What is the Science of Well-being ?
Human beings have been thinking about happiness for thousands of years, perhaps since the very beginning of human civilization. Yet, there is still no definitive agreement on what characterizes this state of well-being. Kant says in his Metaphysics of Morals that “[…] the concept of happiness is such an indeterminate one that even though everyone wishes to attain happiness, he can never say definitively and consistently what it is that he really wishes and wills. As Kant states quite aptly, happiness may have no universal definition. It is conceived of differently in different cultures, but it is a universal feature of all cultures. Everyone—regardless of their age, culture, sexual or gender orientation, race, or any other category—desires happiness, even if they call it by another name.
While philosophers and religions have debated the nature of happiness and well-being for centuries, the concept has received new attention from an unexpected place in recent years—science. Since the early 50’s and 60’s, particularly in the U.S., scientists have been very interested in attempting to measure well-being and happiness.
The Science of Well-Being is the study of the interrelationships between all of the factors that lead to well-being, and the development of practical strategies for the cultivation of well-being in the world, a society, a community, and an individual.
The general notion of well-being is consistent with its wide and varied interpretation across cultures. Health and well-being is determined by multiple, interacting social, psychological and biological factors, just as illness is in general. This means that if society is dysfunctional, an individual’s mental health and thereby their well-being will be adversely affected. If our body is not healthy, it is difficult to have positive thoughts or emotions. Vice versa, if our thoughts and emotions are negative, our bodies are already getting unhealthy, even if we are not manifesting a state of disease yet. This notion highlights an essential tenet of the Science of Well-Being, that health and well-being is much more than the absence of disease.
Another essential element of the Science of the Well-Being, is the development of tools and scales that help us adequately measure well-being, including happiness and virtue, both qualitatively and quantitatively. For example scales that allow us to measure personality, physical and mental health, subjective well-being, and many other important facets of human wellness.
To adequately approach the cultivation of well-being in individuals and society requires a systems-level approach that integrates views from multiple disciplines. Informed by philosophy, art, and culture, the Science of Well-Being integrates research from neurobiology, psychology, anthropology, genetics, social science and economics, education, health sciences, ecology and climate change, and evolutionary biology.
By addressing the ancient philosophical concerns regarding the “good life” in a scientific and rigorous manner, the Science of Well-Being works to integrate insights gleaned from an understanding of human origins from evolutionary biology and anthropology, with our understanding of the brain and its systems of learning and memory from neurobiology, and research in subjective well-being and positive psychology, as well as our understanding of physical health learned from integrative medicine. By more clearly defining the proper functioning of a healthy human being, we can better facilitate our societal, cultural, artistic, and spiritual evolution.
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The Anthropedia Institute: A Global Network
Over the last 15 years, we've developed an international research network and a body of professionals from a broad variety of fields who form the Anthropedia Institute.
Based on this research we develop evidence-based approaches and educational resources, which teach ways to foster healthy behavior, self-awareness, psychological resilience, and ultimately help people live healthier lifestyles.
The Institute is comprised of a multidisciplinary team of accomplished physicians, psychiatrists, educators, psychologists, artists, and sociologists who research well-being and health promotion strategies within their respective fields.
The Institute is led by one of America’s most distinguished psychiatrists, Dr. C. Robert Cloninger. You can learn more about Dr. Cloninger and his research below.
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About the Director of the Institute
C. Robert Cloninger, MD, PhD
The former Wallace Renard Professor of Psychiatry, Professor of Genetics, Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences, and Director of the Center for Well-Being, Dr. Cloninger is currently Professor Emeritus at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Dr. Cloninger is widely cited and honored for his innovative biopsychosocial research that spans the genetics, neurobiology, development, psychology, brain imaging, and assessment of personality and psychopathology. His personality inventory, the Temperament and Character Inventory, has been used in more than 6000 peer-reviewed publications around the world.
Dr. Cloninger has published ten books and over 600 articles in psychiatry, psychology, and genetics. His recent books include Feeling Good: The Science of Well-Being by Oxford University Press, Origins of Altruism and Cooperation by Springer, and Personality and Psychopathology by American Psychiatric Press. Among his many awards, Dr. Cloninger has received the American Psychiatric Association’s Adolf Meyer Award (1993) and Judd Marmor Award (2009), and lifetime achievement awards from the American Society of Addiction Medicine (2000) and the International Society of Psychiatric Genetics (2003). He received the Oskar Pfister Award in 2014 from the American Association of Professional Chaplains and the American Psychiatric Association for his contributions to dialogue between psychiatry, religion, and spirituality. He is a fellow of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science and of the National Academy of Medicine in the USA.
The Temperament and Character Inventory
As a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, Anthropedia has spent the last 20 years developing educational resources, trainings, and community programs to apply the Science of Well-Being to improve people's lives.
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