Give Yourself A Happiness Upgrade

April 26, 2017 Carol No comments exist

This post is a sequel to Not Your Grandmother’s Psychology. You will notice that some of the introductory material is repeated. In Not Your Grandmother’s Psychology we were introduced to the PERMA theory. Here, in Give Yourself A Happiness Upgrade, we will see how to build PERMA in our lives.


The psychology of today is not your grandmother’s psychology. The psychology of old tried to keep us out of the negative numbers, as close to zero as possible. Today’s psychology includes positive psychology, which is all about life above zero.

What Can We Most Hope for in Life?

What is the most we can ever hope for in life? What is the best we can do?


Positive psychology has some great answers for us!


The latest positive psychology model — the PERMA model — provides the framework for our best answers to date


give yourself a happiness upgrade

PERMA is a new theory of well-being.


PERMA says that human flourishing, well-being is what we can hope for, for our future. It validates the view that we can live life above zero. 


PERMA is plausible thing to measure.


Can you build it? Can well-being be lastingly increased? Yes to both! 


Can it be built in schools and organizations? That’s a stepping stone to the theory that the planet could flourish.


PERMA is Martin Seligman’s gift to us. It represents the latest milestone in his remarkable body of work.

PERMA Basics

PERMA has five elements, or pillars. These are the five elements that free people can choose in life.


These are the characteristics of an element:

  • An element contributes to well-being.
  • An element is pursued for its own sake, not merely to get one of the other elements.
  • An element can be measured independently of the other elements.

Each of these elements is respectably measurable.


Each of these things is teachable.


You and actually have more of each of PERMA in your life! 


To give yourself a happiness upgrade, learn how to build PERMA! 

How to Build PERMA

P – Positive Emotion

As in: The smiley-face, happiology, hedonic view, feeling good.


How much positive emotion you feel is about 50% inheritable, and it’s only increasable by about 10-15 per-cent.


In Seligman’s video, he talks about the Losada Ratio. Applying this measure to business – the ratio of positive words to negative words in business meetings for flourishing companies is above 2.9 to 1. Applying it to marriage – If the ratio is under 5:1, it predicts divorce!

E – Engagement 

As in: Flow, totally wrapped up in what you’re doing, When time stops for you, when you’re one with the music.

Signature Strengths

In the video Seligman, talks about our “signature strengths.” He says, “We go into flow when our highest strengths are just matched to the challenges that come our way. So we are very interested in increasing the amount of flow we have in life. And to do that you have to identify people’s highest strengths.”


To that end, Seligman and Christopher Peterson co-created the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths. Today Seligman maintains an Authentic Happiness website. You can test your own signature strengths on the test center section of that website. The test tells you what your five highest strengths are.


Seligman recommends this exercise:

  • Think of something you don’t like to do at work, that you have to do pretty much once a week. 
  • Take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths found at the Authentic Happiness test center.
  • Do that task next week using your highest strength.

Seligman tells the story of one of his graduate students who hated her waitressing job. She took the test, and found out that her highest strength was social intelligence. So her job was to recraft waitressing using social intelligence much more. She decided to make an encounter with her the highlight of each customer’s evening. Waitressing became more fun, and the tips became larger.


If you do this, statistically, 6 months later, you will experience less depression, less anxiety, more life satisfaction.

Character Strengths, Trauma and Post-Traumatic Growth

Seligman asks. “Who grows through trauma? Of whom is it true – what Nietzsche said – if I doesn’t kill me, it makes me stronger?”


He describes a study:

  • We did a study of 1700 people who had been through one, two, or three awful events.
  • We listed the fifteen worst things that could happen to people, and asked who was stronger afterwards.
  • It turned out that people who had three of these awful things – rape, captured, tortured – were stronger than people who had one, were stronger than people who had none.
  • The character strengths that correlated with post-traumatic growth were these five: Religiousness, Gratitude, Kindness, Hope, Bravery.

R – Relationships 

As in: Good relationships with others.


When you are in your highest positive states, it’s almost never solitary.

We’ve evolved to be hive creatures. The hedonic system is built around other people. – Martin Seligman

Active Constructive Responding (ACR)

give yourself a happiness upgrade

Huh? What does that mean?

How do you react to a friend when they share good news? Imagine your partner comes home from work and announces that she received a promotion at work. There are many ways in which you could respond to this news. An ACR responder might say, “That’s amazing, honey! I knew they would recognize your hard work. Let’s grab a bottle of champagne and celebrate. I’d love to hear more about your new position.” When people share good news, they want you to share in their joy. And this goes far beyond just a pat on the back. Conveying authentic interest, pride, and even curiosity in someone’s good news are all hallmarks of ACR. – Read more at

When you choose the Active Constructive Response, love and commitment markedly increase.

M – Meaning 

As in: Meaning and purpose, belonging to and serving something bigger than the self.

The self is completely poverished soil for well-being. – Martin Seligman

Altruism versus Pleasure

When you do something fun, when it’s over, it’s over. It has almost no effects afterwards.

When you do something philanthropic, a very different thing happens.

Seligman describes an exercise he gives his classes: “My students are asked to do something fun next week – a “P” thing, and then do something philanthropic, then come back and report what happens.


One of the students tutored her nephew for two hours in fractions. She reported back, “After that, the whole day went better for me. I was mellow, I could listen to people. People liked me more.”

A second student, a business student said, “I’m in business because I want to make a lot of money. And I want to make a lot of money because money brings happiness, it brings control, and it brings security. But I was astonished to find out that I was happier helping another person than I was shopping.”

If you’re depressed right now, the one single thing that will give you a temporary boost is to go out and help another person. – Martin Seligman

A – Accomplishment

As in: Accomplishment, achievement, mastering.

Self-Discipline and Grit

Angela Duckworth is an American academic, psychologist and popular science author. She is a  Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studies grit and self-discipline and grit.


Duckworth’s reserach demonstrates that Self-Discipline and Grit are twice as Important as IQ in predictors of academic success.

Sources and Resources



(Literature & Manuals)



Flourish, 2011: N.Y.: Free Press (Martin Seligman’s book)

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