Ask 100 people what happiness is, and you’ll get 100 answers. Ask 100 positive psychologists, and you might get just one answer — PERMA. This is a model of happiness developed by psychologist Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania. Each letter in PERMA stands for one of five pillars that, according to Seligman’s work, lead to happiness and well-being. Let’s take a look at these five pillars and how you can make them work.

Positive Emotion

It goes without saying that happy people feel more positive emotions in their lives. The tricky part is figuring out how to increase these positive feelings. Part of the solution is changing what you think about. Each day, try writing down three good things that happened that day and why they happened, plus three things you are grateful for. This will help orient your mind toward the positive aspects of your life.

If you’re in recovery from a substance abuse disorder, another aspect of increasing positive emotions involves avoiding triggers for stress and cravings, which may be certain people, places, or activities. You also need to set up positive habits that act as a buffer against stress when those difficult times do arise. This includes habits like maintaining a regular sleep routine, meditation, and physical exercise.

Keep in mind, however, that throwing yourself into a heavy workout regimen can take a toll on your body, which is why it’s important to set aside time for rest days whenever possible. If you don’t listen to your body and allow it to heal between workouts, then you’ll end up doing more harm than good. To help relieve sore muscles, many people turn to aids like CBD, which can relieve inflammation and soreness while helping you relax.


Have you ever been so involved in an activity that you become absorbed in it and lose track of time? This is engagement, also known as flow. Many people find engagement from their work, from playing or listening to music, or from sports. Try to find activities that engage you and build them into your life. You can help yourself find flow by setting clear goals for your activities, making sure that the task is an appropriate challenge for your skill level, and by keeping your attention focused on the present moment as much as you can.


As Harvard Health Publishing makes clear, people who have lots of positive social relationships live longer, experience less stress, and have better brain health than people who don’t. Indeed, even in prison when surrounded by violent criminals, the worst punishment that guards can dole out is solitary confinement. Good ways to increase your social connections are volunteering and joining clubs, but it’s not just the number of relationships that matters, it’s quality. If you’re struggling with maintaining positive relationships with household members, it might be because your home is full of negative vibes. Try cleansing the negative energy from your home by clearing out the clutter and burning sage in every room.


Just pursuing pleasure and good feelings can work for a short time, but ultimately it can lead to emptiness and leave you feeling even more unhappy. What’s missing from hedonism is meaning — being connected to things larger than yourself and having a sense of belonging and purpose in your life. People with a sense of meaning are more resilient to difficult stressors, have lower rates of mental health problems like depression, and feel more hopeful about their future. Many people find meaning through religion but meaning is not exclusively a spiritual thing. Others find meaning through work, volunteering, or creative activities.


Achievement, sometimes referred to as accomplishment, means successfully pursuing goals that you have set for yourself. Goals can provide direction and focus in your life, and achieving them builds your confidence as well as your skills. What matters here is not your objective achievements, but your sense of achievement. For example, if you took surfing lessons, you might get a great sense of achievement just by learning to stand upright on the board for a few seconds, while someone who has been practicing for years would set their sights a little higher.

Combine the Five Pillars

The five pillars are not separate from each other, and many activities tick all the boxes. For example, in volunteer work, you may find a sense of meaning because you are helping the community, engagement in the work you do, a sense of achievement as you build skills, and new relationships through the people you meet — all of which produce positive emotions. What activities can you think of that can help you develop the five pillars in your own life?

Summitted by Julia Mitchell from