PERMA model: what it is and what it says about psychological well-being
Everyone pursues happiness, but very few know how to achieve it. Becoming happy is a complex task, because not everyone has the same idea of what happiness is and there are many ways to understand it.
The PERMA model or welfare theory is to describe how people choose what makes them happy in a free way. It includes those elements of well-being that contribute to feeling good, having an optimal state of mind and facing the day-to-day in a positive way.
This model was developed by Martin Seligman, who is considered the main founder of Positive Psychology. Its objective is to facilitate people to be able to consider a future and advance towards it, in order to reach the so desired happiness.
PERMA Model Features
Seligman proposes 5 components in his model, which contribute to well-being. When the person develops and improves each of these components, he or she approaches happiness, satisfaction and motivation. The PERMA model has as its objective to help give meaning to our lives and work towards objectives that contribute to feeling fulfilled .
Each of the five components that make up the model has three properties:
- It contributes to well-being.
- It must be chosen by people for their own good.
- It is measured and defined independently from the other components of the model.
These are the components of the PERMA model:
1. Positive emotions
Although it seems to be the most obvious part of the model, working on positive emotions is fundamental to feel good. It does not only mean smiling at life, it also implies being optimistic about the future and being positive every day.
Life is a process in which there are ups and downs. If you focus only on the bad and underestimate the good, you will feel that there is no hope and that there is no way to move forward and be happy.
It is very important to be aware that although things do not always turn out as one would expect, knowing how to face them in the best possible way allows you to move forward.
Satisfying basic needs of the organism, such as thirst, hunger or the need to sleep, gives physiological pleasure, but the enjoyment of tasks that bring intellectual and artistic benefits satisfy emotionally and give a sense of self-realisation.
Taking pleasure in everyday tasks and maintaining an optimistic outlook on life allows you to persevere and face the challenges of everyday life.
When something is really enjoyed, time flies by. The pleasure that a hobby offers, such as sport, dance, playing an instrument or being a member in an interesting project helps to keep you committed and constant.
Everybody needs some activity that allows them to get away from the daily routine , something that will be positive as long as it does not isolate them from the rest of society. Leaving aside stress at work or from routine momentarily helps you to clear your head and regain your energy.
Pleasant activities can be absorbed by the person doing them, feeling a sense of flow that gives peace of mind.
3. Positive Relationships
According to the PERMA model, relationships are a crucial element in achieving a full and meaningful life .
Many people believe that happiness depends mostly on what one does for oneself regardless of one’s social circle, that it is not necessary to turn to others to achieve a full life. Seligman’s model believes that the opposite is true. Since humans are social animals, it is necessary to interact with other people in order to survive and prosper.
Taking care of relationships with family, friends and partners or even with colleagues, contributes to having a social network that provides emotional support. When difficult situations arise, being able to ask for help from other people makes it easier to reach a solution quickly and efficiently.
The feeling of loneliness is one of the most serious problems in society since, although it is not a psychological disorder or a disease, it produces harm. Moreover, despite feeling lonely, there are people who isolate themselves even more. The individualism that has been promoted in the last decades is really counterproductive, especially considering that we human beings have survived for years by cooperating.
According to the PERMA Model, it is important for people to ask themselves what their vital purpose is, or what they can offer the world . Living from day to day without having a long term goal is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can make one feel somewhat lost and can make one feel that he is not going to be a useful person.
Searching for meaning in one’s own existence may seem a very philosophical and even intimidating task, but doing so already contributes to feeling a certain sense of direction towards a goal and allows one to try out different options.
During this process you can try volunteering with a charity, help a family member in need, write a book, reorient yourself…
Setting goals does not make much sense if you do not try to achieve them . Objectives should be realistic but also somewhat ambitious. Making a plan for the goal will always help to get closer to achieving it.
How do we apply it to our lives?
Knowing the components of this model and what they refer to helps to understand Seligman’s proposal, but it does not mean that it is easy to integrate it into our lives. A good start is looking for what makes us happy, what motivates us every day or even what sometimes takes us out of the monotonous routine.
Once we find pleasant activities, we ask ourselves what they offer us and why we have been doing them frequently. Think about assumable challenges. Focus on your personal relationships and look for ways you can make more meaningful connections with them and develop new ones.
- Bolaños-Domínguez, R. E. and Ibarra-Cruz, E. (2017). Positive psychology: a new approach to the study of happiness. Reason and Word, 21(96), 660-679.
- Goodman, F. R., Disabato, D., J., Kashdan, T. B. and Kauffman, S. B. (2017). Measuring well-being: A comparison of subjective well-being and PERMA. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 13(4), 321-332.