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The literature offers several reasons for adopting a positive education approach. Positive education provides an antidote to youth depression, serves as a pathway to increased life satisfaction, promotes learning and creativity, enhances social cohesion, and promotes civic citizenship (Seligman et al., 2009; Waters, 2011). Positive education introduces and normalizes self-inquiry and self-management of one’s mental health from a young age, which may lead to long-term benefits as youth move into adulthood with greater self-awareness and emotional intelligence (Waters, 2014). On the theoretical side, well-being is an abstract construct that includes both feeling good and functioning well (Huppert, 2014). “Teachers and researchers in positive psychology are natural allies. At its core, education is about nurturing strengths, about growth and learning. Furthermore, psychological and social well-being are key concerns for teachers and other educators and for people working in the field of positive psychology” (Shankland & Rosset, 2017). Seligman and other positive psychologists are also not alone in the belief that schools should aim for student well-being. Teachers themselves believe that teaching is “inevitably linked” with the emotional health and well-being of the students being taught (Kidger et al., 2010).
Being happy and finding life meaningful overlap, but there are important differences. Satisfying one’s needs and wants increased happiness but was largely irrelevant to meaningfulness. Happiness was largely present oriented, whereas meaningfulness involves integrating past, present, and future. For example, thinking about future and past was associated with high meaningfulness but low happiness. Happiness was linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness went with being a giver rather than a taker. Higher levels of worry, stress, and anxiety were linked to higher meaningfulness but lower happiness (Baumeister, Vohs, Aaker & Garbinsky, 2013).
Authentic Happiness Theory
Seligman’s beginning theory discussed authentic happiness. He described that people can feel happiness from different types of experiences.
The pleasant life: This refers to feeling positive emotions in the most intuitive way, of feeling pleasant sensations. Gaining happiness at this level necessitates relatively little effort.
The engaged life: Engagement is characterized by flow. Flow refers to the experience of completely loosing oneself in an activity. Individuals become totally absorbed in what they are doing and lose track of time. They are not thinking, but in essence unified with what they are doing.
In order for flow to occur, the person has to be using their signature character strengths, and usually there has to be some sort of challenge, but not too big of a challenge. Usually, activities with clear goals and feedback will cause more flow. Flow causes an inner motivation and intrinsic reward. As opposed to the pleasant life, this form of happiness necessitates more effort. Being in flow invigorates the person, filling one with positive energy.
The meaningful life: However engaging flow activities may be, they can be utterly meaningless and fill a person with a void after some time. In order to feel meaning, people have to be engaged in something that serves a goal beyond themselves, such as in religion, politics, or family.
Seligman contends that the five PERMA domains fall on the positive side of the mental health spectrum; well-being is not simply the lack of negative psychological states, but is something more (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Seligman (2011) hypothesized that PERMA (Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment) are the elements of well-being.
Here is a brief definition of each of the five building blocks:
1. Positive Emotion (P)
For us to experience well-being, we need positive emotion in our lives. Any positive emotion such as peace, gratitude, satisfaction, pleasure, inspiration, hope, curiosity, or love falls into this category – and the message is that it’s really important to enjoy yourself in the here and now, just as long as the other elements of PERMA are in place.
2. Engagement (E)
When we’re truly engaged in a situation, task, or project, we experience a state of flow : time seems to stop, we lose our sense of self, and we concentrate intensely on the present.
This feels really good! The more we experience this type of engagement, the more likely we are to experience well-being.
3. Positive Relationships (R)
As humans, we are “social beings,” and good relationships are core to our well-being. Time and again, we see that people who have meaningful, positive relationships with others are happier than those who do not. Relationships really do matter.
4. Meaning (M)
Meaning comes from serving a cause bigger than ourselves. Whether this is a specific deity or religion, or a cause that helps humanity in some way, we all need meaning in our lives to have a sense of well-being.
5. Accomplishment/Achievement (A)
Many of us strive to better ourselves in some way, whether we’re seeking to master a skill, achieve a valuable goal, or win in some competitive event. As such, accomplishment is another important thing that contributes to our ability to flourish.
I wish all of you a very happy life ahead in which you do not need to worry about anything.
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