What is the Science of Well-Being?

To be truly happy people must learn to live in radically new ways. Well-being only arises when a person learns how to let go of struggles, to work in the service of others, and to grow in awareness. Certain approaches to feeling good have small or brief benefits because they separate the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual processes of living that must be in harmony for a happy life. Likewise, the introduction of modern drugs and psychotherapy techniques has not led people to live happier lives. Psychologists know much about the psychosocial skills of people who are happy, but they know little about their biology or spirituality. Psychiatrists know much about the biomedical characteristics of people who are unhappy, but not of those who are happy. What we need today, perhaps more than ever, is an approach that integrates into a coherent developmental perspective all of the psychosocial and biomedical knowledge that is available about well-being. At the Center for Well-Being, we believe that the path to well-being provides the foundation needed to transform human personality and cure mental disorders.

Researchers of the science of well-being aim to describe the principles and mechanisms underlying the path to the good life—that is, a life that is happy, harmonious, virtuous, and wise.

— C. Robert Cloninger, M.D.

Differences between “Feeling Good” and “Doing Good”

“Feeling good” cannot be authentic or stable without “being good” because happiness is the effortless expression of coherent intuitions of the world. It is true that we need things in our lives that help us “feel good,” but what we really need are opportunities to “do good.” Authentic happiness requires a coherent way of living, including the human processes that regulate the sexual, material, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of experience. In our work with the Anthropedia Foundation, we have developed tools and exercises to help people do just that.

New Research on the Science of Well-Being

In our work at the Center for Well-Being, we’re investigating how people can take action on their well-being. We conduct primary research like that on the genetics of mental illness and personality, and we also form partnerships with community organizations (e.g., Anthropedia and St. Patrick Center) to help make our research practical and clinically relevant.


Learn more about St. Patrick Center


Read about some of our research on the Science of Well-being

To give you a sense of the work we’re doing on the Science of Well-Being, here is a list of selected publications:

Cloninger, C. Robert. Feeling Good: The Science of Well Being. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

A Person-Centered Approach to Clinical Practice (PDF), C. Robert Cloninger, M.D., Kathleen M. Wong, M.D.

Promotion of Well-Being in Person-Centered Mental Health Care (PDF), C. Robert Cloninger, M.D., Ada H. Zohar, Ph.D., Kevin M. Cloninger, Ph.D.

Patient Management Exercise (PDF), Kathleen M. Wong, M.D., Ian A. Cook, M.D.

Cloninger, C.R. (2006). The science of well-being: An integrated approach to mental health and its disorders. World Psychiatry, 5, 71-76.

Cloninger, C. R. (2008). On well-being: Current research trends and future directions. Mens Sana Monographs, 6 (1), 3-9.

You can find out even more about the Science of Well-Being and Dr. Cloninger’s research on the genetics, neurobiology, and biopsychosocial approach to personality in the articles on ResearcherID.com below: