How to Live a Good Life According to Positive Psychology
Each person is a unique individual with different goals and desires. However, there is one hope we all seem to share: to live a good life.
Naturally, living a “good life” means different things to different people. Some people focus on finding meaning, others prioritize happiness, and so forth. No matter how much our definitions of a “good life” may differ, the fundamental truth stays the same.
So how can people determine what living a good life means and find ways to accomplish that? Positive psychology offers a theory that may help.
What is Positive Psychology?
Positive psychology is a category of research and practice that focuses on each person’s character strengths. With this foundation, positive psychology can teach people to build on their strengths, thrive, and live a deeply satisfying life.
Positive psychology is research-backed and just one of many ways that clinicians can approach psychology. Think of positive psychology and other forms of psychology like specialties that doctors have. For example, a medical doctor could specialize in primary care, pediatrics, internal medicine, or countless other areas of medicine. But at the end of the day, they still practice medicine.
Similarly, a positive psychology practitioner is a licensed therapist who uses this particular type of therapy to help patients. For many people, positive psychology offers hope, gratitude, and genuine satisfaction with life. However, positive psychology may not resonate with everyone–and that’s ok. Whether you decide to choose to see a positive psychology provider, you may find value in learning about the five elements of happiness that the practice defines.
The Five Elements of a Happy Life
Positive psychology practitioners use the acronym PERMA to describe the five elements of a happy life, which are:
- Positive emotion
Of course, many of these elements may not come easily. For example, people with depression face significant hurdles to experiencing positive emotions. However, all five elements can be cultivated. The goal of working on these five areas is to achieve lasting, satisfying happiness. This is not fleeting happiness, but rather true satisfaction with one’s life.
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1. P is for Positive Emotions
First up on the PERMA list is positive emotions. While some psychologists focus solely on happiness, positive psychologists emphasize all positive feelings, including:
It’s important to get curious about yourself and determine what causes these emotions for you. Don’t worry about what brings other people joy–what makes you beam with excitement? What makes your jaw open in awe? What and who do you love?
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2. E is for Engagement
This piece of the PERMA puzzle incorporates ideas from mindfulness and the state of flow–another positive psychology concept. When you are truly engaged in a task, you are only focused on what you are doing. Your mind isn’t worrying about your to-do list or other stressors. You are completely in the present and present. In a state of flow, you may even lose track of time. Being so engrossed can be the result of positive emotion (inspiration, awe) and it can result in satisfaction.
3. R is for (Positive) Relationships
It’s become a cliche for a reason: humans are social creatures. No matter how introverted someone is, we all count on positive relationships. Social connections can be good for maintaining well-being and building resilience against stressors.
For some people, these positive relationships come from family, but not always. Positive relationships can come from friends, spouses, support groups, hobby groups, spiritual gatherings, and even social media. In cultivating positive relationships, it’s important to change or end toxic or abusive relationships.
4. M is for Meaning
To cultivate meaning in life is to be in service to something outside of oneself. Meaning can be religious for some people, but it can just as easily be secular. People find meaning in parenthood, activism, volunteer work, paid work, and more.
5. A is for Achievement (or Accomplishment)
Depending on who you ask, the last letter in PERMA can stand for achievement or accomplishment. The idea is the same either way. The final element of a good life, according to this theory, revolves around setting and working toward goals.
These goals can really be about anything. You may set goals regarding your career, family, spiritual life, experiences, and much more. You can work toward several goals at once!
Remember that PERMA (and positive psychology more broadly) is just one way to strive for a fulfilled life. If you think this is something that may ring true to you, be sure to schedule an appointment with a positive psychologist.