Being happy and living life to the fullest is what every human being is striving for. Now more than ever, people seem to put pursuit of happiness as their top priority. However, although the term happiness seems clear enough, the implication seems quite vague for most people. Is it just simple as – Be happy? And, more importantly, are we capable of being happy 24/7? Finally, are we chasing it too hard, so much so that it too often ends with us feeling disappointed and disillusioned instead of happy?
Clearly defining what makes us happy can be quite challenging for most of us. More so, there is not one universal factor that brings happiness for every human being. Whereas succeeding in their career and earning big salary can bring happiness to a banker, for example, a writer would feel same amount of happiness while reading a great book. Although happiness seems undefinable and elusive, and with no definite trigger, there are still certain techniques and methods we can use in order to improve the overall quality of our lives and outlook on life, which would, eventually lead to us feeling much happier and fulfilled.
The PERMA model of happiness
According to Martin Seligman, the “father of positive psychology”, there is a formula for happiness. By presenting five elements that make up PERMA and strongly influence one’s sense of personal happiness and fulfillment – Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Achievement, Seligman offers guidelines towards happier life. Understanding these elements and taking action towards improving some of them, is what Seligman advises for finding happiness.
The 5 PERMA elements for achieving happiness
1. Positive emotion
Positive attitude is key to achieving happiness. However, having positive attitude doesn’t actually mean smiling all the time, but, quite contrary, it should never mean suppressing your emotions of any sort. Cultivating positive emotions requires accepting and understanding negative thoughts and emotions, learning about deep roots and causes of them, and ultimately, becoming better at finding positive sides to each scenario and circumstance.
In order to nurture positive emotions, we could take the 20/80 approach that is most often linked to business success and productivity. Yet, if we look at the approach from the standpoint of achieving happiness, we could consider the 20% as the time we spend doing small mindful exercises, such as meditation, reading, writing lists of positive aspects, gratefulness, etc. Those 20% of our time each day will then determine our feelings for the next 80% of our day no matter what circumstances we may encounter. Contrary to the popular opinion that it takes a great change in order for us to feel happy, it is actually determined by everyday small acts of self-love, mindfulness and appreciation.
Engaging in an activity that is of importance to us makes us feel present in the now, and thus creates a feeling of bliss, personal importance, purpose and happiness.
Remember how your days spent on a vacation seem to be a lot shorter compared to your regular work days, or how a day without a loved one seems like a year? The only difference in each example is our sense of engagement and enjoyment.
In order to increase and maintain happiness levels in our lives, we need to allow ourselves to explore and discover activities that help us feel engaged with all of our senses. Finding our drive and passion also requires prioritizing ourselves and saying no to anything that doesn’t make us feel completely immersed, inspired and driven.
As social beings, our sense of personal fulfillment and happiness is dependent upon social relationship and connection with others on intellectual, spiritual, physical and emotional level. Creating and nurturing relationships is of utmost importance for general wellbeing and sense of belonging. Isolation and alienation pose some of the greatest risks for developing fear, anxiety and unhappiness.
In order to fully apply this element of the PERMA model of happiness, we need to reflect on our current relationships and try to improve their quality. Nurturing close bonds with our friends, family members, relatives and lovers ultimately creates a strong and healthy base for us as it gives us the support and care we need throughout our life.
Creating strong positive relationships and improving existing ones, is a process that requires taking the time to dedicate to people who are important to us. Spending quality time together, supporting each other and being invested in the lives of others will create a positive and healthy connection that increases our sense of purpose, belonging and happiness.
Don’t be afraid to ask reflective question and deeply analyze your current relationships. This will give you the opportunity to become a better friend, sibling, parent or partner and to contribute to your own and the happiness of others around you.
Think of the great people throughout history and why we admire them so much. In a great majority of cases it is because of their purposeful and meaningful lives that have contributed greatly to humankind. Meaning and purpose in life contribute greatly to our sense of fulfillment and happiness since we all have that urge to dedicate our lives to something much bigger than ourselves, something that surpasses mere pursuit of materialistic wealth and small pleasures.
If we think of our motivation and what triggers it, we would soon realize that we are much more motivated once we have a clear, greater goal ahead of us, as opposed to doing actions without a greater purpose.
Finding purpose requires ignoring small, short-term pleasures and focus on the bigger picture instead. List out your dreams and goals in life, ask yourself what you want to be remembered by, what you want your legacy to be. And don’t be afraid if your dreams seem too big or unattainable at the moment. Focus on breaking it down into simple attainable steps. Count your strengths and work on your weaknesses step by step.
5. Accomplishments and Achievements
The sense of achievement once we accomplish our goals highly contributes to the general feeling of happiness and fulfillment. Our sense of achievement is directly related to the previous element of meaning and setting goals. Achieving any size goals gives us a confirmation of our strength, abilities and perseverance.
This is why it is important to break big goals into small, realistic ones, which can be achieved without losing drive and missing our targets. Perseverance contributes to our goal achieving and happiness in general. Once we decide not to give up, we have greater chances of accomplishing something. Similarly, once we stick to a goal and dedicate all of our strength, creativity and time to accomplish it, our sense of happiness will increase as a result of our dedication to a greater cause.
See how Martin Seligman explains the PERMA model
In order to get a better understanding, it’s best to listen to how to founder explain the model and how we can all start with this simple model to find our happiness!
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