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Flourishing: Well-being Through Positive Psychology

By Janae McKendry

positive-psychology

In our most recent blog, we introduced PERMA, the scientific theory of well-being. PERMA is made up of 5 elements that are essential for growing happiness in your life.

Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment. 

Each element is important to pursue on its own, but the combination of all 5 provides the essential building blocks to flourishing. Let’s take a closer look at each of these elements.

Positive Emotions

Positive Emotions

The experience of positive emotions might seem fairly obvious as it relates to happiness. However, it is more than just smiling and feeling happy. The element of positive emotions focuses on the ability to remain optimistic despite circumstances and persevering in the face of setbacks and challenges. 

Positive emotions such as love, gratitude, awe, hope, or joy help promote and create new actions, ideas, and social connections. In other words, when you experience positive emotions your mind broadens. With an open mind, you can build on fresh possibilities and ideas. 

Engagement

coffee

Being present and engaged in an activity “…flood(s) the body with positive neurotransmitters and hormones that elevate one’s sense of well-being.” [1]https://positivepsychology.com/perma-model/ accessed on February 4, 2021.

When you become engrossed in an activity, pursuing it just for the sake of enjoyment, all the while losing your sense of time, you are in a state called flow. Research has shown that people who regularly experience flow are more creative, productive, content, and have a higher sense of well-being than those who do not.[2]Oppland, Mike. “8 Ways To Create Flow According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi [+TED Talk].” PositivePsychology.com, 20 Nov. 2019, positivepsychology.com/mihaly-csikszentmihalyi-father-of-flow/ 

Relationships

In Western cultures, individuality is highly sought after and oftentimes people abandon those close to them to pursue their own wants and desires to find happiness. Research, however, shows that this is not a realistic way to seek happiness.[3]Hari, Johann (2019). Lost connections why you’re depressed and how to find hope. London: Bloomsbury.  

Writer and speaker, Johann Hari, states that one of the core reasons depression, anxiety, and loneliness are incredibly prevalent in today’s culture, is that people have lost their social connections.[4]Et al. He describes the best way to beat this epidemic is to improve relationships. Hari even comes up with a “social prescription” instead of medication in order to help people reconnect with others who may be struggling with depression and anxiety.[5]Et al.

helping hands

Building meaningful and intimate relationships is essential for well-being and happiness. Humans are undeniably social creatures who long to be connected, valued, and loved by others. American traveler Chris McCandless, perfectly captures this idea by summarizing, “happiness is only real when shared.” 

Meaning

contemplation

A sense of meaning can vary widely from person to person, e.g. raising children, religion or spirituality, working for a cause that is believed in, or volunteering. For most people, having a sense of meaning is connected to their own personal values and core beliefs. Meaning is having the sense that your life is valuable and worthwhile and at the same time believing in something beyond yourself. 

If you are unsure what your meaning is, spend intentional time examining your personal values and core beliefs so you can pursue what provides a deep sense of meaning to find true happiness from within. 

Accomplishment 

exuberation

Having a sense of accomplishment is knowing that you have set out to reach goals, achieved them and maintained the motivation and self-discipline to complete those goals. People who have developed a sense of accomplishment can look back on their lives and say, “I did it and I did it well.” 

Those who possess a high sense of accomplishment also tend to have a higher level of grit, which according to Dr. Angela Duckworth is “passion and perseverance for long-term goals.”[6]Duckworth, Angela (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. Scribner/Simon & Schuster.

Gritty people don’t just finish the task for the sake of completing it, but they have connected their pursuit to a higher purpose and they are passionate about it. They have spent years working on something they believe in and refuse to give up in the face of challenges or setbacks. 

Key Takeaways for Applying PERMA to Your Life

  • Positive Emotions: Find ways to do more of what brings you positive emotions. For example, if you want to experience more gratitude start a gratitude journal. Research shows that people who practice gratitude are happier and less depressed than those who do not.[7]Gratitude definition: What is gratitude. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2021, from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/gratitude/definition#why_practice 
  • Engagement: What makes you flow? When was the last time you lost yourself in an activity that you love doing such as reading a book, listening to music, or a hobby? Reflect on activities you love simply for the sake of doing them and find ways to make it happen. 
  • Relationships: Building positive relationships is something we should all aspire to do and not just with our romantic partners. Consider your relationships at work, with your children, and your friends. Make a point to connect with others to celebrate your accomplishments with, spend time with others who value and respect you, cherish those who love you unconditionally and reciprocate that love. You will be better for it.
  • Meaning:  What is something you feel deeply connected to that is bigger or beyond yourself? A journal can be a safe space for ideas and possibilities that could provide direction. See if there are similarities or patterns in the ideas which could be a clue leading you to your meaning. “Meaning provides a sense that life matters.”[8]Butler, J., & Kern, M.L. (2015). The PERMA-Profiler: A brief multi-dimensional measureof flourishing. Available from http://www.peggykern.org/questionnaires.html
  • Accomplishment: Reflect on a time when you felt a sense of accomplishment. It could be finishing a book, a work project, or earning a degree. What contributed to your success? What went well? What were some roadblocks you had and how did you navigate those? Thinking of past examples where we experienced a sense of accomplishment can help us see why we were successful in completing those goals. It can also help us continue to reach that success in future endeavors. 

If you are unsure where to start, take our Four Streams quiz to help you identify which element of PERMA you should focus on. 

References

References
1 https://positivepsychology.com/perma-model/ accessed on February 4, 2021.
2 Oppland, Mike. “8 Ways To Create Flow According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi [+TED Talk].” PositivePsychology.com, 20 Nov. 2019, positivepsychology.com/mihaly-csikszentmihalyi-father-of-flow/
3 Hari, Johann (2019). Lost connections why you’re depressed and how to find hope. London: Bloomsbury.
4, 5 Et al.
6 Duckworth, Angela (2016). Grit: The power of passion and perseverance. Scribner/Simon & Schuster.
7 Gratitude definition: What is gratitude. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2021, from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/gratitude/definition#why_practice 
8 Butler, J., & Kern, M.L. (2015). The PERMA-Profiler: A brief multi-dimensional measureof flourishing. Available from http://www.peggykern.org/questionnaires.html