PERMA for Balanced Living
Positive Psychology represents the new direction of psychology. Focusing on strengths and wellness in a person rather than what is “wrong”. In focusing on strengths already in a person a counselor can direct that person to use those strengths in their recovery process. This is not to suggest that Positive Psychology supposes that individuals should only “look on the bright side” or simply “cheer up” when they are in a tough spot. Rather those individuals can acknowledge that there is a whole range of emotion states. It is through the identification of inherent strengths that one can learn to bear the highs and lows of everyday life.
At Brighton Recovery Center we utilize a concept called PERMA. Developed by the founder of positive psychology Martin Seligman. The PERMA model provides a framework by which an individual is living a balanced life that increases resiliency, increases distress tolerance, and decreases fixation on negative emotion states.
The PERMA model is divided in to 5 primary parts; Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Achievement. Each portion of the model will be discussed in the following sections but it is the balance of all these parts that is the heart of the model.
As discussed earlier “positive emotions” does not suppose just the obvious emotions of “happy” or “joyful”. Positive emotions run deeper than surface emotional states. They present the capacity for hope and an ability to endure the negative while embracing the positive. Consider a funeral; not generally perceived as a “happy and joyous” event. While the room may be full of individuals who are grieving and feeling sadness in the moment, the one that can find the positive aspects (connection with family, using the loss as motivation to improve aspects of one’s life, celebrating the rich life the loved one lived in their time, etc.) is finding the first part of the PERMA model.
Full engagement in an activity implies that one has become so absorbed in what they are doing that the concepts of time, self, and other external sensations seem to disappear. This state of being fully engaged is often referred to as being in “Flow”. When one is in this Flow state the ego centers of the brain shut down and the pure experience is exposed without the doubt and fear one imposes on them. Flow is a concept that will be dissected in another post as it is a deep concept in itself.
This area of the PERMA model is a broad category. At the heart of the definition of this area of the model is the act of doing something that carries a deeper purpose. This deeper purpose can manifest in many ways; it could be direct service to others, it could be associating a more intrinsic value to a basic activity, or it can be finding the higher purpose in everyday life. For example; volunteering has an obvious meaning of service to others, but a simple day at the park with your family can carry the deeper meaning of building the bond between the family members. It depends on the individual to determine the meaning of the activity and the depth of that meaning relates to the depth of the experience.
Human beings by nature are social creatures; we live in sometimes complex social structures and crave connection with others. The very nature of addiction leads one to isolation; whether it is physical isolation from others or the emotional isolation that drives someone to deeper addiction. Through connection with others that contribute positively to our life experience we can find the deeper connections we crave as humans. These connections are not the self-serving connections where we always get our way; these deeper connections often challenge us and require a give and take.
Everyone feels good when they can see they fulfilled some sort of goal or milestone. How satisfying is it when you get to cross off something from your list of things to do? Recognizing the fact that you were able to stick to something to completion directly relates to identifying the personal strengths it took to get there. Just like the other aspects of the PERMA model, the complexity and depth of these achievements correlates to the feeling of accomplishment; the more complex or meaningful the achievement, the deeper the insight to the achievement, the more powerful the feeling.
The list of maladjustments within each of these aspects of the PERMA model is infinite. Individuals suffering from addiction often experienced an imbalance in their life that led to their use and through their use experienced a deeper and more profound deviation from this model of well-being. Contact Brighton Recovery Center where we strive to help individuals get back in balance with their lives and move forward with a happy, healthy, and whole life.