PERMA - A Well-Being Oiled Life
In today’s world, there is a lot of focus on alleviating suffering. Yet, reaching a level of well-being requires more than alleviation. In fact, based on the Theory of Well-being in Positive Psychology, optimal health requires a focus on behaviors and experiences of a + positive nature. This focus needs to outweigh the emphasis on simply reducing pathology. Even if suffering is alleviated, there must be a reverberation of joy, thankfulness, and fascination in life to grasp our goal of fulfillment.
PERMA is the key to experiencing a well-oiled and optimal functioning life. This is a life not focused on avoiding sickness but one of contentment. Dr. Martin Seligman, a pioneer of Positive Psychology, developed the evidence-based PERMA framework to put us on the right track towards flourishing.
So...what is PERMA all about?
P - Positive Emotions
As basic as it may sound, finding ways to simply experience positive feelings is an underlying factor to well-being. Positive feelings such as joy, laughter, gratitude, love, hope, and even relaxation send signals to our brain that "life is good". Even in a chaotic world, there can still be moments where something positive takes over other forces.
Practical examples of positive feelings differ for everyone. Watching a favourite sitcom, writing in a gratitude journal, spending time with a pet, getting a massage or even better...acupuncture, going for a jog, or meditating to an app are all prime examples of simply doing something because it feels good.
E - Engagement
The pillar of engagement revolves around full absorption in an activity. When we experience flow, we lose track of time and are completely immersed in what we are doing. This can be a small moment or a long state of concentration. The key to engagement is that we must be willing to challenge ourselves to get to that level. If something is too easy, we don’t necessarily need to concentrate and can add in our worrying to the task. We must be okay to push past comfortability and be open to new connections.
Examples of engaging activities include playing a sport (tennis anyone?), going to the movies, playing a board game, learning to knit, gardening or farm work, reading a good book, learning an instrument, and having a good discussion with a friend.
R - Relationships
Just like plants, we need some nurturance to grow and flourish. A secure and positive relationship can be a source of life-giving water to our souls. Experiencing a level of support, empathy and value from another is clinically linked to less psychopathology. Even when we are in the middle of suffering, having a friend or family member to simply share our sufferings with can add to our quality of life. But also remember, the person we talk to the most is ourselves. We need to learn to radically accept all that has taken place around and within us. We need to boost ourselves and love ourselves, even when we don’t feel like it.
Examples of positive relationships include a best friend, a partner, a spouse, a friendly co-worker, a parent, a child, a work-out buddy, and even a long-time business client.
M - Meaning
Meaning is not necessarily a feeling but is a deep conviction of mattering. Discovering a purpose in life is motivating to the body and mind to stay the course. Finding a sense of belonging in a community, group or family is a main factor in building an ontological significance in life. Looking past our own desires for suffering alleviation, we need to look how to add to a cause that can develop a deep sense of worth and value.
Examples of ways to discover meaning are personally different but some include participating in a religious or cultural community, taking care of a loved one such as a child, spouse or parent, working to contribute to the needs of society, volunteering, and making someone smile.
A - Accomplishment
Building a sense of mastery or competence in any particular area is the final building block in the PERMA model. Setting small or large goals and working away at them produces a healthy boost in our reward system. Achieving goals can instill a new sense of confidence that 'yes, my body, mind and spirit are working for me'. Even if you still desire to alleviate some symptom, disease or disorder, try making small goals for your health and celebrate each one, rather than refusing to be happy until the slate is clean.
Examples of accomplishment include finishing a word puzzle, finishing a race, completing a course, completing a blog about PERMA, travelling to a new place, building a craft, quitting an unhealthy habit and even saving some money!
I found a new way to walk...
PERMA is a new way of thinking around health and wellness. Based on the evidence in this theory, the absence of disease is no longer the essence of well-being. Our systems were designed to appreciate being human! Rediscover each pillar in your life and celebrate the beauty and radiance of humanity.