emerge in the 21st century. So she was predating a lot of that and came up with a model called Psychological Well-being, which she published in 1989, I believe.

That model has six categorical dimensions that she really built up from the literature of all of these extraordinary humanists and existentialists, folks like Maslow and Viktor Frankl, and so many others, who were asking these questions about what well-being might mean and psychological functioning might look like, and not just what psychological illness might be.

So that's a little bit about Carol. Since then, she's done amazing work, predominantly at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and runs their Institute on Aging, and specifically this study that we'll probably talk a little bit about as well called MIDUS.

And she invited me to co-edit a whole entire special issue of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, all about meaning in life, meaning and purpose in life and its relationship to our psychological and physical health. As part of that special issue, we wrote this specific article about meaningful work and its impact on our health and well-being.

Nick: There you go. When I stumbled upon it, I was kind of pleasantly surprised. And I thought, wow, she predates this, I guess what we call the positive literature boom of the early 2000s or the late 1990s.

And as I mentioned to you, she doesn't seem to get as much recognition as some of the more popular names we hear like Martin Seligman or Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. So I'm glad we get to talk about her briefly on this episode.

Andrew: She’s the real deal. For anybody interested in the science of well-being, she's an extraordinary figure.