Engagement (E)

The second component of PERMA, is engagement

Engagement means “being one with the music, time stopping, and the loss of self- consciousness during an absorbing activity” (Seligman, 2012).

When we are engaged in things that we love doing, we lose track of time. We are living in the present moment and entirely focused on the task at hand. In positive psychology, this is referred to as ‘flow’. During flow experiences, we are so intensely focused on what we are doing that time seems to stop.

The leading researcher in this field is Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He says that we experience flow when our greatest strengths correspond to the challenges that we face. Flow is achieved when you have the combination of a challenging task and the opportunity to use your skills/strengths (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997).

People are more likely and able to experience flow when they are using their top character strengths. Knowing and employing your strengths contributes to wellbeing. Professor Chris Peterson and Professor Martin Seligman believe that there are 24 universal human strengths (Peterson, Seligman, 2004)

Research findings on engagement

  • Individuals who tried using their strengths in new ways each day for a week were happier and less depressed six months later (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005).
  • People who reported using their strengths also reported more positive emotion, and greater vitality and self-esteem, compared with people who did not feel they used their strengths (Wood, Linley, Maltby, Kashdan, & Hurling, 2011).
  • Use of character strengths contributes positively to both physical and mental wellbeing (Proctor, Maltby, & Linley, 2011).
  • Employees who have the opportunity to do what they do best every day is the single best predictor of employee engagement (Harter, Schmidt, & Keyes, 2003).
  • Engaged employees are significantly happier, have lower levels of stress and are less likely to be diagnosed with depression than those who are disengaged (Rath, Harter, & Harter, 2010).

How to build engagement: 

  • Engage in activities that you really love, where you lose track of time
  • Learn mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, yoga or tai chi
  • As you go about your daily activities, take the time to savour every moment
  • Appreciate being in the ‘now’ and be aware of how you use your time
  • Spend time in nature, watching, listening, and observing what happens around you
  • Identify and learn about your character strengths