5 Elements of Seligman’s PERMA Theory of Well-Being

Positive psychology, focusing on well-being, introduces the PERMA framework, encompassing five essential elements crucial for a fulfilling life. These are the elements that contribute to a person’s emotional well-being according to PERMA by Seligman. They are also the concepts or building blocks that enable flourishing and there are strategies to increase each.

The five elements of Seligman’s well-being theory

The PERMA model, developed by Martin Seligman, is a framework within positive psychology that outlines five essential elements for a flourishing and fulfilling life. Each letter in PERMA represents a different dimension of well-being

1. Positive Emotions:

Positive emotions form the cornerstone of well-being, spanning satisfaction, contentment, hope, and optimism. These emotions, experienced in the past, present, and future, contribute to psychological resilience and are associated with various life aspects such as longevity, income, and friendship. For instance, engaging in activities that evoke positive emotions, like social interactions or creative pursuits, enhances overall well-being.

2. Engagement:

Engagement involves deep absorption in activities, leading to a state of flow where time seems to vanish. It is crucial for combating issues like boredom and anxiety. Identifying and utilizing one’s signature strengths, such as in activities like rock climbing or art creation, enhances engagement. Therapy techniques encouraging clients to actively participate in tasks align with the principles of engagement and contribute to positive rumination.

3. Relationships:

Humans inherently possess a “need to belong.” Quality relationships, surpassing mere quantity, significantly impact well-being. Positive relationships act as buffers against psychopathology and enhance longevity. Social activities, shared experiences, and reflections involving others are integral components of Positive Psychology Therapy (PPT), promoting a sense of connection and well-being.

4. Meaning:

Meaning emerges from using signature strengths to serve a purpose beyond oneself. Activities connecting individuals to larger goals result in a meaningful life. Therapeutic interventions, such as goal-setting exercises, aid clients in defining and pursuing objectives that align with their overarching sense of purpose. This sense of meaning contributes to resilience, especially during challenging situations.

5. Accomplishment:

Accomplishment extends beyond concrete achievements, emphasizing subjective growth. It involves actively using strengths, monitoring situational changes, and maintaining consistent behaviors. Pursuing intrinsically motivating and meaningful goals, even in the absence of external rewards, contributes significantly to personal and interpersonal growth, reinforcing a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.

The three P’s (Pillars) of Martin Seligman

The three P’s of Martin Seligman, a prominent psychologist and a key figure in the field of positive psychology, are:

  1. Permanence:
    • Definition: Permanence refers to an individual’s belief about whether a situation is temporary or permanent.
    • Explanation: Seligman observed that people often make sweeping generalizations about negative events, assuming they will last indefinitely. This pessimistic outlook can lead to feelings of helplessness and hinder problem-solving efforts. For example, someone who experiences a setback at work might erroneously believe that this failure will persist indefinitely, impacting their overall happiness and motivation.
  2. Pervasiveness:
    • Definition: Pervasiveness involves the extent to which a person believes a negative event will affect various areas of their life.
    • Explanation: Individuals may amplify the impact of a negative event by assuming it will have widespread consequences. For instance, someone who faces rejection in a personal relationship might erroneously believe that this failure will permeate all aspects of their life, including their professional endeavors and social interactions. Addressing pervasive thinking is crucial for maintaining a balanced perspective.
  3. Personalization:
    • Definition: Personalization refers to the tendency to attribute the cause of negative events to oneself rather than external factors.
    • Explanation: People prone to personalization blame themselves excessively for negative outcomes, even when external factors may have contributed. For instance, if a social event doesn’t go as planned, someone engaging in personalization might immediately assume it’s because they are inherently unlikeable. Encouraging a more balanced attributional style involves helping individuals recognize external factors that may have played a role in the situation.

Seligman introduced these three P’s in the context of learned helplessness and later incorporated them into his work on optimism. The goal is to understand and modify the cognitive patterns that contribute to pessimism, fostering a more optimistic and resilient mindset. By challenging negative thoughts related to permanence, pervasiveness, and personalization, individuals can develop a more adaptive and positive outlook on life.

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Olivia Mercie. (2023, November 19). 5 Elements of Seligman’s PERMA Theory of Well-Being. EssayHelper.me. Retrieved from https://essayhelper.me/blog/seligmans-perma-theory/

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