The Science behind PERMA & classroom strategies

The Science of wellbeing….

It’s not warm & fuzzy, but evidence-based and scientific. Check out the science then download the free strategies.

Positive psychology is known as the science of wellbeing and draws on decades of research from many other forms of psychology. Martin Seligman is one person who is leading the way with his revamped definition of wellbeing to move beyond happiness to a place of life satisfaction and flourishing.

To best describe how people can reach a flourishing state he describes 5 pillars that we must consciously addressed known as the PERMA Model.  This involves planning ways to support the five domains that encompass: positive emotion (P), engagement (E), relationships (R), meaning (M), and accomplishment (A).

Positive Emotion
Positive emotions include feelings of joy, love, gratitude, hope and optimism. These emotions have been linked to wellbeing where “those who experience a preponderance of positive emotions—tend to be successful and accomplished across multiple life domains” (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005, p. 801).  This means that when all is going well in a persons life, they have the capacity to expand their resources to build on existing skills for future use or rest and restore their energy (Barbara L. Fredrickson, 2001).

Being engaged in the experiences of our own life occurs when we become absorbed in activities that meet a unique balance between our interests and curiosity. Csikszentmihalyi uses flow theory to describe the process of engagement as being one where we are challenged in terms of our skills yet feel a sense of mastery and competence (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996). Another strategy that teachers can use to enhance engagement is through identifying and using character strengths. In essence, strengths are internal  “patterns of thought, feeling and behaviour that are energising and which lead to maximal effectiveness” (Linley & Harrington, 2006, p. 6). Character on the other hand, is typically discussed as a prescriptive approach where an external construct needs to be learned or embodied by individuals (Linkins, Niemiec, Gillham, & Mayerson, 2015). After extensive research across history, cultures and religions, Professors Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman merged these two forms of thought and suggested character resides within us. While we embody all 24 character strengths, it is our top five character strengths that more closely align with our intrinsic values and interest and are known as our signature strengths (Linley & Harrington, 2006). When signature strengths are consciously applied in everyday life, a direct increase occurs in life satisfaction, wellbeing and meaning (Wood, Linley, Maltby, Kashdan, & Hurling, 2011).

Positive relationships are central to developing sound social and emotional skills that lie at the core of our internal resources. In fact positive psychology is often quoted by Chris Peterson as being about ‘other people’. Fredrickson also states that flourishing is a combination of subjective wellbeing, psychological wellbeing and social wellbeing (Barbara L Fredrickson, 2006), highlighting the significance of relationships in supporting wellbeing.

When people feel a sense of purpose or meaning, research suggests they feel connected to something larger than themselves and therefore feel as though what they are doing has value (Kern et al., 2014). This has a direct link to eudaimonia, the term Aristotle coined to describe  that which makes life worth living (Lambert et al., 2015). In order to make life meaningful, one has to apply effort and take action. This effort may not necessary generate positive emotions at first, however, with continued effort and measured successes along the way, may result in  greater life satisfaction and positive affect in the long term (Lambert et al., 2015).

Accomplishment refers to the application of a personal skills and effort as a person moves towards a desired goal. This requires both motivation and persistence in an attempt to overcome possible challenges whilst having enough insight to remain flexible along the path to achievement.  Setting clear goals and planning realistic and strategic ways in which to achieve these goals is foundational to the learning process. This also involves celebrating achievements as a way to increase positive affect as well as help the learner cope with disappointments as a way to build a growth mindset and resilience.

Want to know what this looks like in a school? Checkout this video from Mount Barker High where students explain PERMA

Now you have science, now here are the strategies – Simply click on the picture to get your list of strategies

  Click on the picture to download your FREE resource

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