The theory of well-being, from the field of positive psychology, has given us the all-encompassing acronym PERMA (Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning & Purpose and Achievement). The theory suggests that it is how we choose to share our energies across these five domains that have the most direct impact on our all-round well-being.
Imagine if you will a flower with five roots and from these roots a stem with a beautiful bud blossoming atop it. The five roots represent the pillars PERMA, the stem your life and the flowering bud the manifestations, the products, of that life. If the roots are not getting the right nutrients from the soil, the vital water and sun it requires to flourish, the stem would be limp and the flower withered.
Does the stem of your life feel strong, vibrant and upright or weak, despondent and wilted?
As we pass through the cycle of life we are presented with many challenges along the way. It’s how we prepare for these challenges, building our strength, that will determine if we bounce back gracefully or at all.
Let us walk together through the five pillars of well-being and notice as we do, which ones intuitively feel more familiar to you. Each of these roots is important but for example, if you are not naturally an optimistic person, do not despair - work on increasing your engagement and relationships, these are all pathways to positivity.
Positive Emotions are crucial for humans to flourish. When we experience positive emotions we increase resiliency, bounce back from challenges quicker and with more energy, we are more creative and build resources we can draw upon later down the road. Gratitude is and all important gift that should sit pride of place amongst the more familiar emotions of love, hope, joy and respect etc. It can be cultivated by journaling daily; consider noting down three things that went well every evening and detailing why each was successful.
Engagement is when we experience a state of flow, we loose a sense of time and space and we are in that elusive ‘moment’. It’s where skill set and challenge meet. A good place to start assessing your engagement it to take the VIA survey (www.viacharacter.org) and identify your top strengths. Once you have identified these powerful characteristics you can begin using them, intentionally, in everything that you do specifically when you are faced with a challenge - either at work or at home. Looking at this challenge through the lens of your strengths will shift your approach and hopefully how you choose to face it.
Relationships are of course, key to our well-being. We are social creatures and social connections support every facet of our being. Investing in those key relationships at work and at home, will have a profound effect. To make this important shift is not easy however, it takes thought and planning. Life will always be busy but it is essential to carve out time to savior these all-important moments. This will sometimes mean saying ‘no’, but by bringing awareness to what is important you will be cultivating time to connect with what is special to you.
Meaning & Purpose is your connection to something bigger than yourself. Whether that takes the form of volunteering or championing a cause it is, simply put, doing something for someone else. Perhaps consider buying a coffee for the person behind you in Starbucks, giving a donation, sharing your lunch, taking your mother-in-law out somewhere nice. However you decide to express this meaning, it doesn’t have to be huge; keep it simple and know that it not only benefits the receiver but the giver too.
Achievement refers to the goals you set out for yourself, short and long term. How do I succeed in my goals? According to Carol Dweck, author of bestselling book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, the key ingredients to attaining your goals are self-discipline and grit: “no matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.”
PERMA acts as a solid framework from which to take us from merely ‘functioning’ to ‘flourishing’. Through this framework we can be intentional about creating the right environment for our life to bloom and weather many seasons, kind and hard, that the future holds for us.