Happiness is contagious. We now have proof. When we are happy, we are better people, better neighbors, experience more empathy, are more resilient, less aggressive, happiness even reduces car accidents, yes it does! It is a win-win scenario. The happier you are, the bigger the ripple effect.

But what is happiness anyway? If one may ask. With the overload of self-help books, seminars, speakers that over promise the easy road to the high life and deliver a tone of frustration and confusion, most of us are becoming disillusioned with the “selfie” generation of searching for one’s pleasure to the detriment of society at large.

If you are one of those confused people, you are not alone, welcome to the club of non-believers that life should be only a series of rosy, charming experiences where we get from A to B without a hint of effort or sensations. A life where we are perpetually cheerful and the so called “negative emotions’ are regarded as a plague to be eradicated from the planet with TV, food, pills, sex, social media and so on, anything that can distract you and I from: Feeling.

Fortunately for both of us, Positive Psychology has come to the rescue (and so has mindfulness, neuroscience & others but for now we’ll focus on PP). We live in a privileged time where tremendous effort is destined to the study of Well-Being, a whole academy of thought, with highly skilled technicians are devoted to increase flourishing in the world, and we are the direct beneficiaries.

For the first time we have evidence of what makes this life worth living and one of the pioneers on the subject is Martin Seligman. Considered the father of modern positive psychology, Martin and his disciples/researchers have come up with a formula that clarifies what well-being is, and for sure, what is not: being cheerful all the time, so yes, you can take a break my dear, you are not broken.

Let’s get down to basics. A first approach at defining Happiness was made through the Theory of Authentic Happiness, whose topic was happiness, the objective was to measure life satisfaction, and the goal was to increase life satisfaction, shortly after, it was realized that some components were missing and most importantly, the theory was highly linked to mood, therefore providing for a wobbly structure. No need to elaborate further here.

And so “The Theory of Well-Being” was born, where Well Being was the object of affection, the measure was PERMA, * and the goal to increase Flourishing through PERMA. Well-Being is a construct made up of several ingredients, which can be easily remembered with the mnemonic PERMA. No one element defines well-being, but each contributes to it. Some aspects of these five elements are measured subjectively by self-report, but other aspects are measured objectively. **

*Components of PERMA:

Positive Affect: In other words positive emotions, the hedonistic life, the pleasurable life. PA Is about enjoying the present moment. This ingredient is one of the most evident connections to happiness, but it is more than just smiling, it refers also to our ability to be optimistic and view our experiences with a positive outlook. Positive Affect serves as bedrock for rocky times to come. We are more likely to face challenges and be more resilient if we have a foundation of positive emotions we have built upon.

Engagement: When was the last time you lost track of time, that you were fully immersed in the moment and it seemed even the monkey mind had taken a break? In other words, when was the last time you experienced flow?

There are no shortcuts to flow. You need to display your highest strengths and talents to meet the world in flow. There are effortless shortcuts to feeling positive emotion, which is another difference between engagement and positive emotion. You can masturbate, go shopping, take drugs, or watch television. Hence, the importance of identifying your highest strengths and learning to use them more often in order to go into flow**.

When in flow you don’t experience positive or negative emotions, it is only in the aftermath when you recall the experience that you say: that was good!

Relationships: We are social animals and we prosper and thrive when we are in relationship. As Christopher in the movie “Into the Wild” writes right at the end of his journey: “Happiness is only real if shared”. This is one of the most important aspects of life; it enhances positive emotions, resilience, and meaning to name but a few. Investing in healthy, authentic relationships is surely one of the best returns you will get in this lifetime.

Meaning: It refers to having a purpose larger than ourselves, and that could be anything, your family, serving your country, your religion, you name it. Having meaning, a greater purpose in life rather than the pursuit of our own pleasure and material wealth. I always say, you need to find meaning to keep living… if you are feeling a bit down today, do the following experiment: without hope or agenda, get up & do something randomly good for someone else, watch and see ☺

Accomplishment: It is about mastering, wining, crafting, creating for the sake of creating. Deploying our talents to achieve whatever we set ourselves to in life is important to thrive and flourish.

The way I choose to interpret PERMA is through the lens of balance, in my humble opinion if one of the elements is off, then your well being levels suffer, and I mean balance in the strictest of ways, not going over or under for long periods of time. Let’s take a look at pleasure, we all love to enjoy life, but too much of a good thing tends to bore us (to say the least). I remember while living in Singapore, my husband and I loved it, thrived, had the greatest time for a period of time, but to be honest, at least for expatriates, life became a bit too easy, I know, I know, first world problems, but still real. We both worked, had great relationships but flow was off and certainly meaning was not at its peak. After six years we hit a roadblock and instantly hit the road Jack, we wanted something else, but we didn’t have the words to express what it was; now we do, thank you Marti & the rest for that.

So now… we need to define Flourishing, ha! 🙂 You thought we were done, didn’t you? Well, we are for today as the blog is getting too long and we all have lives to tend to… more to come in the next chapter…

Feel free to reach out to me if you are looking for more meaning, flow, working on your strenghts, clarify and achieve your goals or purpose… I thrive on supporting You living your best life because you know now that… How you live your life matters xx

Mariona Riera

Crafting the Life Well Lived

** Extracts from Flourish: A New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being – and how to Achieve Them. Martin Seligman; http://www.viacharacter.org/www/; Studies in Positive Psychology with Tal Ben Shahar