For the most part, we all wish to live happy lives. At times, this simple wish can seem absolutely foreign and unattainable.
There are numerous factors that play into our wellbeing. The environment we are surrounded by, the people we interact with daily, our past experiences, and the amount of stress we are under on a regular basis are just a few examples of the ways our mood can be heavily impacted.
We may eat healthy, have amazing friends and a dream job, and go to the gym regularly – but it can still feel at times that we have hit a wall and are unable to move past it.
What, then can swing us into a steady experience of happiness? Is it even possible?
According to Dr, Martin Seligman, pioneer in Positive Psychology, the answer is yes. He has even developed a scientifically proven model to build a life of greater happiness.
That model is called PERMA.
The PERMA model is made up of five parts: Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishments. The theory is, that by building these five core elements of psychological well-being within our own lives, we will be able to experience authentic happiness and fulfillment.
Though it may seem a bit obvious and vague, positive emotion is more than it may seem on the surface. It is not just laughing with friends, smiling, and generally trying to have a good time. Positive emotion implies the ability to remain optimistic throughout life. It requires us to look at our past and present constructively in order to build a better future for ourselves, and even set attainable goals that we feel good about. It is not about simple pleasures, such as indulging in sweet treats and a glass of wine. Rather, it is about doing the things that bring out our playfulness and creativity while engaging us intellectually. Those things such as writing a blog post about a topic we are passionate about, tending to a garden, working on a puzzle, or painting.
Extending upon the idea of choosing those activities that bring about positive emotion, we could go so far as to ask ourselves, “What in my life puts me into a state of flow?”
“Flow” is referring to the state where time seems to stop and we become fully engaged in what it is we are doing. Our minds and senses become fully involved with the task at hand. A good example would be a musician who becomes entirely swept away by the music. It is a full body experience and the world around them seems to fall away. It is just the musician and their instrument.
A similar experience happens for writers, painters, and other creatives as they become fully absorbed in their work to the point of looking up suddenly to realize the sun had set and they had accidentally missed lunch and dinner.
Engagement is all about discovering what that flow state is for you. It could be a creative project, running, sports, or any other type of hobby. Whatever you choose, make sure it is something that absorbs you fully into the present moment, and “stretches [your] intelligence, skills, and emotional capabilities.” [X]
Humans, from the beginning of our evolution, have been social creatures. We are reliant on each other for comfort, safety, and feelings of belonging. To be alone was to be an outcast, kicked out of the tribe for some wrongdoing and left alone to fend for the self. It was a death sentence.
These feelings around relationships are still deeply embedded within our DNA. We all have that deep desire to belong and be part of a collective that is bigger than ourselves. If we are not careful, this can lead us to building relationships with those who give us attention but do not leave us feeling supported and fulfilled at the end of the night.
Having healthy relationships with people we love, trust, and can be ourselves around with full acceptance is absolutely vital for our health and well-being and humans.
In order to thrive, we must create a tribe around us where we are valued as individuals and can practice skills such as love and intimacy. This feeling of deep belonging will lift us from feelings of isolation and separateness, which are so present and rooted in today’s culture.
This can be done by building upon existing relationships with friends, family, and loved ones. One could also join clubs, groups, or volunteer to bond with like-minded individuals.
Ah, the ever elusive question that has haunted the minds of men for millennia: What is the meaning of it all?
Well, that is for us to decide. Without going too deep into the meaning of the universe – we can decide what our own lives mean to us and what we intend to do with them.
Those who live happiest and the longest [X] often have a deep sense of purpose in life. They hold something dear to their heart that is much larger than themselves and that gets them out of bed in the morning.
We may not know why the human race exists, but we can choose what will give us the most fulfillment each day while we are on this Earth.
This can be having a deep sense of spirituality or religion, volunteering, teaching or raising children, or being involved in creative projects – just to name a few.
The activities that give our lives meaning are also often connected to those activities that put us into the aforementioned “flow state.” What activities do you already find yourself doing that offer you a sense of joy and fulfillment? In discovering what gives your life meaning, this question could be a great place to start.
Let’s face it: we love winning. It feels good to set out for a goal and achieve what we have set our minds to.
When we do not set goals for ourselves, or when we find ourselves in a loop of failing at what we try to attain, it can be discouraging to the point of draining motivation and leaving us feeling stuck.
Accomplishment encourages us to set attainable, realistic goals that encourage us, rather than deplete us. In doing this, we are likely to experience more accomplishment in our lives and as a result, we may push ourselves to thrive even more.
Starting small towards a big picture is the way towards experiencing greater accomplishment and happiness within our lives.
Now that we know the PERMA model, how do we apply it?
In summary, PERMA encourages us to:
- Be positive and optimistic as much as possible and to continuously look toward the bright side.
- Discover those things in our lives that ground us in the present and spark joy.
- Focus on the healthy relationships in our lives and keep finding ways to connect.
- Find a meaning or purpose in life that resonates and empowers us toward action.
- Celebrate our accomplishments and strive for further achievement.
Keeping these five points in mind, we may begin experiencing greater joy and lasting happiness within our lives.