Everyone seems to be in the pursuit of happiness nowadays.
Most of us think we know what happiness is, but what are the actual elements that promotes happiness within each of us?
Seligman’s theoretical model of happiness (PERMA) helps us understand these elements and what we can do to maximise each element to reach a life full of happiness.
This article contains:
Seligman’s PERMA model
The PERMA model was designed by Martin Seligman with five core element of psychological well-being and happiness. Seligman believes that these five elements can help people reach a life of fulfillment, happiness, and meaning. This model can also be applied to institutions to develop programs to help people develop new cognitive and emotional tools.
P – Positive Emotion
This element of the model is one of the most obvious connection to happiness. Being able to focus on positive emotions is more than just smiling, it is the ability to be optimistic and view the past, present, and future in a positive perspective. This positive view in life can help you in relationships, work, and inspire you to be more creative and take more chances. In everyone’s life there are highs and lows, focusing on the lows increase your chances of developing depression therefore you should focus on the high and positive aspects of life. There are also many health benefits to optimism and positivity.
Distinguishing between pleasure and enjoyment is important in this element of the model. Pleasure is connected to satisfying bodily needs for survival; such as thirst, hunger, and sleep. Where as enjoyment comes from intellectual stimulation and creativity, for example when a child completes a complex lego car that requires his concentration, he will be beaming with joy and satisfaction from his work. This type of positive emotion is needed, as when someone enjoys the tasks in their lives they are more likely to persevere and battle challenges through creative and alternative solutions.
E – Engagement
It is important in our lives to be able to find activities that takes our full engagement. Engagement in the activities in our lives is important for us to learn, grow and nurture our personal happiness.
Everyone is different and we all find enjoyment in different things whether it’s playing an instrument, playing a sport, dancing, working on an interesting project at work or a even just a hobby. We all need something in our lives that entirely absorbs us into the present moment, creating a ‘flow’ of blissful immersion into the task or activity. This type of ‘flow’ of engagement is important to stretch our intelligence, skills, and emotional capabilities.
R – Relationships
Relationships and social connections is one of the most important aspects of life. Humans are social animals that thrive for connection, love, intimacy, and a strong emotional and physical interaction with other humans. Building positive relationships with your parents, siblings, peers, and friends are important to spread love and joy. Having strong relationships gives you support in difficult times.
In an interview with Dr. Mitch Printein’s about his course on the psychology of popularity, he mentioned that there has been research that show that pain centers in our brain becomes activated when we are at risk of being isolated. This is because in an evolutionary perspective, isolation would be the worse thing we could do for survival.
M – Meaning
Having a purpose and meaning to why each of us are on this earth is important to living a life of happiness and fulfillment. Rather than the pursuit of pleasure and material wealth there is an actual meaning to our life. Such meaning gives people a reason for their life and that there is a greater purpose to life. To understand the greater impact of your work and why you chose to pursuit that work will help you enjoy the tasks more and become more satisfied and happier.
Check out Itai Ivtzan’s Awareness-Meaning Therapy that helps people find profound meaning in themselves and their lives.
A – Accomplishments
Having goals and ambition in life can help us to achieve things that can gives us a sense of accomplishment. You should make realistic goals that can be met and just putting in the effort to achieving those goals can already give you a sense of satisfaction, when you finally achieve those goals a sense of pride and fulfillment will be reached. Having accomplishments in life is important to push ourselves to thrive and flourish.
How to apply the PERMA model in your life
Being aware of the PERMA model is the first step to applying this theory into you life. Keep referring back to the 5 elements of the model to help you apply it to each aspect of your life. Remember to think in a positive perspective at home and at work. Find the things that make you happy and can make you fully engaged, you could even put goals to achieving more and challenging yourself in the activities you enjoy. Focus on your relationships with your family and friends by finding ways to connect and enjoy eachothers company. Find the meaning to your life and what gives you a sense of purpose, it’s different for everyone.
Watch Seligman’s talk about his PERMA model
The PERMA model. (n.a). Positive Psychology Melbourne. Here.
Prinstein, M. (2015). The Psychology of Popularity: An interview with Dr. Mitch Prinstein [Skype interview].
What is PERMA? The technical definition.(2012) Go Strengths! Here.
Slavin, S. J., Schindler, D., Chibnall, J. T., Fendell, G., & Shoss, M. (2012). PERMA: A model for institutional leadership and culture change. Academic Medicine, 87(11), 1481. Here.