“Is there someone in your life whom you would feel comfortable phoning at four in the morning to tell your troubles to? If your answer is yes, you will likely live longer than someone whose answer is no.”
~ Martin Seligman
Well-being is a construct, much like weather. Well-being is comprised of 5 different elements, coming together as well-being theory, the centerpiece of Positive Psychology.
Well-being is a combination of thinking and feeling good, in addition to having meaning, good relationships, and accomplishment in your life. Having high levels of well-being and performing at your best are closely correlated.
The acronym PERMA, coined by best-selling author and renowned well-being researcher Martin Seligman, PhD., consists of 5 measurable elements of well-being:
1. Positive Emotion
(Including happiness and life satisfaction): Feeling good: pleasure, gratitude, love, joy, comfort, warmth, ecstasy, curiosity, inspiration, and rapture. Positive emotion involves much more than a smile. Positive emotion helps us to perform better at work and study. Positive emotion engages our imagination and helps us to persevere in the face of challenges. Positive emotion is experienced in the present and helps us to undo negative emotion.
A state of flow: Being completely in the zone; when time stops for you; when you lose self-consciousness. Anyone who’s ever tried to stop their child from playing video games knows what engagement looks like. Engagement comes naturally when you’re doing activities love or are good at. You feel nothing at all while completely engaged. You can only look back retrospectively and remember how much fun you had.
Unlike positive emotion, there are no shortcuts to engagement. You must use your signature strengths and talents to meet your highest challenges. Identifying your signature strengths is huge. I recommend a visit to AuthenticHappiness.org. There you can identify your signature strengths, including how to use them more in your day-to-day life.
3. Positive Relationships
As social beings, positive relationships are essential to well-being. Those with positive relationships in their lives are noticeably happier than those without. Feelings of support, familiarity, and security that accompany positive relationships are all correlated with increased levels of well-being. Even relationships built on social media can increase well-being.
Positive relationships are especially necessary for children. Children showing a willingness to befriend others tend to be more comfortable sharing their feelings. Social connectedness is essential in adolescence as children tend to look to their peers for approval.
Belonging to and serving something bigger than the self. Politics, religion, and philanthropy are a few examples. Science has demonstrated that wealth and material possessions don’t correlate with much more than a temporary spike in well-being. Meaning increases well-being because it gives you a sense of purpose in life. Love is great example of meaning. When you’re in love, you’re inspired to live for, and take care of, someone other than yourself. You’re also less likely to be depressed with a strong sense of meaning because it promotes socializing.
Having goals, no matter the size, and making efforts to accomplish them is essential to your well-being. Merely trying to accomplish your goals increases life satisfaction.
Children model parents who have a drive to accomplish. Acknowledging your child’s small victories increases their self-belief. The more your child believes in themselves, the harder they try. Such strong self-belief builds resiliency and self-esteem.
What about happiness?
The 3 elements of happiness are the elements of positive emotion, engagement, and meaning. These 3 elements are measured subjectively by self-report.
Hopefully PERMA can help us to see happiness and well-being in a new light. As we strive to increase well-being and flourishing, PERMA can help us to realize what constitutes a life worth living, both for ourselves and our children.
Featured photo credit: Ludovica Verna via flickr.com