Applying PERMA to your Everyday Life

As a Positive Psychologist and coach, I am frequently asked for the magic key to happiness: the one thing that people can do to miraculously make their lives better and tick that happiness box. Usually, I try to manage their expectations a little: it is unrealistic to expect one single thing will unlock the box of eternal happiness and joy. 

What I also do is direct them to Dr. Martin Seligman’s PERMA model of wellbeing and look for ways to apply it to their lives. PERMA stands for positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and achievement. A later addition of health makes this a six-point model that we can follow for ourselves and help our clients put into practice and as we engage in positive psychology coaching.

P – Positive Emotions

Take five minutes to think about the last time you felt joy in your life, or did something you enjoyed doing rather than doing what you felt you had to do. Too often, work and chores take priority and we do not take time out for ourselves, feeling it is selfish to do so. However, taking time to enjoy the scent of newly mown grass, reading an inspiring book, seeing a close friend for a coffee, or watching a small child puddle-jump can help improve your satisfaction with relationships and work. Increased positive emotions have even been shown to improve health. 

E – Engagement

Have you ever noticed how some things can totally capture our attention so that we lose track of time? You can enter this state of flow when an activity is challenging enough to take your full concentration, yet not so challenging that you are not able to do it. It could be anything from playing sports to creating art, or even working on a report for work. Think back to when you last experienced true engagement in an activity without distractions. For me, I find flow in swimming, in doing research, and when gardening. Consciously look for flow in your life and find ways to increase it. 

R – Relationships

Okinawa in Japan is the area where you can find the longest-living people on Earth. Not only do they live for a long time, but they do so actively and healthily. One thing they work hard at is maintaining supportive relationships, taking time each day to see others. These relationships are then available if they need support later. How often do we hear people say they regret not seeing X or Y, but that they were too busy? What this often means is that it was not a priority for them, but what if it can become a priority? Can you find time in your schedule each week to do something social? 

M – Meaning

Finding value in the things you do and working towards a meaningful goal can lead you to engage more fully with life. Identifying meaning at work leads to greater engagement and commitment from employees. So how can you build meaning or a sense of purpose in your life, or that of your clients? One way is to look for a way of giving back to the community in a way that fits with your values. Another is to examine your life and ask, “What do I do that positively affects other people?”. This may be raising children, giving employment to others, or it may be the creation of something that brings joy, or making someone else’s life easier. 

A – Achievement

Think back to a time when you achieved a goal that had value for you – this might be an exam success or finishing a project you have been working on. It may be something small, like booking time to meet a friend, or finally buying that paint to repaint the hall. If the goal has meaning for you, that achievement will increase your positive emotions, your sense of self-worth and your confidence. Many people make light of their achievements, putting them down to luck or other people, and focusing instead on their failures. Take some time to share your successes, however big or small, with someone who cares, and savour your achievements to improve your wellbeing.

H – Health

Health includes healthy eating, hydration and physical activity. I rarely use the word ‘exercise’ with my clients – for many, it conjures up negative experiences of feeling awkward at the gym, or physical education classes from school. Instead, I use the words ‘physical activity’. This can take many forms, from running to gardening, parking farther away, or taking the stairs instead of the lift. Regular short walks have been shown to increase feelings of wellbeing and reduce depression. Add to that slightly healthier meals and good hydration and you are well on your way to increasing your wellbeing. Why not set yourself a small goal of improving just one of these facets of health over the next month before adding another small change?

We hope that the tips shared in this blog can help you and your clients put some wellbeing practices into action.

If you want to learn more about the PERMA model and how to apply it within a positive psychology coaching context, then check out our Foundations in Positive Psychology Coaching course. Our ICF-accredited course covers key theories in Positive Psychology Coaching and their application in coaching conversations.