PERMA Model – 5 domains of happiness by Martin Seligman

PERMA Model – 5 domains of happiness by  Martin Seligman

Happy New year! Happy Birthday! Happy Landings! 


Every other occasion we hear the word “happy” as we exchange best wishes. Any major events or special days – all may feel less joyous without wishes that follow the word “happy”. The fairy tales and bedtime stories may have lost their appeal long ago had it not been for their happily-ever-after endings. Also, what would the world feel like if we weren’t in an endless pursuit of happiness? Whether we are conditioned or are born that way, the desire to be happy has become the essence of our existence. Our individual prerequisites may vary but we are all headed to destination happiness – our end goal. 

What is happiness?

According to Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, happiness is “the state of feeling or showing pleasure”. 

Britannica Encyclopedia’s definition of happiness, in psychology, is “a state of emotional well-being that a person experiences.” 

APA dictionary of psychology defines happiness as “an emotion of joy, gladness, satisfaction, and well-being.” 

These definitions concur that happiness is a state and a specific emotion associated with pleasure and well being. However, happiness can hold different meanings for different individuals, what makes you happy may not make others happy, thereby making happiness a purely subjective emotion. Because happiness is subjective, it may be challenging to have a generic answer when it comes to achieving happiness.

PERMA model of happiness

Despite happiness being a subjective matter, many psychologists have studied happiness and even gone on to introduce a new branch of psychology called Positive Psychology. To understand happiness further and achieve it, Martin Seligman, one of the founders of Positive Psychology, has developed a theoretical model of happiness called the PERMA model which explores the 5 domains of happiness. 

  1. Positive emotion
  2. Engagement 
  3. Relationship 
  4. Meaning
  5. Accomplishment

1. Positive Emotion

Positive emotion includes joy, gratitude, hope,  optimism, love, to name a few. If you are devoid of such positive emotions, happiness will be amiss. So if you want to be happy, you must develop or acquire or possess these positive emotions. 

2. Engagement

Engagement refers to activities that engage your mind, body and soul like playing sports or musical instruments, gardening, etc. Thus, having a hobby is important to stay happy.

3. Relationship

Relationship is not limited to your love relationship but also refers to your social connection – your relationship with your friends and family, your relatives, colleagues, and so on. Having a sound relationship with people equates to a strong support system which is key to achieving happiness. 

4. Meaning

Meaning or having an understanding of your calling can drive you to your ultimate happiness. Many of us struggle to find the meaning of our existence, and for some who have found their calling and are working on it feel more fulfilled in their lives. 

5. Accomplishment

Accomplishment could be your goals or objectives in life. You could have short term or long term goals and we need these primarily to push us to work and in time they give us a sense of accomplishment. With accomplishment comes a sense of satisfaction which then translates to happiness.

Journey to Happiness with Perma Model

Happiness and Perma Model

So, whether we value money or career, whether we prefer relationships to success, these could all be the means and not the end. Happiness is no longer elusive, and we can all succeed in our pursuit of happiness. Keep in mind the five domains of the PERMA model and you could be on your way to achieving your end goal – happiness.