Skip to main content

Episode 3: Four dimensions of psychological well-being – with Dr. Cortland Dahl

By October 31, 2021December 11th, 2021No Comments

Episode 3: Four dimensions of psychological well-being – with Dr. Cortland Dahl

Dr. Cortland Dahl and his team have done extensive research on what science says about psychological well-being and compiled this data into a framework with four distinct dimensions. Here we will learn about awareness, connection, insight and purpose. We will look at how these components affect our health and happiness and more importantly we will learn what we can do ourselves to increase the quality of our life experience.

Listen on SpotifyListen on Apple PodcastsListen on Google Podcasts

Main topic notes

  • How do you define well-being? [02:35]
  • What are the four dimensions of well-being? [06:32]
  • Why are we happier when in the present moment? [11:07]
  • The importance of social connections [14:40]
  • Connections and social media [16:30]
  • How can we increase the quality of our connections? [17:38]
  • The dual benefit of loving kindness meditation [19:10]
  • Appreciation and gratitude [21:31]
  • The definition and value of insight [22:41]
  • Self-awareness vs self-knowledge [28:12]
  • Purpose and finding meaning in what you’re already doing [29:40]
  • What you can do to develop these four dimensions of psychological well-being [33:08]
  • What the future holds [37:49]

Main article

The plasticity of well-being: A training-based framework for the cultivation of human flourishing
Cortland J. Dahl, Christine D. Wilson-Mendenhall, Richard J. Davidson
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Dec 2020, 117 (51) 32197-32206; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2014859117


  • The four dimensions of psychological well-being according to Dr. Dahl and his team are awareness, connection, insight and purpose
  • Awareness is our ability to pay attention to ourselves and our surroundings. When we are distracted, something called the default mode network is active meaning that we are thinking but not about what we are doing. Instead we tend to ruminate on the past or feel anxious about the future, often involving negative self-talk. When we are fully living in the present moment it moves our focus away from this repetitive loop of thinking.
  • Having deeply felt relationships have many positive health benefits. You can strengthen your social connections through loving kindness meditation or focused attention meditation.  
  • Insight is the capacity to understand one’s own mind and how it works. It is seeing how our thoughts, our emotions, our beliefs and our expectations are shaping our experience.
  • Purpose is our ability to both have an inner clarity about our most deeply held values and motivations and the ability to embody them in daily life. It’s about finding meaning in the things you’re already doing.  

More from Dr. Cortland Dahl