By Janine Fitzgerald | May 10, 2011
The world of psychology has for many years focused on treating depression, anxiety, and fixing what’s wrong with people. However, Martin Seligman, the former president of the American Psychology Association and author of Authentic Happiness, has concluded after years of research that a better path to achieving happiness is by identifying one’s best traits and capitalizing on them.
Seligman states that well-being is obtained by pursuing the five pillars: positive emotion, engagement, relationship, meaning, and accomplishment- or PERMA. Positive emotion is what he says is “the energizing force that drives us toward the sweeter things in life.” And what we focus on tends to grow. A good exercise to do in order to create positive emotion is to every night write down three things that you’re grateful for. Research has proven that this creates a better sense of well-being.
Engagement occurs when we’re so involved with something that we lose track of time and find ourselves in “flow” or “chi”. Typically, when we’re doing something that we don’t enjoy, the time seems to creep by. Therefore, it’s important to discover one’s personal signature strengths. Then when you perform a task that you don’t enjoy, you can use one of your strengths to get you through a task that you dread. As a wellness coach, one of the first things I do with someone is help them find their signature strengths.
When we talk about meaning, it’s a matter of living a life of purpose and reaching out into the world and knowing that our actions affect those around us. It’s a feeling of a connection to the universe and believing in something greater than yourself.
Typically, our happiest moments are spent with others. Humans are designed for relationships. A relationship exercise that I sometimes recommend is to write a gratitude letter to someone special. It will do wonders for your mood and strengthen your bond.
Accomplishment is having a sense of achievement and recognition. It’s important to define what makes you feel successful. One thing you can do is once a week list two or three specific things that you want to achieve and at the end of the week, give yourself a percentage of success.