University of Pennsylvania

Martin Seligman has been raising the profile of positive psychology over the past two decades. Seligman’s notion of good mental health boils down to five key domains that together form the acronym PERMA: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and purpose, and accomplishments. This list includes the five PERMA attributes, as well as emotional stability, optimism, resilience, self-esteem and vitality.

The following attributes have been found to be important for good mental health

  • Positive emotions: all things considered, how happy do I feel?
  • Engagement: taking an interest in your work and activities
  • Relationships: having people in your life that you care for and who care about you
  • Meaning and purpose: feeling that what you do in life is valuable and worthwhile
  • Accomplishment: feeling that what you do gives you a sense of accomplishment and makes you feel competent
  • Emotional stability: feeling calm and peaceful
  • Optimism: feeling positive about your life and your future
  • Resilience: being able to bounce back in the face of adversity
  • Self-esteem: feeling positive about yourself
  • Vitality: feeling energetic

Strategies for positive wellbeing

Mindfulness: Mindfulness, which emerged out of the Buddhist tradition of meditation, is a practice of drawing one’s attention to the present moment, focusing on emotions, thoughts and sensations. Mindfulness has been shown to be effective at improving mental wellbeing, behaviour regulation, and interpersonal relationships. A key to mindfulness practice is awareness. If we are aware that we are becoming angry, for instance, we have a greater ability to make a choice of how to behave in response to that emotion.

Gratitude diary: Another useful exercise for fostering optimism is a gratitude diary. Listing three things to be appreciative or thankful for at the end of each day can help us to view life from the glass-half-full perspective more often.

Optimism: There is a distinction between fostering optimism and simple positive thinking. Promote thoughts that will help to make the most of a bad situation or find a realistic solution to a problem, rather than just sweeping a problem under the carpet.

Realistic expectations: Negative life events can strike anyone. The death of a loved one, loss of a job, or onset of serious illness can all take their toll on mental wellbeing. This is one reason that it’s important to focus on aspects of our life that are within out control.

Social engagement: Activities such as volunteering as factors that can help to promote good mental health. A healthy diet, exercise and getting adequate sleep also play a role.

Many of these same factors protect our health and are considered central to positive wellbeing.

 – Eirini Lammi

Eirini Lammi is a Consultant Psychologist with ACER.
ACER is one of the world’s leading educational research centres. Our goal is to support every learner for line and our learning society through our work. ACER offers a variety of assessments, resources and professional development to inform, improve and support learners and learning. For their latest workshop on positive psychology and wellbeing please visit:
You can also visit one of the ACER consultants at one of the Generation Next events across Australia!