What is happiness – Is it a trait? Is it internally located? Or is it our response to a series of events? Then, how do we obtain this state of mind? – Do we derive our own state of happiness, or do others control it? Everyone is in the pursuit of happiness these days, but what if we have a model to help us?
Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes people thrive and factors like strengths, virtue, and resilience, that contribute to a person’s ability to live a full and meaningful life. Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, describes it as “the scientific study of optimal human functioning that aims to discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive.” Positive psychology was born out of the need to scientifically study the positive aspects of life. The theory of positive psychology has evolved greatly over the last few years—an ever-growing body of research has been uncovering the building blocks of happiness and well-being.
Dr. Martin Seligman has spent years studying the factors that contribute to a person’s happiness. And, rather unsurprisingly, he has found that happiness is not something that is “achieved.” A person doesn’t just engage in a specific series of actions and then suddenly they achieve happiness, and then stay happy forever. Happiness is not a permanent state of being. Rather, happiness is more like a by-product of certain habits that gives one a flourishing life he is proud to live up to. Through multiple studies, Martin Seligman found that the extent to which people were aware of and using their signature strengths (for example, courage, persistence, and wisdom) greatly impacted the quality of their lives.
He spent years developing a theory of well-being called the PERMA model- The scientific theory of happiness. The model comprises five elements that create the foundation of a flourishing life:
1. Positive (Psychology) Emotions
This element is, perhaps, 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.
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.
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.
We thrive on connections that promote love and strong emotional and physical interaction with other humans. Positive relationships with one’s parents, siblings, peers, co-workers, and friends is a key ingredient to overall joy. Strong relationships also provide support in difficult times that require resilience.
Having an answer as to “why are we on this earth?” is a key ingredient that can drive us towards fulfillment. 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?
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.
Each of these elements has three properties:
• They contribute to well-being;
• People pursue them for their own sakes, not just to attain the other elements;
• It’s measured and defined independently from the other elements.
And most importantly, understanding these elements can help us maximize each of them to reach a life full of happiness.
So how can you apply the PERMA model to your lives and achieve happiness? As a start, we recommend you refer to the 5 elements of the model often. Find the things that make you happy and can make you fully engaged. You could even 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 of your life and what gives you a sense of purpose. It’s different for everyone.
In summary, happiness is so much more than a smiley face, or a triggered emotion. Happiness is an achievable state of well-being that we are personally accountable for. Increasing our understanding of positive psychology and applying it to our lives will definitely bring us closer to happiness.
So, what do you think? How can you start applying PERMA to your life?