The Five Components of True Happiness

The Five Components of True Happiness

And how to increase them in your life

With so much stress, anxiety and depression in our modern culture, there are multiple studies that indicate we may be living in one of the lowest points of overall happiness in human history. With so many people struggling to find happiness in their day-to-day lives, it may seem that there’s no hope in sight, and no tangible way to create happiness.

However, Martin Seligman, one of the leading experts in “Positive Psychology” has posited that the secret to being truly happy in life comes from five basic elements. He has discovered through extensive research that these five basic ingredients give life balance, joy and meaning. Seligman calls this state of mental health “flourishing,” and here at Archangel Therapy Group, we call it Thriving.

The PERMA Model

“What a flourishing adult or child has is not just the absence of misery, but the presence of five things,” Seligman claims. Seligman said “flourishing” includes elements like joy, comfort and good relationships. It also includes engagement in activities that allow us to forget about time and in serving something bigger than ourselves. He outlines those five things that add up to “well-being” with the letters PERMA.

  • Seligman’s PERMA Model
  • P – Positive Emotion
  • E – Engagement
  • R – Relationships
  • M – Meaning
  • A – Accomplishments

The 5 Elements of Seligman’s PERMA Model

Here are some ways to incorporate the components of PERMA into your own life to make it more satisfying and meaningful.

  1. Positive Emotion

    The feelings of joy, comfort and cheerfulness are a foundation of a satisfying life. Even though some people may not generally feel happy or merry most of the time, Seligman says positive emotions can be learned. One simple exercise that can increase positive emotions is to take a few minutes at the end of each day to write down three things that went well that day and why they went well. Seligman found that people who do this for six months have less depression, less anxiety and higher life satisfaction.

  2. Engagement

    Being completely engaged in the present moment is also known as being in the “flow.” That’s commonly referred to as times “when you are one with the music” or “when time stops.” This total engagement is encouraged when you use your “signature strengths,” which are moral strengths, like kindness, gratitude and sense of humor. You can figure out your own signature strengths by doing a short questionnaire at Seligman’s website and then you can increase your happiness by applying those strengths in your life.

  3. Relationships

    A good relationship is formed from skills that can be learned. One important ingredient is “active, constructive responding.” Seligman suggests “celebrating” others to build stronger and more loving relationships in marriage, friendship and even in business. If a friend says they got a promotion at work, for instance, instead of just saying “Congratulations, you deserve it,” ask them about the reasons they earned the promotion. Then plan a time to go out to lunch to celebrate the promotion.

  4. Meaning

    Belonging to and serving something that you believe is bigger than yourself is good for mental health, because human beings, by nature, are social creatures. One suggested exercise is to write a “life summary” that reviews what you’ve contributed to society. Did you help children learn to read? Were you cheerful and encouraging when you spent time with friends, family and coworkers? Did you give your time and energy to environmental causes or homeless individuals? Are there ways you can do more of these things? Apply what you discover about your own life, so that day-by-day, year-by-year, you focus more of your energy on whatever gives your life meaning.

  5. Accomplishment

    Having goals and ambition in life can help us to achieve things that give us a sense of accomplishment. It’s important to have realistic goals, so that when you put in the time and effort to achieve them you can enjoy a sense of accomplishment. Having accomplishments in life helps us thrive and flourish.

Applying the PERMA Model for Increased Happiness

Focusing on these five elements can help boost your overall happiness. When you’re feeling like you’re losing your happiness in life, take a few minutes to review the five elements of flourishing. Even if you’re feeling pretty happy overall, it’s never a bad idea to stop and do some of the exercises so you can keep positive habits active in your life at home, at work and in your community.

Some things that make you fully engaged may change over time, so adjust your activities to maintain a sense of engagement. Continue to learn new ways to improve relationships. Each person has different strengths and a unique vision of what makes life meaningful. Keep PERMA as part of your life and make changes that add to your happiness and keep you “flourishing.”

As always, if you feel like you need additional support or want someone to listen to your thoughts and feelings, you’re always welcome to reach out to the San Antonio mental health experts at Archangel Therapy Group. We’re proud to help with whatever struggles you may be experiencing, and we’ll help you flourish and thrive through whatever means work best for your unique situation.