PERMA-nent Changes to Your Life

PERMA is an acronym for a model of well-being presented by a pioneer in the field of positive psychology, Martin Seligman. According to Seligman, PERMA makes up five important building blocks of well-being and happiness:

  • Positive emotions – feeling good
  • Engagement – being completely absorbed in activities
  • Relationships – being authentically connected to others
  • Meaning – purposeful existence
  • Achievement – a sense of accomplishment and success.

Dr. Seligman's PERMA™ theory of well-being suggests there are techniques to increase each.

Positive emotions are among the many components that make up happiness and well-being, and one of the more obvious layers of happiness. There is a difference between pleasure and enjoyment. While pleasure relates to satisfying bodily needs like hunger, thirst or taking a long sleep after a challenging day, enjoyment comes from intellectual stimulation and creativity. Enjoyment can be seen in action when we observe children screaming with delight as they run and skip in the mud, or play in the garden. Enjoyment also involves being intellectually challenged.

Positive emotions are good for children because they stretch their imagination. When children do something they enjoy or find interesting, they are more likely to persevere in the face of challenges and spontaneously search for more creative solutions and opportunities. Positive emotions can also help undo negative ones; reminding a child about the wonderful time she had at the beach yesterday is likely to offset her stress from a challenging day at school, for example.

According to Professor Barbara Lee Fredrickson, a distinguished professor of psychology, positive emotions promote the ability to establish and strengthen psychological resources for coping with stress. In her research entitled “Evaluating positive emotions in children” Laura Oros found that personal satisfaction also significantly predicted the ability to cope with stress. Children who expressed greater satisfaction with themselves and were proud of their achievements and abilities exhibited higher levels of effective problem solving, were more likely to seek help, and displayed less helplessness.

So how can we as parents promote more positive emotions in our children?

Help Others

Your child could support an elderly neighbour or volunteer for some work.

Record Awe Moments

Your child could make an Awe Book where they record sights or moments from their daily lives that they find beautiful or extraordinary: a rainbow, a kind act or the smell of freshly baked cookies.

Set and Achieve Goals

Encourage your child to set goals and plan for obstacles along the way, using the WOOP approach – Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan. Achieving goals will increase confidence.

Share Positivity

Share positive moments with your child, with a hug, laughter or smile. Set aside time to be with your child, to enjoy positive moments together.

Develop New Skills

Provide opportunities for your child to try new experiences and develop new skills. You could even agree on a shared activity so that you can enjoy shared positive emotions.


In challenging times our children need our help to remain positive. Having positive emotions will lead to greater confidence in the weeks ahead and more success.

Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.” (Roy T. Bennett)