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The Five Pillars of Happiness

Coach Ibrahim Mango by Ibrahim Mango
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(Uploaded with permission from original publisher: Family Flavours Magazine)


Just as we do not have a single indicator telling us how our car is performing, we don’t just have one indicator to tell us how well we are doing. Dr Martin Seligman’s PERMA model helps us think about what we need to do to flourish.

Here’s what the acronym PERMA stands for:

Positive emotion: We can cultivate positive emotions about:
Our past by learning how to forgive

Our future by building hope

Our present by living mindfully

More generally, positive emotions can be achieved by seeing the past, present and future more optimistically. Undoubtedly, life has ups and lows, but focusing on the positive activates positive emotions and helps us in our relationships, encourages us to take calculated risks and increases our creativity.

Engagement: This is what you feel when you feel totally engrossed in a task that you enjoy and are doing it for its own sake rather than with the purpose of reaching a specific goal. The reward is found in the activity itself and can be experienced in a wide variety of undertakings,
such as writing, gardening, playing football or a musical instrument.

Relationships: As social animals, relationships are necessary for our wellbeing. In fact, pain centres in the brain become activated when we face the possibility

of being isolated, according to Dr Mitch Printein’s research. Relationships magnify well-being; for example, when one celebrates accomplishments with others, feels a sense of belonging to her community and gets support from those who care about her, all these act as an antidote to feeling low.

Meaning: Do you feel that your life and work has meaning? That is, do you feel that you’re connected in some way to a cause bigger than yourself? Other than paid work, being a devoted mother or father, or serving a worthy cause (such as being green or supporting fair trade) or belonging to societal institutions can also give you a sense of meaning.

Accomplishment: Human beings are natural goal-seekers. Having goals to achieve, even small ones, is important for our wellbeing and happiness. A sense of accomplishment improves our self-esteem and boosts our self-confidence.

Each of the five pillars of well-being (PERMA) can be measured and well-defined independently and can each be pursued as a goal in itself. PERMA can also be applied to organisations in designing and implementing programs that improve performance. Well-being is obviously a good thing to have because it feels good, but it also has other benefits. Research has shown that people who enjoy higher levels of well-being: are more optimistic, have better relationships, have better careers and generally earn more, in better physical and mental health, thus they live longer.


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