Dr. Martin Seligman, a psychologist at University of Pennsylvania, and one of the founders of the Positive Psychology movement developed a theory of well-being known as PERMA. This theory should be viewed as a general description of the common elements of well-being in human functioning. However, every individual is unique and experiences happiness in different ways. There are many different paths to a thriving life. Therefore the various components of PERMA are not universally experienced in the same way for every individual and therefore different people benefit from them in different ways.
Here are brief definitions of the five components of PERMA:
Positive Emotion –By learning how to magnify the intensity and duration of your pleasures you can increase good feelings. There is a genetic set range for positive emotions, but people can learn skills to live in the top part of this range. Fortunately, this appears to be the least crucial aspect of happiness.
Engagement – This is achieved by becoming absorbed and immersed in your work, love, friendship and leisure. When achieving a state of total absorption it produces a state known as “flow” that is so gratifying that people will pursue the activity for it’s own sake rather than the reward. People often describe this experience as their concentration being completely focused on the moment to the point where it feels like “time stops.” The key to having more engagement is to identify your strengths, set a clear goal that is sufficiently challenging and on which you can get immediate feedback on your progress, and develop a plan for implementing them into your life.
Relationships: Perhaps the most crucial component for achieving well-being is developing quality relationships. Shared experiences with others can often accentuate the experiences that contribute to well-being and can infuse life with meaning. Moreover, connections with people may help to alleviate negative feelings and produce positive emotions.
Meaning – This involves going beyond the self, by using your strengths to belong to, and serve something, that you believe is larger than yourself. There are various avenues for how people find their meaning including religion, spirituality, family, politics, organizations, community institutions, social causes, as a few examples.
Accomplishment: When people pursue mastery for it’s own sake this can contribute to increased well-being. Interestingly, even when this pursuit does not produce positive emotion people motivated by accomplishment will feel motivated to pursue their goals for the sense of achievement in of itself.