Happiness is more than just having a momentary good time in life.
The growing school of Positive Psychology is digging deeper into the science and experience of happiness PERMA is an acronym that Martin Seligman uses in his new book, Flourishing, to highlight the 5 elements of happiness, or what is scientifically called, “subjective wellbeing.”
P stands for Positive Emotion
Most people believe that if they feel more joy, peace, security, kindness, compassion, and so on, they will be happy. And research does show that experiencing more pleasant (positive) emotions throughout your day increases your sense of wellbeing. But it’s also true that you can laugh on the outside and be crying on the inside. I know because I’ve done it many times. Increasing positive emotions is a good endeavor to pursue, just don’t stop there because happiness is also a form of adventure.
E stands for Engagement
When my wife and I went crawling 180 feet deep into the Rats Nest cave in Alberta Canada we were totally engaged (and terrified). Picture us with hard hats, coal miner lights, repelling gear, rock gloves, and dressed in coveralls. It took 1.5 hours to slither down into the bottom of the cave and 1.5 hours to climb back out. We were totally engaged and in the moment because climbing required every fiber to be focused on the task at hand.
Engagement is being in the flow so much that you lose track of time. It could be with work, your kids, your hobby, or a thousand other things. Engagement is an important element of happiness but there still is more to happiness.
R, which stands for Positive Relationships
True happiness cannot ultimately be experienced without the context of another human being. Positive relationship experiences are the crucible of happiness. According to studies, doing a kind act for someone else is the single most reliable way to increase happiness. There is no denying the deep influences that positive or negative relationships have on our well being.
But where does happiness research go from here?
M stands for Meaning
Positive psychology researchers define meaning as “belonging to and serving something that you believe is bigger than yourself.” Being clear on your life purpose and giving your life to a bigger cause can add depth of soul which translates to more than momentary positive emotions.
A stands for Achievement
Many people pursue success, accomplishment, winning, and achievement purely because it floats their boat. The father who works to make money to provide for his family achieves just as the mother who dedicates her time and energies to nurturing her childrens’ success. The teenager who achieves levels of success at games, education, hobbies, dreams and goals increases self-esteem which translates to happiness.
If you want to be deeply happy, set goals in each area: Postive Emotion, Engagement, Positive Relationships, Meaning, and Achievement.
Then you will be PERMA(nently) happy.