What is PERMA Model?



PERMA model is an acronym, derived by Martin Seligman, to explain a model to help guide people to happiness.

Students can also examine the five components of the PERMA model and discover how these components are
currently in their lives and how they can integrate these into daily routines.
• Examples of integrating PERMA model:
» P (positive emotion): acknowledging when one feels happiness or joy
» E (engagement): finding tasks that are enjoyable and free from distractions
» R (relationships): offering support and listening to friends and family, spending one-on-one time with another person
» M (meaning): discover individual beliefs and ideas about the world and engage in activities that promote a greater good
» A (accomplishments): challenging self in positive and progressive ways to further develop strengths and skill.

The PERMA model is an evidence-based approach to improve “happiness” and decrease anxiety, depression, and stress. In fact many activities can be used to systematically increase positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment (PERMA).

5 Elements of PERMA Model of Wellbeing:

1. Positive emotion-

Positive emotion is not just about ‘happiness’. It is also about joy, affection, love, hope, gratitude, kindness, care, dignity, delight, interest, etc. It means the individual’s experience of positive mood and feelings which are comforting and uplifting. Hence, working on building up positive emotions intentionally helps individuals to improve their automatic thinking pattern and behavior. It also helps them to discover, appreciate and assimilate these positive emotions in their day-to-day life.

Ways to build positive emotion include:

  • Spending time with people you care about
  • Doing activities that you enjoy (hobbies)
  • Listening to uplifting or inspirational music
  • Reflecting on things you are grateful for and what is going well in your life

2. Engagement-

According to Seligman, engagement referred as “being one with the music” which is quite close to one of the co-founders of positive psychology, Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of “Flow”. It is being fully present in the ‘now’ moment and completely absorbed or engaged in the activity at hand. This ‘flow’ or ‘engagement’ occurs when an individual’s level of skill or strength matches with the difficulty level of task. Eventually, individuals who practice their strengths in different ways every day for a week found to be happier and less depressed. Thus, happiness is one of the by-products of engagement. Observing and living the present moment, taking part in hobbies you truly love which makes you lose track of time when you do them as you completely get absorbed in them. These are the examples to enhance engagement.

Ways to increase engagement:

  • Participate in activities that you really love, where you lose track of time when you do them.
  • Practice living in the moment, even during daily activities or mundane tasks.
  • Spend time in nature, watching, listening, and observing what happens around you.
  • Identify and learn about your character strengths, and do things that you excel at.

3. Relationship-

Relationships are very important for human beings as problems in relationships and social interactions affect the well-being of people to a great extent. However, people establish relationships for the need of love, affection, and for a sense of belonging. Relationships also refer to feeling of being supported, loved, and appreciated or respected by significant others. Improving the relationships with significant others makes the personal, professional, and social life much happier and easier. Thus, most of the individuals have a goal of enhancing relationships with important near and dear ones.

How to build relationships:

  • Ask questions of the people you don’t know well to find out more about them.
  • Join a class or group that interests you.
  • Create friendships with people you are acquainted with.
  • Get in touch with people you have not spoken to or connected with in a while.

4. Meaning-

Meaning means a sense of belonging and/or doing something for others which is greater than serving only ourselves. When a person is going through any significant challenge or hardship in life, having a purpose helps them sail through and give them a path. People who have a purpose in life have higher life satisfaction, better wellbeing, and longer life. Every individual may have their own different purpose in life which may be followed through in different ways. For example, having a great profession, doing a creative job, working for a social or political cause, or a religious/spiritual belief or participating in additional volunteer, or community services.

Ways to build meaning:

  • Get involved in a cause or organization that matters to you.
  • Try new, creative activities to find things you connect with.
  • Think about how you can use your passions to help others.
  • Spend quality time with people you care about.

5. Accomplishment-

The fifth element of PERMA Model is accomplishment which is also called as achievement, mastery, or competence. The sense of accomplishment or achievement requires that an individual should have goals, work toward attainment of these goals, achieve mastery in the task, and have self-motivation and determination to achieve their goas. However, these achievements help an individual to have high self-worth, strengthens self-esteem and build confidence.

Ways to build accomplishment:

  • Set goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound).
  • Reflect on past successes.
  • Look for creative ways to celebrate your achievements.

Accomplishment requires persistence and passion to achieve our goals. One can set the SMART goals to achieve things. That is, the goals need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound.

OPTIONAL ACTIVITY IDEA: Invite students to view the 10-minute video, Mr. Happy by Matt Morris (2010). After watching, ask students if Mr. Barnes leads a good life and, if so, what does he do to make it a good life.

A Well-being Theory by Martin Seligman.

Seligman believes that the PERMA Model’s five core elements are what people need in order to achieve a healthy sense of well-being, fulfillment, and satisfaction in life. That can lead to finding life’s true meaning.

In his book, Authentic Happiness (2002), Martin Seligman suggested three types of a happy life which can be studied:

  • The Pleasant life: It refers to the “life of enjoyment,” where people enjoy and savor the various positive feelings and emotions in their daily life. Coupled with pursuing interests, having entertainment and relationships.
  • The Good Life: It refers to the “life of engagement” where people engage themselves deeply in various activities and experience a flow in their life. For instance, losing sense of time when you engage yourself in reading a story by your favorite author.
  • The Meaningful Life: It refers to the “life of affiliation,” where people try to derive meaning and purpose in life by extending themselves and contributing to the society. When you go beyond the limited individual goals to larger goals at the community and global level, it helps develop a meaning to one’s life and leads to a positive sense of well-being.

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