Happiness is one of those topics that interest everyone and that is why psychology has paid a lot of attention to this phenomenon. There are different theories that have tried to explain this construct and there are many investigations that have tried to provide relevant data that allow us to understand its complexity.

One of the best known authors is Martin Seligman, who claims that there are five types of happiness . In this article we will talk about his model and what are its most outstanding characteristics.

Who is Martin Seligman

Dr. Martin Seligman, is an American psychologist and writer considered one of the founders of Positive Psychology . He was born on August 12, 1942 in Albany, New York. For many years he has been the director of the clinical training program at the University of Pennsylvania. His work deals with issues such as learned helplessness, positive psychology, depression, psychological resilience, optimism and pessimism.

It was in 1998 when this character decided to change the trend of psychology that focused mainly on negative emotions and how to handle them so that people’s well-being and emotional health would improve. Seligman has dedicated himself to investigating the implications of positive thinking and emotions and scientifically proving the most effective methods of self-help .

Seligman PERMA model

The fact is that the well-being of people cannot be studied without taking happiness into account. The author thinks that happiness has five components that are present in those individuals who are happiest. With this idea he created the “PERMA” model that, according to its acronym in English, means

  • Positive emotions
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Meanings
  • Accomplishment

Components and types of happiness

Seligman’s theory has five components or levels that indicate the types of happiness. The aim of his theory is to measure and encourage personal growth and well-being . These are the levels of his model:

1. Positive emotions or pleasant life

At the most basic level of happiness, the person experiences it through emotions . It has to do with the amount of emotions we experience during the day. A pleasant life consists of having more pleasant experiences during the day than unpleasant ones. The author thinks that people can learn a series of techniques to increase the duration and intensity of their pleasures.

These positive experiences can be: playing sports, enjoying a good meal, reading, etc. What is positive about an experience depends on each person.

2. Commitment or committed life

If in the previous case the pleasures would be rather external, in this case the internal ones are incorporated. This is what is known as the “flow state”, in which the person connects with his or her own desires . We create a commitment when we are fully present, aware and creating opportunities for flow that lead to higher levels of well-being.

Seligmann describes the engagement as “stopping in time and losing self-awareness during an absorbing activity”. Happiness is developing a large number of optimal “flow” experiences through the use of personal strengths.

3. Relationships

Relationships with others are also a great source of happiness, so to be happy you need to spend time with them, because it increases the feeling of support and the perception of well-being. This has to do with all relationships: friends, family, partners… In fact, social support is closely related to well-being , and even some research claims that it helps reduce stress and discomfort. On the other hand, loneliness is associated with an increased risk of death.

4. Meaning or meaningful life

Seligman describes this level as bigger than ourselves. The meaning is the purpose for which we perceive that we exist , that is, what fills us and what we decide to fight for. They are our most desired goals. Finding meaning in oneself is not always easy, but it is necessary to be happy. The search for meaning and self-realization is one of the principles of positive psychology.

5. Success or sense of achievement

People can experience positive emotions, engage in different situations, feel the flow, have enriching relationships and find meaning in their lives.

We may have objectives that motivate us and help us to develop positively, but the highest level of happiness is that which we achieve when we have set objectives and goals from the heart and raised them. Then we feel competent and we know that we did what we wanted to do and we did it well. The achievement of goals, especially those linked to our values, increases well-being over a relatively long period of time.

What science says about happiness

As has been said, there is a lot of research on this subject. Who doesn’t want to be happy? Happiness is something we all pursue.

Over the years, scientists have found different activities, behaviors, attitudes and gestures that can make us happier. But what are the keys to happiness? Some of the most important findings are the following:

Spend more time with family and friends

As Seligman states, there is a lot of research that has shown that spending time with loved ones makes us happier.

Traveling a lot

Knowing the world and traveling is enriching not only because it opens our minds, but also because it makes us feel good. Researchers, however, have found that it is not the journeys themselves that make us happy, but planning them .

Living in the present

Living up to expectations, which are often unrealistic, is not conducive to our well-being. Instead, living in the present allows us to experience life in its fullness and makes us happier


Gratitude is another of the basic principles of happiness. So whenever you can thank your loved ones for everything they do for you.

Going out

Something as simple as going out is positive because increases the levels of serotonin in the brain , the neurotransmitter related to happiness.

These are just a few examples of what science says about happiness. If you want to know more, you can read this article: “The 10 keys to be happy, according to science”