PERMA – The 5 Elements of Happiness

PERMA is a 5 core element of happiness and psychological well being. It was developed by Martin Seligman. These 5 elements help people work towards a life of fulfillment, happiness, and meaning. Each of the 5 PERMA elements was selected according to 3 criteria:

  1. It contributes to well-being.
  2. It is pursued for its own sake.
  3. It is defined and measured independently of the other elements.

Happiness involves wide range of feelings, such as happiness, joy,excitement, satisfaction, pride and awe. These emotions are frequently seen as connected to positive outcomes, such as longer life and healthier social relationships. Institutions use this model to develop programs that help people discover and use new cognitive and emotional tools. We explore each of these elements below.

  • P – Positive Emotion: This element is the most obvious connection to happiness. Focusing on positive emotions is more than smiling: it is the ability to remain optimistic and view one’s past, present, and future from a constructive perspective. A positive view can help in relationships and work, and inspire others to be more creative and take more chances. If you keep focusing on “lows” you will increase your chances of developing depression. Regardless, there are many health benefits to optimism and positivity. How do we distinguish between pleasure and enjoyment for this? Pleasure is connected to satisfying bodily needs for survival, such as thirst, hunger, and sleep. Whereas enjoyment comes from intellectual stimulation and creativity. When a child completes a complex Lego car that requires their concentration, for example, they might beam with joy and satisfaction from their work. This type of positive emotion is crucial. It can help people enjoys the daily tasks in their lives and persevere with challenges they will face by remaining optimistic about eventual outcomes.
  • E – Engagement: Engagement refers to involvement in activities that draws and builds upon one’s interests. True engagement is a  flow, a state of deep effortless involvement,feeling of intensity that leads to a sense of ecstasy and clarity. The task being done needs to call upon higher skill and be a bit difficult and challenging yet still possible. Engagement involves passion for and concentration on the task at hand and is assessed subjectively as to whether the person engaged was completely absorbed, losing self-consciousness. Activities that meet our need for engagement, flood the body with positive neurotransmitters and hormones that elevate one’s sense of well-being. This engagement helps us remain present, as well as synthesize the activities where we find calm, focus, and joy. People find enjoyment in different things, whether it’s playing an instrument, playing a sport, dancing, working on an interesting project at work or even just a hobby. When time truly “flies by” during an activity, it is likely because the people involved were experiencing this sense of engagement. We all need something in our lives that absorbs us into the current moment, creating a ‘flow’ of blissful immersion into the task or activity. This type of ‘flow’ of engagement stretches our intelligence, skills, and emotional capabilities. 
  • R – Relationships: Relationships and social connections are crucial to meaningful lives. We are social animals who are hard-wired to bond and depend on other humans. Hence, the basic need for healthy relationships. We thrive on connections that promote love, intimacy, and a strong emotional and physical interaction with other humans. Positive relationships with one’s parents, siblings, peers, coworkers, and friends is a key ingredient to overall joy. Strong relationships also provide support in difficult times that require resilience. A research shows our pain centers become activated when we are at risk of isolation. From an evolutionary perspective, isolation is the worse thing we could do for survival. These activation centers are like fire alarms in the body, discouraging people to continue feeling this pain, and ideally, reconnect socially with someone or a group. We need, neurologically, to know that we belong to a group; it helps us feel safe and valued, and has for millions of years.
  • M – Meaning: Having an answer as to “why are we on this earth?” is a key ingredient that can drive us towards fulfillment. Religion and spirituality provide many people with meaning, as can working for a good company, raising children, volunteering for a greater cause, and expressing ourselves creatively.Unfortunately, the media worships glamour and the pursuit of material wealth, impacting many people to feel like money is the gateway to happiness. While we do need money to pay for basic needs, once those basic needs are met and financial stress is not an issue, money is not what provides people with happiness.Understanding the impact of your work and why you chose to “show up at the office” may help you enjoy the tasks and become more satisfied with what you do. Whether you work in an office or not, think of what you spend most of your time doing. What does that activity provide you with?
  • A – Accomplishments: Having goals and ambition in life can help us to achieve things that can give 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 might help you consider the meaning and fulfillment to your life. Integrate this model with your daily life. Follow the below:

  • As a start, refer to the 5 elements of the model often.
  • Find the things that make you happy and can make you fully engaged.
  • Put goals on challenging yourself in the activities you enjoy.
  • Focus on your relationships with your family and friends, and find ways to connect with others, even if it does not come naturally to you at first.
  • Find the meaning to your life and what gives you a sense of purpose. It’s different for everyone.

Relationships are essential in fueling positive emotions, whether they are work-related, familial, romantic, or platonic. As Christopher Peterson puts it simply, “Other people matter.” Humans receive, share, and spread positivity to others through relationships. They are important not only in bad times, but good times as well. In fact, relationships can be strengthened by reacting to one another positively. It is typical that most positive things take place in the presence of other people. Meaning is also known as purpose, and prompts the question of “why”. Discovering and figuring out a clear “why” puts everything into context from work to relationships to other parts of life. Finding meaning is learning that there is something greater than one’s self. Despite potential challenges, working with meaning drives people to continue striving for a desirable goal. Accomplishments are the pursuit of success and mastery. Unlike the other parts of PERMA, they are sometimes pursued even when accomplishments do not result in positive emotions, meaning, or relationships. That being noted, accomplishments can activate the other elements of PERMA, such as pride, under positive emotion.Accomplishments can be individual or community-based, fun- or work-based.

Integrate PERMA in your daily life and live a rich, fulfilling and happy life.

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