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Central to the field of positive psychology is the idea that we as humans spend a lot of time trying to identify and fix what is wrong with us. In fact, psychology as a whole has long emphasized pathology and remediation of illness. While this is still an important goal, positive psychology aims to answer less frequently asked questions: What is right with us? How can we build on our sense of well-being? What can we grow to enable us to live happier, more fulfilling lives?


According to Seligman (2012), well-being is comprised of 5 components that are pursued for their own sake, and can be measured independently of each other. These components are summarized with PERMA: Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment. Intentionally building on each of these components, can contribute to flourishing of individuals, groups, communities, and organizations.

Positive Emotions

Positive emotions, like joy, interest, love, pride, and gratitude, are indicators of flourishing and can be cultivated and learned to improve well-being. Positive emotions have important functions of being able to undo the harmful effects of negative emotions, promote resilience, and build critical resources that can be used to meet future challenges.

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In this distracted world, it can be increasingly difficult to become fully immersed and present in all of the activities of our lives. Engagement is about living in the present moment and lending ourselves fully, whether through "flow" experiences or leveraging our top character strengths. Engagement can help us live more deeply and show up at our best more consistently.

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One of the founding fathers of positive psychology, Dr. Christopher Peterson, once said all of the research on well-being can be summarized in one phrase: Other People Matter. Social connections and a sense of belonging and mattering are critical enablers of flourishing. But relationships are hard: Strengthening bonds, engaging in positive interactions, and communicating clearly with those who matter most to us can help improve the connections around us that so greatly contribute to our sense of happiness and well-being.

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As we make our way through the peaks and valleys of our lives, having a sense of purpose as well as a connection to something larger than ourselves helps us navigate through tough challenges. Identifying the values that are core to who we are and seeking ways to align our lives with those values can aid in bringing clarity to our daily lives.

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Making progress toward important achievement, mastery, and competence goals can greatly contribute to our sense of well-being. But often these goals become the focal point of life at the expense of everything else. Through strategies like effective goal setting, savoring successes, and managing motivation, we can help to bring more thriving to the process of striving for what matters most to you.

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