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PERMA-V: Our framework for well-being

PERMA-V is the St Andrew’s College framework for well-being. Created by Professor Martin Seligman (2011), PERMA-V acknowledges the five building blocks to human flourishing. In this model, well-being is understood as being more than experiencing positive emotions and feeling happy. This model underpins our Positive Education philosophy.

 You can read about our decision to choose PERMA-V as our well-being model in this blog post.

PERMA V Poster 

Positive Emotion: This route to well-being is hedonic – increasing positive emotion. Within limits, we can increase our positive emotion about the past (e.g., by cultivating gratitude and forgiveness), our positive emotion about the present (e.g., by savoring physical pleasures and mindfulness) and our positive emotion about the future (e.g., by building hope and optimism).

Unlike the other routes to well-being described below, this route is limited by how much an individual can experience positive emotions. In other words, positive affectivity is partly heritable and our emotions tend to fluctuate within a range. Many people are, by disposition, low in experiencing positive emotion. Traditional conceptions of happiness tend to focus on positive emotion, so it can be liberating to know that there are other routes to well-being, described below.

Engagement: Engagement is an experience in which someone fully deploys their skills, strengths, and attention for a challenging task. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, this produces an experience called “flow” that is so gratifying that people are willing to do it for its own sake, rather than for what they will get out of it. The activity is its own reward. Flow is experienced when one’s skills are just sufficient for a challenging activity, in the pursuit of a clear goal, with immediate feedback on progress toward the goal. In such an activity, concentration is fully absorbed in the moment, self-awareness disappears, and the perception of time is distorted in retrospect, e.g., time stops. Flow can be experienced in a wide variety of activities, e.g., a good conversation, a work task, playing a musical instrument, reading a book, writing, building furniture, fixing a bike, gardening, sports training or performance, to name just a few. 

Relationships: Relationships are fundamental to well-being. The experiences that contribute to well-being are often amplified through our relationships, for example, great joy, meaning, laughter, a feeling of belonging, and pride in accomplishment. Connections to others can give life purpose and meaning. Support from and connection with others is one of the best antidotes to “the downs” of life and a reliable way to feel up. Research shows that doing acts of kindness for others produces an increase in well-being.

From an evolutionary perspective, we are social beings because the drive to connect with and serve others promotes our survival. Developing strong relationships is central to adaptation and is enabled by our capacity for love, compassion, kindness, empathy, teamwork, cooperation, self-sacrifice, etc.

Meaning: A sense of meaning and purpose can be derived from belonging to and serving something bigger than the self. There are various societal institutions that enable a sense of meaning, such as religion, family, science, politics, work organizations, justice, the community, social causes among others.

Accomplishment: People pursue achievement, competence, success, and mastery for its own sake, in a variety of domains, including the workplace, classroom, sports field and drama club etc. They pursue accomplishment even when it does not necessarily lead to positive emotion, meaning, or relationships. It is a basic human need that humans need to feel they are growing in competence and making progress in life. 

Vitality: Research shows us that vitality is integral to our well-being. Our ability to sleep deeply, eat well and exercise regularly has a significant impact on all other elements of well-being. Maintaining physical vitality is essential for building resilience and bouncing back through adversity and challenge.

 Source: University of Pennsylvania

This PowerPoint explores how PERMA-V is an effective framework to inform student well-being and engagement in the classroom.