Martin Seligman's Model of the Five Ingredients of Happiness

Marin Seligman developed the PERMA model which suggests that there are five ingredients of happiness.
Martin Seligman's Model of the Five Ingredients of Happiness
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Written by Yamila Papa

Last update: 21 December, 2022

PERMA may not sound like anything remotely related to joy. However, it’s an acronym of five ways of seeing life, thought to constitute the ingredients of happiness.

This model isn’t only useful for individuals but can be applied to groups, families, or couples. In fact, the PERMA system was created by a University of Pennsylvania professor, Martin Seligman. This theory of well-being is known internationally and is used in many countries with fascinating results.

There can be little doubt that humans are in constant search of happiness. They may see it as a new love, a better job, the arrival of a child, their own home, a vacation in the Caribbean, or the company of friends.

A woman lying down next to flowers and smiling.

If you start thinking about how each action or object can make you happy (bearing in mind that material goods don’t), you can start to apply the PERMA theory. Dr. Seligman calls it a description of what people should do to have a happier life. You must look at your life and determine what’s more important to you. For example, whether it’s love, health, relationships, etc.

The Perma model: Five ingredients of happiness

The PERMA model consists of five actions, habits, or ways of seeing life.

The letter P signifies positive emotions. It’s proven that optimistic people perform better in their jobs and their relationships. They feel good about themselves and transmit that feeling to others. For this reason, you should learn to cultivate the following kinds of positive emotions. Joy, serenity, hope, gratitude, wonder, love, and inspiration. Then, you’ll be able to deal with negative situations and overcome obstacles.

The letter E relates to engagement. This means commitment. However, we’re not talking about commitment in terms of getting married, but of getting more involved with the things you like. By cultivating passion, you feel happy. In fact, you feel fulfilled when you do what you’re passionate about, to the extent that you’re able to forget about your problems. You never feel tired, you’re able to keep giving your best. Hence, you should get to know what your passions are in order to fulfill yourself personally.

The letter R concerns positive relationships. They help you to be a better person. They aren’t destructive but help you to build.  Therefore, you should try and connect more with those around you. Don’t be afraid of escaping from those who add nothing positive to your life and you’ll see how quickly you become happy. Cultivate relationships as if they were plants or grass, which need looking after in order to grow.

The M signifies meaning. Everyone has a meaning or purpose in their life. In fact, that’s what it means to be human. It makes you transcend and involves teaching and learning. Your own particular meaning might be in any sector, from your family to the environment, from medicine to religion, from politics to social issues.

Money and happiness is not true

Finally, the A is for accomplishments/achievements. As a human, you need to feel that you’re useful and competent, that your actions aren’t in vain, and that you’re able to act independently. In order to achieve this, you must set goals in the short, medium and long term and develop discipline and self-control. Those are the best ways to meet your goals and to feel really happy. In fact, with every achievement, you’ll start to trust yourself more. Furthermore, you’ll be able to move forward, improving day by day.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.