The PERMA way to wellbeing

On Monday I went to hear Professor Martin Seligman talk about wellbeing at an event organised by Action for Happiness.

Professor Seligman is a psychologist at Penn University in the USA who has led research into the science of human Wellbeing over many years. He has also developed programmes to improve wellbeing that have been used and proven by the US military and schools both here in the UK and in the US.

I am so impressed and inspired by the way the Professor has created a ‘hard’ scientific framework for the theory, practice and measurement of Wellbeing that allows it to be taken seriously by governments and organisations such as defence, education and health. So often psychological subjects are seen as ‘soft’ and hard to evidence.

The PERMA acronym underpins Seligman’s proven way of improving wellbeing:
P = positive emotion (feeling good, happiness)
E = engagement (immersing yourself in an activity)
R = positive relationships (with family, friends, colleagues, etc)
M = meaning (being part of something beyond self, serving, having a purpose)
A = accomplishment (achieving goals with grit & perseverance more useful than pure talent alone).

We have already incorporated the PERMA model into our measurements of the impact our Chapel St Wellbeing services have on our vulnerable clients (based on our previous understanding of this approach) – and how we plan and deliver our wellbeing interventions.

There is a wealth of reading available about PERMA and positive psychology. In the meantime, my three favourite tips that you can use immediately to boost your wellbeing are:

1. At the end of each day, write down three things that went well. This is statistically proven to improve our wellbeing.

2. Practice using active constructive responses to what people say, rather than passive ‘right, that’s great …’ or worse, destructive responses. Find out more here.

3. Find out what your five best strengths are – using this test here – and apply your best strength to tackling the things you don’t like doing.


By Sam Holmes, Chapel St Wellbeing

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