PERMA Theory And the Mind-Body Connection

How can an increased understanding of PERMA Theory benefit my overall physical and mental well-being?

I concluded my last post titled “The Inevitable Mind-Body Connection” with the thought that positive thoughts could help individuals live healthier lives overall. I mentioned PERMA theory, but did not go in depth with this topic specifically. So, the idea behind this post today is to explicitly tie PERMA theory into the mind-body connection that I previously discussed. Here is a link to my previous post in case you would like to learn more about how I approach the mind-body connection before going a bit more in depth with this topic:

To start, PERMA theory is an acronym for components of peoples lives that help humans to flourish, especially in regards to their overall well-being. It stands for Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment. Each one of these components can be applied to the context of the mind-body connection in order to promote flourishing.

Positive Emotions: People tend to think of emotions such as joy, forgiveness, hope, and optimism when they hear this component of PERMA. These are preferred over negative emotions such as sadness, contempt, despair, and pessimism. In reference to the mind-body connection, we have seen that these feelings associated with negativity can, in turn, influence physiological processes in our bodies. Therefore, by cultivating attitudes such as forgiveness and hope in place of contempt and despair, we can work closer to taking care of our overall well-being in regards to both physical health and mental health.

Engagement: Distressing thoughts can be chronically detrimental to our overall health. However, by experiencing “flow” that Seligman describes in PERMA theory, the individual can be free from any thoughts related to themselves, including distressing ones. Therefore, by finding activities where an individual can experience flow, they can have more opportunities to fend off negative cognitions that come to fruition during times of inactivity. In place, they experience a powerful experience in which they lose a sense of time and place in the absorption of a pleasing activity.

Relationships: The connections that we make with others can have an immensely large impact on our overall well-being due to the several ways in which they can be of benefit. The support of a family can help with the stresses of raising a child in comparison to someone who faces the same challenges entirely on their own. Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals can help you feel acknowledged and not ostracized for your beliefs. The presence of an attentive friend can help to buffer the stressful events another individual faces. Many similar ideas are supported through the social buffering hypothesis, which you can read more about here if you would like:

All in all, by having people to help with the inevitable challenges of life, an individual can address potentially damaging thoughts in favor of more positive perspectives. In reference to the mind-body connection, these relationships can help an individual to have more positive thoughts and decrease negative ones, which helps the individual to be more healthy overall.

Meaning: An individual’s sense of purpose is something that can be drawn upon even through times of adversity. When a person inevitably goes through trials in whatever line of work they are in, it could be useful for them to think of the bigger picture in their lives instead of feeling stuck in the current emotions related to the challenge. Without this clear sense of meaning, it can make the individual feel less hopeful and optimistic about their situation and the future during the adversity. This can be chronically detrimental to an individual’s mental health and, in turn, their physical health. A sense of meaning, therefore, can help an individual be more optimistic and buffer the effects of negative emotions.

Accomplishment: Reflecting on past accomplishments and striving to achieve more is a much preferred mindset over degrading self-talk for what you have not done or lack skillset at. Negative self-talk can be chronically detrimental to one’s mental and physical health. However, by reflecting on your strengths and applying those to something that can be achieved, negative self-talk can be replaced with a more positive mindset of achievement. Fortunately, we all have unique talents that we possess, and it is more of a matter of finding out how we can use them.

The overall message behind all of these components is that a positive mindset is preferable to a negative mindset. Thoughts and emotions associated with positivity can help an individual be healthier mentally and, in turn, be more physically healthy as well. This is due to the fact that our thoughts can have an impact on our physiological processes through the mind-body connection. Therefore, understanding how each component of PERMA theory could be implemented into your own life can help you be well overall, especially in minimizing negative thoughts and maximizing positive ones. If you have any thoughts about the content of this post, feel free to leave any contribution you would like below. Thanks for reading this lengthy article, and be well!


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