PERMA: A brief Overview


Positive psychology is a recent branch of psychology focused on the development of positive human functioning. The aim of the positive psychology movement is the exploration and scientific understanding of effective interventions to build thriving individuals, families, and communities. Positive psychologists seek to find and nurture genius and talent and to make normal life more fulfilling.

At the core of positive psychology is the cultivation of human adaptability, creativity and emotional fulfilment with the term ‘flourishing’ used to denote the affirming outcome of a positive psychology grounded intervention.

According to Wikipedia, to flourish means …

to live within the optimal range of human functioning, one that connotes goodness, generativity, growth and resilience.

There are literally thousands of activities an individual or group of people can practice to cultivate their flourishing. For example:

  • at the end of each day for one week identify the three things you are most grateful for having experienced;
  • for three consecutive days, write a short statement of your ideal life five years from now;
  • identify a person that made a significant positive impact to your life and go and tell them what they mean to you;
  • convene a ‘Happiness Board’ of 5 people you respect and ask them to hold you accountable for being your best self for the world;
  • pay active attention to your experiences throughout the day to try and catch yourself feeling wonderful; and
  • conduct a personal audit of your strengths and complete an action plan (with rewards!) for actively using your strengths each day.

According to positive psychology practitioners anyone can act with intention to systematically cultivate a flourishing experience in life. Practices can be grouped according to the acronym PERMA, which represents the following:

Positive Emotions – feeling good!

  • What aspects of your daily work generate positive emotions for you?
  • What can you do to bring more positive emotion and enjoyment into your daily routine?

Engagement – being completely absorbed in activities (being 'in flow')

  • To what extent are you able to devote your time to the work activities that make you feel happy, engaged, and in flow?
  • How can you further minimise distractions and enhance your concentration to experience more flow each day?

Relationships – being authentically connected to others

  • With whom do you experience open, rewarding and positive relationships at work?
  • How might you devote more time to strengthening these relationships, and cultivating additional relationships that allow you to experience positivity and mutual appreciation?

Meaning – purposeful existence

  • What aspects of your work hold the greatest meaning for you and provide you with a tangible experience of contributing to a calling or cause greater than yourself?
  • What other activities – spending time with family, volunteering, performing acts of kindness, etc – might you also engage in to further cultivate life and work meaning?

Accomplishments/Achievement – a sense of accomplishment and success

  • To what extent are you able to find the ideal balance of achieving those things you believe to be important without 'running yourself ragged' in the process?
  • In ways that reinforce the other aspects of PERMA, what visions for your future do you have that you want to accomplish?