How to be happy? What is the secret of Happiness? What exactly is Happiness? Since time immemorial, many philosophers and researchers have tried to find the answer to these questions. In the current world scenario, where we encounter stress at every stage, Happiness and earning it have become premium quests.
American Psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, founded and developed Positive Psychology, a new domain of psychology specifically looking into various factors leading to the happiness, thriving, flourishing, or well-being of the individual and the society. Seligman concluded that happiness has three dimensions that can be cultivated: the Pleasant Life, the Good Life, and the Meaningful Life. (Visit
To quote from Pursuit of Happiness website:
“The Pleasant Life is realized if we learn to savour and appreciate such basic pleasures as companionship, the natural environment and our bodily needs. We can remain pleasantly stuck at this stage or we can go on to experience the Good Life, which is achieved through discovering our unique virtues and strengths, and employing them creatively to enhance our lives. According to modern theories of self-esteem life is only genuinely satisfying if we discover value within ourselves.
Yet one of the best ways of discovering this value is by nourishing our unique strengths in contributing to the happiness of our fellow humans. Consequently the final stage is the Meaningful Life, in which we find a deep sense of fulfilment by employing our unique strengths for a purpose greater than ourselves. The genius of Seligman’s theory is that it reconciles two conflicting views of human happiness, the individualistic approach, which emphasizes that we should take care of ourselves and nurture our own strengths, and the altruistic approach, which tends to downplay individuality and emphasizes sacrifice for the greater purpose.”
Seligman proposed a 5-pronged PERMA theory to explain Happiness. According to this theory, 5 factors are influential in making people happy and they are represented by the acronym PERMA.
What is PERMA theory of Happiness?
‘P’ means Positive Emotions.
Seligman contends that Happiness is not just about smiles and laughs, which may be fake and forced. He says that Happiness is not about Pleasure, which is obtained through satisfying bodily urges, and that it is also not about Enjoyment, which is obtained through stimulation of intellect and creativity. According to him, all these things do contribute to overall Happiness; but the main contributors to it are: Positivity and Optimism to view one’s past, present, and future, with constructive perspective.
‘E’ means Engagement.
The activities like playing a musical instrument, singing, dancing, painting, or any hobby or sport, where an individual is in the ‘Flow’, loses track of time, and becomes one with those activities, represent such engagements. Such an Engagement induces a flood of positive neurotransmitters and hormones, that bring or improve the sense of well-being.
‘R’ means Relationships.
The individualistic thinking may be on the upswing, but at core, the human beings are social animals that thrive on relationships with fellow human beings. Family, Friends and Community provide these relationships and social connections, that enrich our lives and offer us protection from isolation.
‘M’ means Meaning.
Rather than just focusing on the basic sustenance, the quest for the deeper meaning of our life takes the concept of happiness to a higher plane. This Meaning is found differently by different people. Some may find it through spirituality; some through personal work; some through a higher cause like community work, or some through creative efforts.
‘A’ means Accomplishment.
Having ambitions and realistic goals, that when worked upon, lead to achievements and pride, adds to the sense of fulfilment, and happiness.
So together these letters P, E, R, M, and A define the secret of Happiness, which in other words means- Well-being, Thriving or Flourishing!
- American Psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology, has proposed a PERMA theory of Happiness.
- P – Positive Emotions
- E – Engagement
- R – Relationships
- M – Meaning
- A – Accomplishment