How to live a psychologically rich life

How to live a psychologically rich life

Being rich is commonly associated with having a hefty bank balance, but in this blog, I talk about another kind of richness – psychological wealth. But why should someone desire psychological richness?

A psychologically rich life is one characterised by a variety of interesting and perspective-changing experiences. Feeling happy and that your life has meaning are both associated with better health and relationships. From an evolutionary perspective, such people can be more resilient and might cope better in difficult and changing environments. Psychological richness could also protect against boredom. Psychological wellbeing leads to a feel-good feeling, which is characterised by plenty of positive emotions and general life satisfaction. In addition, the feeling that your life has meaning and that you are realising your potential. 

Consider the differences between material wealth and psychological wealth. Material wealth, which can be money or other assets, is often tangible. For me, the psychological equivalent of material wealth is our experiential stories. They might include our happy memories and the meaningful contributions we make to other people’s lives. But when it comes to psychological richness, sometimes even difficult experiences help us grow and see things in new ways that can add to our wealth. That’s because those are often the experiences that we tend to treat with care and reflection, which then turn into insights and observations that we can carry with us and share with others.

psychologically rich life transcends mere happiness and meaning. It is a life characterised by a plethora of fascinating and perspective-altering experiences. This lifestyle includes  factors such as:

Variety and Novelty: A psychologically rich life thrives on diversity. It revels in new, interesting encounters that ignite curiosity and broaden our mental horizons. Whether it’s exploring an uncharted trail, learning a new language, or engaging in a thought-provoking conversation, variety keeps life vibrant.

Emotional Intensity: This life isn’t afraid of intense emotions. It embraces both the highs and lows—the euphoria of achievement, the ache of loss, the thrill of adventure, and the warmth of connection. These emotional peaks and valleys add depth to our existence.

Complex Mental Engagement: The psychologically rich life is intellectually stimulating. It involves grappling with intricate problems, pondering abstract ideas, and seeking out challenges. It’s not content with superficial answers; it craves mental gymnastics.

Perspective Shifts: Imagine standing on a mountaintop, gazing at the world below. That’s what this life offers—an array of perspective-changing moments. It’s the sudden realisation, the paradigm shift, the “aha” that alters how we perceive reality.

Beyond Monotony: Unlike lives that tread predictable paths, the psychologically rich life is rarely boring or monotonous. It dances between pleasant and meaningful experiences, occasionally veering into uncharted territory where neither label applies.

Oishi & Westgate (1)state that if a positive mindset facilitates a happy life, and moral principles facilitate a meaningful life, then curiosity and spontaneity will facilitate a psychologically rich life. Sometimes, people can be so obsessed with happiness, that they actively strive to stir their lives in one direction—that of positive emotions and comfort. But life is unpredictable, and unfortunately, not always pleasant. Psychological richness entails accepting life as it happens, in its entirety. If we consider stories that we accumulate and share with others as the currency of psychological richness, many of our experiences can lend new insights and propel us towards growth, thus adding up to this wealth.

If the outcome of a happy life is personal satisfaction and the outcome of a meaningful life is a societal contribution, then the outcome of a psychologically rich life is wisdom. This is illustrated in the diagram below:

Pogosyan/Oishi & Westgate, 2021

The Garden Metaphor of Wellbeing

To explore the three constructs of well-being differently, consider the metaphor of a beautiful garden. You might feel hedonic well-being whenever you are greeted by the lovely blooms as you stroll through your garden. You might experience eudaimonic well-being as you revel in the sense of purpose you receive from tending to your garden and sharing its gifts with others. According to Oishi, psychological richness arises as you embrace the uncertainty of how your garden undergoes seasonal changes.

The landscape of the garden is in constant flux. Its diverse inhabitants from the plant and animal kingdoms follow nature’s lead. As you watch your garden metamorphose through the seasons—aflush with colour and harvest in one, barren and dormant in another—you might recognize the wealth, wonder, and wisdom of life’s unfolding, to which you also belong. A change of perspective is an indication that we were able to digest the novelty, complexity, and depth of the experience in new, insightful ways.

Literature and arts can significantly contribute to a psychologically rich life

Great literature, poetry, film, music, and art can significantly enrich our lives. Humans created art and culture to essentially help themselves go through a wealth of experiences second-hand. As Marcel Proust wrote in In Search of Lost Time, a novel can help us experience the joys and sorrows of someone’s entire lifetime within a matter of hours. While first-hand experiences are obviously more real, sometimes the imaginary worlds that novelists craft can be as vivid.

In summary, while happiness and meaning matter, a psychologically rich life adds another layer of fulfilment—one that stems from a tapestry of captivating experiences and shifts in perspective. So, perhaps the good life isn’t just about being happy or finding meaning; it’s also about being psychologically enriched.

A happy life is a great life. A meaningful life is a great life. But at times, when happiness and meaning are hard to come by, or if you are not predisposed to them, you can still experience well-being and have a good, admirable life by leading a psychologically rich life.

Adopted from the work of Professor Oishi who is a social psychologist at the University of Virginia


  1. Oishi, S., & Westgate, E. C. (2021). A Psychologically Rich Life: Beyond Happiness and Meaning. Psychological ReviewAdvance online publication1.

Vittersø, J. (2016). The Good Life: Well-Being and the New Science of Altruism, Selfishness, and Immorality. Cambridge University Press.

About Hansa Pankhania

Hansa is a Speaker, Corporate Wellbeing Coach and Author of 10 published books for adults and children.

In her books, Stress To Success In 28 Days and Stress To Success Stories, she is passionate about sharing natural wellbeing techniques that are cost-free, and easy-to-implement but nourish your body, mind, and soul in powerful ways. 

Her Chakraji Children’s Relaxation Series passes natural wellbeing tips to primary age children using colourful illustrations. 

She has also published her memoir Best Of Three Worlds about being born in Kenya as a British subject of Indian origin and the fusion of three histories and cultures.

Her latest book – Best Of One World – 60 steps to a sustainable, meaningful and joyful life helps you save money and boost your wellbeing and that of our planet too.

All her books are available through Amazon and her websites.

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