The One Essential Ingredient for Happiness and Well-Being

The One Essential Ingredient for Happiness and Well-Being

Despite the title of this article and despite me being more than happy to share it, I don’t actually believe there’s ONE essential ingredient for happiness or wellbeing or anything!

Rather, there are many. And we each need to find our own “recipe”, our own combination, that works for us.

That being said, the “one” ingredient that’s highlighted in this Psychology Today article (by Arash Emamzadeh) is a pretty important one. So keep reading to learn more …


  • Well-being is associated with living an engaged, pleasant, and meaningful life.
  • High levels of engagement, increased meaningfulness, and better mood may require greater levels of autonomy.
  • We experience more autonomy when we perform an activity for internal reasons (e.g., self-expression) than external ones (e.g., rewards).

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Well-being and happiness have three components: affect (i.e., emotion or mood), engagement, and meaning.

In other words, the recipe for well-being is living:

  1. A pleasant life: pleasurable experiences and positive affect (e.g., happiness).
  2. An engaged life: feeling engaged and absorbed in one’s activities.
  3. A meaningful life: a life with purpose.

Might greater autonomy also contribute to well-being and happiness? Perhaps. A recent article by Kukita, Nakamura, and Csikszentmihalyi—published in the January/February issue of The Journal of Positive Psychology—describes the use of real-time assessments to determine the effects of situational and motivational factors, like autonomy, on the above three components of well-being.

Before reviewing the study, let me briefly explain what autonomy means.

Though autonomy is sometimes considered synonymous with independence and freedom, Deci and Ryan, authors of self-determination theory, have defined autonomy in the following way: “Autonomy refers to volition, to having the experience of choice, to endorsing one’s actions at the highest level of reflection.”

Autonomy is often associated with intrinsically motivated actions—doing something because it’s interesting, enjoyable, and naturally satisfying— rather than extrinsically motivated actions (i.e., motivated by rewards or punishment)…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE