Motivational life coach Noni Boon shares the secrets of the six-step PERMA plan.

While part of wellbeing comes from happiness, happiness alone does not constitute wellbeing. Dr Martin Seligman, Director of the Positive Psychology Centre at the University of Pennsylvania and founder of positive psychology, has identified five main ingredients that are required to establish and maintain wellbeing: PERMA is the abbreviation for Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Achievement. Only when a strong base of PERMA is consciously constructed can total wellbeing be achieved. I am going to explain you how you can rev up the PERMA in your life and seriously amp up your wellbeing.

According to Seligman’s 2002 Authentic Happiness Theory, Positive Emotion, Engagement, and Meaning are the three elements that underpin happiness. Later, Senia Maymin pointed out to him that wellbeing requires two more extremely important elements: positive Relationships, and successful Achieving. Seligman agreed and has now added these two endeavours to the list. The 2002 Authentic Happiness Theory has merged and grown into the Wellbeing Theory and has since become the blueprint for generating wellbeing.

1. Positive emotion

Positive Emotion is affectionately known as the ‘pleasant life’; in other words, living a life where you look for and seek out things that give you pleasure. Positive Emotion is best summed up as experiences, activities, events or items that give you pleasure, ecstasy, comfort, and warmth. Examples might include massage, good food and wine, sex, luxury items, fashion, pets, relaxation, and other indulgences. Discover
what gives you the greatest amount of pleasure and then do more of it.

2. Engagement

This is something that is felt more in retrospect than during the event or experience. During the actual ‘engagement’ of an activity or a task, you are in a state of ‘flow’. It is in retrospect that you will hear yourself saying, “That was fun”. Engagement is acquired when ‘time stands still’ for you: when you are so submerged or enthralled in what you are doing that an hour feels like five seconds. This type of engagement feeds your soul. It is similar to meditation, where the mind is directed to a single point of focus. When I am riding my horse toward a jump or galloping cross-country, I am not thinking about what’s for dinner. Choose an activity or a sport where time stands still for you, where you are fully in the ‘flow’ of what you are doing, and totally engaged.

3. Positive relationships

These are essential for wellbeing. Very little that is positive is solitary. If you recall an event in your life where you laughed uproariously or felt indescribable joy, chances are, there was another person or people involved. Most high points in your life take place around and including other people. One of the best things you can do to counteract a low mood is to go out and help somebody. Some of the most satisfying moments in my life have revolved around helping others. I find it the most fulfilling endeavour to pursue because it helps them and it helps me 10-fold. Look for opportunities to deepen your relationships and to help others in any way you can. Visit a nursing home, volunteer, get involved as much as possible.

4. Meaning

Meaning in life can be found through belonging to and serving something that you believe is bigger than yourself. Meaning is not solely a subjective state. For example, Abraham Lincoln may have, in his despair, judged his life as meaningless, however we see it as full of meaning and purpose. Meaning needs to meet three criteria: 1) It contributes to wellbeing. 2) It is often pursued for its own sake; for example, you might find meaning in pursuing something that has negative repercussions for you, yet you persist. 3) Meaning is measured independently of positive emotion, engagement, accomplishment, and relationships. Meaning is pursued by you, for you, and comes from an unexplainable deep inner drive. When you connect with what gives you meaning, you will undoubtedly find your life purpose. Fulfilling your life purpose will in
turn give you greater wellbeing.

5. Accomplishment

People pursue success, accomplishment, winning, achievement, and mastery. Accomplishments often bring no positive emotion, meaning, or positive relationships, however the endeavour itself is vital for wellbeing. Some people play to win for winning’s sake. For them, losing is devastating. Some tycoons pursue wealth and then give it away; others accumulate, living by the motto, ‘Who dies with the most toys wins’. Think about your goals, dreams, desires, accomplishments and ambition. What have you yet to achieve or acquire? Set a plan in place and actively move toward your target. You will achieve success and increase your wellbeing at the same time.

6. Make gratitude an attitude

Adding gratitude to the PERMA list is a sure way to lead a happier, more satisfying life. When you feel gratitude, you benefit from the pleasant memory of a positive event in your life. When you express gratitude to others, it strengthens your relationship with them. Feeling grateful is a choice and can sometimes be hard to arrive at. I often suggest that feeling grateful that things are not worse is a good starting point. Consciously and actively increasing your PERMA, along with building a list of things to feel grateful for, is the best possible way to increase wellbeing.

Noni Boon is Wellbeing Coach and creator of the program SHARE on BalanceByDeborahHutton. Noni is an international best-selling author, motivational speaker, and guest writer.