While the specifics of what constitutes flourishing may vary by the individual, the basic foundation is the same. Building a life with more PERMA (positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement) is crucial. Here are the five pillars of PERMA:
1. Positive emotions
Because of our natural negativity bias, it’s almost impossible to avoid negative emotions. However, offsetting those with positive interactions can have a powerful effect. John Gottman, Ph.D., suggests seeking out five positive emotions for each negative encounter. This can include practicing gratitude or self-compassion, doing something you love or even just making a point of being mindful of the positive emotion you’re feeling.
Engagement can also be referred to as “flow,” that state where you are, in the words of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D., “completely involved in an activity for its own sake.” Seek out things you enjoy and can do well and then make it a point to participate in those things regularly.
There’s plenty of research pointing to the value of relationships in our happiness and well-being. Practice building positive relationships both at work and at home by creating more positive interaction and weeding out the relationships that are harmful to your emotional health.
Meaning gives us a sense of belonging and connects us to our higher purpose. Simple ways to develop more meaning include participating in a spiritual practice that resonates with you, volunteering for a cause or charity you believe in and making positive changes, however small, in your little corner of the world.
An important aspect of flourishing, according to Martin Seligman, Ph.D., is achievement for achievement’s sake, not for the sake of a waiting reward. Work toward an accomplishment in which the reward is merely the accomplishment itself, and you may be surprised to see how it enhances your sense of well-being.
Paula Felps is the science editor at Live Happy magazine.