The positive power of PERMA

In 1998, Martin Seligman was appointed the head of the American Psychological Association (APA). His goal was to increase the amount of research into happiness, positivity and well-being. For so many years, psychological research had been based on what can go wrong in human behaviour, and emotional and mental health such as depression, aggression, anxiety and criminality, to name but a few.


However, he wanted to start looking at why some people are happier, more satisfied and fulfilled, the effects that these states can have on us emotionally and physically and, most importantly, how we can, in turn, increase these feelings to increase the benefits! His goal was to, as he put it, help people to flourish. 

Many years and thousands of psychological papers, projects, university courses and institutions later, the field of positive psychology is stronger than ever. Research by psychologists such as Martin Seligman, Kristen Neff, Barbara Fredrickson, Phillip Zimbardo and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi have paved the way to us having a deeper understanding of the importance of factors like happiness, gratitude and self-care on our emotional and mental health and well being.

There have been found to be two main types of happiness which are hedonic, gratification and pleasure felt in the moment from activities, purchases and experiences and also eudaimonic, the pleasure felt from having meaning and purpose in our lives, fulfilling our potential and feeling we are part of something. Neither are guaranteed paths to happiness as hedonic can often lead to the hedonic treadmill effect and eudaimonic can be difficult to measure or achieve.

Martin Seligman put forward his theory of PERMA which combines the two, this stands for:

  • positive emotion
  • engagement
  • relationships
  • meaning
  • accomplishments

I regularly use this theory when working with clients in the early stages of my empowerment courses (named Freedom to Flourish and Flourish with Friends based on Seligman’s inspirational work). Simply by breaking down these key areas in our lives and assessing if we are satisfied with the level of them is an amazing, and simple, first step in changing the current situation we are in.

Positive emotions

Think to yourself what in your day-to-day life brings you happiness, joy or contentment. If you struggle to think of many examples it may be time to increase them! Grenville-Cleave found that 40% of happiness comes from chosen activities so start partaking in activities or environments that you enjoy.

This doesn’t have to be a huge expensive change but simply going for a peaceful walk, looking at photographs or art, watching your favourite movie, listening to music, having a chat with a friend or taking time for a bubble bath (one of my favourites) can increase positive emotions. More advice on increasing positive emotions can also be found in my recent article 'Empowerment through adversity'.


This aspect focuses on what Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi call “flow”. This is a state in which we are totally absorbed in a task and we do not notice the passing of time. Athletes often describe this as being in "the zone". If, in your everyday life, you often do not experience this, then it’s now time to find new activities that you do find challenging, enjoyable and engrossing! I love reading a book, writing articles such as this one or going for a walk in my local woods, but all people are different so do whatever engages you more often or even try something new!


Our relationships with others are so important to our mental health. Deciding which ones are having a negative impact on us and need to be managed, as I discussed in my article the F'rozen phenomenon', is vital. As is knowing which ones help us to thrive! Make you sure you are making time for these relationships even if it is just a simple lunch, text, coffee or What’s App message. More advice on healthy relationships is available in my article 'Not all is fair in love and war but it helps'.


As described earlier, eudaimonoc happiness focuses on those aspects in our lives that provide a stable foundation, as well as a sense of purpose and meaning. These forms of pleasure can lead to much longer lasting positivity, mental health and wellbeing. There are many ways that our actions could have meaning but two of the easiest ways are to chose activities that are going to provide benefits for you in the long term such as taking up a new training course which could lead to a new career or by helping others, the environment or your society.


This is such an important area and is one often spoken about by mindfulness specialists such as Carol Dweck. In this area we have to feel that we have achieved something in or daily lives. This does not have to be a ground breaking, life changing or Nobel prize winning event but simply appreciating the effort that we put into things makes us feel positivity and pride in ourselves. In my stress management course Worrier to Warrior I use a technique in which clients are asked at the end of everyday to write in a journal, diary, etc. three good things that happened in the day as well as two things that they achieved that made them feel proud of themselves. It is such a simple activity but as humans we are so used to having a negative cognitive bias we very often focus on the bad and ignore the good.

So please try some (or all) of these ideas and I hope they increase your positivity and wellbeing. If you would like any advice on using these or any other technique please do not hesitate in contacting me. I offer in-person sessions in Rayleigh in Essex or online appointments as well as a free 30 minute consultation so we can discuss which programme is best suited to and your emotional health needs and goals. These can be booked here or through my website 

Good luck!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Rayleigh, Essex, SS6
Written by Rosslyn Whellams, BSc in Psychology and a Diploma in Emotional Health Coaching
Rayleigh, Essex, SS6

My name is Rosslyn Whellams and I am an Empowerment Coach and Psychology Teacher living in Rayleigh, Essex. I offer a number of client centred, affordable, and effective programs based on CBT. My goal is to help as many people as possible to find and increase their Emotional Empowerment! For more information please visit

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