How to Flourish: We all want to be well. Wellbeing is the foundation of a happy and healthy life. It’s what we need as humans to think, interact and enjoy life. It’s also what we need to function well, work productively and earn a living. The World Health Organisation defines health as a “state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing.” An important implication of this definition is that mental health is more than just the absence of mental illness.
What is flourishing and what enables it?
To grow wellbeing requires a different set of tools to the ones that treat mental disorders. So what does it take to flourish?
Prof Martin Seligman’s PERMA™ model of wellbeing attempts to answer this question with five building blocks of a flourishing life – Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment aka Achievement (hence PERMA™) – and each has its own techniques. People will gain their wellbeing from their own unique combinations of these five elements to live a fulfilling life that is aligned with their values and interests. These building blocks apply to personal wellbeing and wellbeing at work. There is a strong link from wellbeing to performance and productivity. A recent report shows that for every £1 invested in wellbeing, a company can expect to gain £5.30 in reduced sickness and absenteeism.
Each of these pathways are pursued for their own sake rather than as a means to an end. Hear Martin Seligman talk about the PERMA model.
P = Positive Emotion is how we feel happiness and these good feelings are an essential ingredient of wellbeing. We can increase positive emotion towards the past e.g. by practising gratitude. Generate positive emotions towards the present by savouring positive experiences and cultivate positive emotion towards the future with hope and optimism.
E = Engagement. Have you ever felt so absorbed in something that you lose track of time? This is known as a state of ‘flow’ when you find yourself ‘in the zone’. It’s a deeply satisfying experience when we function at our best. A major route into flow is by using your strengths, your positive qualities and talents.
R = Relationships. Relationships are fundamental to wellbeing. Chris Peterson, one of the founding positive psychologists, said that he could sum up the whole of the science of happiness in three words – ‘other people matter’. Having a sense of connection and belonging is one of the fundamental needs for wellbeing. The top ten percent of happy people have two things in common – close relationships and active social lives.
M = Meaning. A sense of meaning and purpose comes from belonging to and serving something bigger than the self. Using your strengths to serve a bigger purpose. Sources of meaning include family, faith, a vocation, social causes (e.g. the environment), work organisations, science, politics, justice and the community among others. A sense of purpose is a route into a deeper form of happiness, known as eudaimonic wellbeing, which is a sustainable form of happiness.
A = Accomplishment and Achievement. This is about developing our mastery and competence. There are two faces of the A in the PERMA model. Accomplishment is about becoming more accomplished in yourself i.e. your personal development while Achievement is about the successes and triumphs in life. The fifth pathway explores the psychology of motivation and what it takes to achieve success.
The PERMA workshop explores the 5 pathways to wellbeing in Prof Martin Seligman’s PERMA model (2011), described in the book Flourish. It’s a practical session with input on each of the elements and a range of practical tools to develop them. This workshop can be delivered in-house or online.