PERMAH – From Distress to Well-Being

Moving away from a chronic disease management to an illness prevention model is a slow but gradual change that we are seeing within the local medical community.  Parallel to this shift in clinical psychology is the increasing emphasis on developing and attaining a sense of psychological well-being, as opposed to focusing only on the alleviation of distress or the treatment of psychopathology and mental illness. 

Seligman’s PERMA model (2011) suggests that well-being is cultivated by the presence of the following five areas: Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning Accomplishment. More recently, many other researchers have included Health as a hygiene factor that facilitates well-being, and have combined that with Seligman’s original model to derive at a well-being of model PERMAH (Niemiec, 2019).  Research has also demonstrated that individuals with higher levels of well-being perform better at work and in school, has better health or surgical outcomes, have lower rates of burnt-out, better self-control and more satisfying relationships.  In an increasingly stressful world, working on the following domains through parenting, the workplace and psychotherapy can enhance flourishing, through the cultivation of strengths, grit, and resilience

Positive Emotions:  Feeling pleasurable emotions such as joy, excitement, interest and peace.  It helps people enjoy the daily tasks in their lives.

Engagement: Finding “flow” or the sense that time “flies by” when we are absorbed in activities or the tasks at hand. This engagement helps us to remain present, as well as synthesize the activities where we find calm, focus, and joy.   

Relationships (positive): Being authentically connected to others, creating and maintaining healthy relationships that enriches your life.  Humans are social animals who are hard-wired to bond with others. We thrive on connections that promote love, intimacy, and a strong emotional and physical interaction with other humans. Positive relationships with one’s parents, siblings, peers, colleagues, and friends are a key ingredient to overall joy and support us through difficult times.

Meaning – Purposeful Existence.  Pursuing or experiencing a sense of connection or purpose that goes beyond yourself, such as with another person, community, institution or the larger universe.  Having an answer to “why are we on this earth?” is a key ingredient that can drive us towards a sense fulfilment.

Accomplishment – A sense of success through reaching goals, targets and achievements in more than one domain of your life. Having accomplishments in life is important to push ourselves to thrive and flourish.

Health – Physical health, wellness and sense of vitality goes beyond the absence of disease.   This involves eating and sleeping well, and regular exercise

How would you be using the PERMAH model to flourish and live a life that is worth living?

Niemiec, R. M. (2019).  The Strengths-Based Workbook for Stress Relief: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Seligman, M. (2011). Flourish. New York: Free Press.

Written by:
Velda Chen
Registered Clinical Psychologist (Singapore)
MClinPsych, BA(Hons)

SACAC Counselling

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