Martin Seligman, the father of modern Positive Psychology has a model of wellbeing, summarized through the acronym PERMA. We’ve discussed these truth-based principles in previous posts (The Value of Positive Emotion, Some Happinesses are Better Than Others – Part 1, Part 2). PERMA is:
P – Positive Emotion
Happy Type 1 – enjoyment in life, the toppings of our happiness sundae. These are best experienced when we also have meaningfulness and engagement well established in our lives.
E – Engagement
Happy Type 2 – this is the concept of “flow” which is the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Using your highest strengths in ways that are gratifying and challenging creates a unique positive emotional state where we are immersed in our experiences. Positive psychology outcome studies show that these types of experiences improve our sense of life satisfaction.
R – Relationships
It is through our relationships that we have everyday opportunities to experience the positive emotions of happiness (enjoyment, engagement, and meaningfulness), gratitude, and love. Also, it’s where we can practice using our highest strengths: generosity, kindness, empathy, patience, forgiveness. Positive relationships in life have meaningful effects on happiness, longevity, mental and physical health.
M – Meaningfulness
Happy Type 3 – using our highest strengths in the service of something larger than ourselves. These types of experiences make the most difference in terms of life satisfaction and fulfill needs of purpose, values, and efficacy.
A – Accomplishment
The purposefulness of living. It connects our past, present and future. Emphasizes the natural process of personal growth during the lifespan.
All of the above have been demonstrated through the research of Martin Seligman, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Barbara Fredrickson, George Vaillant and many others to contribute to wellbeing and health, proving PERMA to be a valid model. However, what I find incomplete in this model of wellbeing is the motivational component of living. Without this part there may be a misconception that wellbeing is a goal we are trying to arrive at, instead of what is a more truthful way of looking at wellbeing as a positive state of health that we maintain. The acronym PERMA has also always struck me as being incomplete, and so to round out this picture, I’ve added a few concepts that complete this model of health. Whereas PERMA summarizes the components of wellbeing, the following describe healthy motivation. Conveniently, it also happens to be a relevant acronym too, PERMA-NENT:
N – Needs
The universal basis and source of human motivation, first described by Abraham Maslow and further expanded upon by the late Marshall Rosenberg. Needs that are met create positive emotions encouraging integration of these strategies into everyday living. Unmet needs create unpleasant feelings, guiding us back towards behaviors that reinforce growth, health, and sustainability.
E – Emotional Efficacy
Whereas needs are the basis and source, emotions provide the purposeful mechanism for motivation. Being successful in utilizing all of our feelings either keeps on a healthy path with positive emotion, or guides us back to health when responding to the directed energy and motivation of unpleasant emotion. Curious to learn more? Upcoming Emotions Workshop plug here!
N – Newness
Neuroplasticity – the truth that we are always growing throughout our lifespan. Growth mindset – being able to positively adapt when our environment changes around us, or being able to choose healthy goals for ourselves that we progress towards. There is no true destination in life where we “arrive,” but instead we set our goal to keep growing towards more and more healthiness.
T – Truthfulness
Authenticity – aligning the beliefs of our inner world with the truths of the outer world. There are means to achieve “success” in life that are effective, but ultimately prove too costly, unsustainable, painful or harmful. Being grounded in truth-based principles ensures that the changes we make are real, as well as worthwhile, healthy, sustainable, and ultimately gratifying.
Health is not the absence of disease. Nor is it trying to feel good all the time. Healthiness is whole state of being where growth, wellbeing, relatedness, and authenticity are experienced and sustained, PERMANENT-ly.