Positive Psychology – Healthier Mind and Higher Productivity

Positive Psychology – Healthier Mind and Higher Productivity

Guest Student Post By: Elizabeth Price

Positive psychology isn’t just the idea that being positive leads to a happier person. It has application merits, especially when applied to train and development as well as adult education. Often, I’ve been asked, “What do you want your career to look like?” I’ll be the first to admit that in the past I’ve often floundered on that question since my career path


Elizabeth Price

hasn’t been the most conventional. It wasn’t until I had a manager who took the time to actually chat about and reflect on my strengths and how to utilize them more effectively than I found clarity to that question. This use of encouragement, fostering optimism/hope, and positive reflection is core to positive psychology.

“Positive psychology is the scientific and applied approach to uncovering people’s strengths and promoting their positive functioning.” (Hugo Alberts)

Positive psychology, founded in 1998 by Martin Seligman, is essential “the scientific study of what makes life most worth living”(Christopher Peterson).  Seligman identified the PERMA model as the five elements needed to achieve positive psychology. PERMA stands for Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Achievement. Positive emotions are the ability to think optimistically about the past, present and future with an emphasis on focusing on the highs in life rather than the lows. Engagement is the identification and participation in activities that create require our full engagement in them and create “flow” (when a task causes you to feel as though time flew by while engaging in it). Relationships are the creation of strong and positive relationships with others which is core to our inherent nature as social creatures. Meaning is the identification and clarity of purpose for your choices and actions. Lastly, Achievement is all about creating and attaining goals that are created to achieve the four prior elements.


So how can we use this in the training and development field? We know that with adult learners’ motivations and the freedom of self-direction are key in their retention of material. Positive psychology and the PERMA model are completely built around self-exploration and motivational identification. The instructor, similar to Andragogy, is a facilitator for that self-discovery. Coaching an adult learner towards identifying and applying the PERMA model has proven to increase productivity and efficiency, foster creativity and innovation, and is infectious causing company and community-wide benefits. An instructor or coach can implement small changes in feedback to help encourage PERMA through positive and strength focused feedback on assignments, creating strength lists and goals based upon those, relations of topics to personal experiences/ reflection with open or group discussion, encourage gratitude journaling, and even adding short meditation or mindfulness activities to the session.

Additionally, many supporters of positive psychology recommend the instructor/coach/facilitator be active participants of the PERMA model in their own lives. Science has proven that positive psychology can lower rates/ occurrences of depression and anxiety. Which if we are being honest everyone could use a bit of these days.

Positive psychology may seem simple enough. However, it has scientifically proven benefits to not only the productivity of a student or client but also the overall mental health of that individual.

Questions for Discussion

Would you utilize positive psychology and the PERMA method in your instructional design or coaching? Why or why not?

Do you think positive psychology is a complete learning theory or rather a component of a more established theory such as Andragogy or Humanist Learning Theory?







  • The Question proposed – Would you utilize positive psychology and the PERMA method in your instructional design or coaching? Why or why not? I actually think it was a perfect question. The Answer would be yes , because optimistic attributes within a training session become more inclusive, productive as well as a mentoring opportunity.

  • amandavaughan11

    I love that you point out that positive psychology is not just the idea that “you should be happier so you can do better!” It is not just the soft, touchy-feely ideas surrounding our work and lives. There is actual research and evidence that backs up these ideas. If I venture off into the world of coaching, I will absolutely use a PERMA-based approach and I intend to implement in my daily life.

  • Great article about positive psychology! I will definitely use PERMA while coaching. I think each section has such great value when working with other people. If you can put all five aspects of positive psychology together in either a group setting or one-on-one, I think you will have great interaction and get great value out of the coaching.

  • Ginger Ulloa-Enright

    What a great emotionally and socially intelligent, introspective approach to human development! I would definitely use PERMA and already thinking about ways to implement it within the learning design and instruction. It makes sense to use the positive psychology approach that PERMA offers. We are all human, living a deeply human experience and this approach uses experiential learning that allow learners to create the life they want by finding meaning and engaging. Motivating, encouraging and inspiring!

  • I think it would be great to use positive psychology and PERMA for coaching. Creating positive, long-lasting relationships is one of the key factors in coaching. It is simply having a better life and who doesn’t want that? It allows coaches to focus on the client’s strengths as opposed to focusing on their weaknesses so clients can feel good about themselves. It may lead to improved mental health which will certainly increase the value of your work life and your life outside of work.

  • Pingback: Positive Psychology – Healthier Mind and Higher Productivity – Mindculture's Blog

  • I am sharing your post in mindculture.wordpress.com on 12th October. Do come check out the blog. Thanks!

  • Yes to answer the question, I would absolutely use PERMA and positive psychology in my instructional classes. I believe that this also aligns with using the subconscious of our minds. By tapping into the good of life it makes it much more easier to implement a happier state of being. It is up to us as a person and especially when facilitating others to be motivated that we exemplify the nature of engagement in the classroom.

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts about positive psychology. My blog focuses on bringing the benefits of positive psychology into one’s everyday life, which is why I like your discussion questions. I also like how you mention that positive psychology is about acknowledging strengths that a person has and allowing them to develop those. This will be something that I focus on in my own blog. I hope that you get a chance to check it out, and I would certainly welcome any contributions that you have to the content.

  • Thanks for sharing very informative

  • Carole S Deeter

    I would absolutely use the PERMA method in my work as a talent development professional. I see it playing the biggest role in coaching and mentoring interventions. I can speak from personal experience that while I have a pretty good practice of most of these, I really struggle with the Positive Emotions aspect. I have worked with both a coach and mentors, and they have helped reinforce Positive Emotions for me, which in turn allows me to channel those into my work. Having a coach or mentor reinforce all pillars of PERMA to their coachee/mentee can have great results on pushing the professional forward in their own development.

    While I’m not familiar enough with the PERMA method yet to be able to identify it as it’s own learning theory or not, I see it functioning alongside any other theory. For example, while behaviorism doesn’t focus on emotions, the emotional reward of success or personal motivation from previous experience can drive a person forward to try to achieve that emotional reward again.

  • I think the type of training can affect my decision whether to use the PERMA method in my design of that training. I say this mostly because I create technical training that has a linear process to it. In this case, there is not much room for self-exploration of the topic at hand. However, when it comes to a topic that has a broader range of subtopics and information surrounding it, I am entirely on board with the PERMA method. Allowing the learner the freedom to move in the training as they wish, gives them the power to learn at their own speed. This makes them feel in charge and therefore increases motivation.

  • I would definitely utilize positive psychology and the PERMA method in instructional design and coaching. It is beneficial to everybody within the organization to utilize this method. It should also be practiced in grade schools and high schools amongst faculty, staff, and students. It promotes healthy well-being and confidence from the inside out, which is something we all can take with us throughout life.

  • Looking at PERMA, I can see how this model could work well with my Performing Arts high school classes. It is essential that students are positive and engage with others in meaningful and respectful ways. Students are encouraged to never use ‘put downs’ out of appropriate contexts as this creates an unsafe environment for student to create their best work. This is especially true for 12 to 15 year olds where swearing and ‘put downs’ are seens everyday all day in some environments in our school.
    They are challenged in ways that push their boundaries (performing in front of their peers) and for some of my students they enjoy performing but are afraid of what their peers might think of them. When such students like this do perform it is a huge accomplishment. Their verbal reflections after viewing their video work after performances have indicated that they are aware of their tecnical short comings (use of voice or body movement) and seek to improve them in their next performance.

  • Yes. I believe that PERMA would be successful with all training opportunities because it focuses on self-exploration and motivation and has a feedback component that is essential to knowledge transfer. It allows the learner to be fully engaged in the learning process. Learners want to do well when they feel fully engaged in the process.

  • PERMA helps us to intentionally connect. In all settings, people will form groups. Many times they are peers, however, is some instances these groups can unintentionally ignore others — the ones who have trouble ‘leaning’ in. They people need to be invited to join in. If not the chance of feeling not worthy and isolated can become an issue. T & D professionals can lead PERMA workshops that introduce the benefits of practicing PERMA and positive engagement for the good of the project AND all the people assigned to any team — the just the ‘in-group’.

  • I do believe that the PERMA method can be applied in the classroom, as well as, in our personal lives as suggested in the article. It is agreed that self-discovery has been proven effective as a coach or facilitator uses in the classroom. Using the old school method of tell-tell is no way for the learner to truly relate to the content and forces them to be more in a memorizing of learning versus retaining the information.
    So I can definitely adopt the PERMA style in my life. I think that sometimes we forget that being truly engaged in something helps one to lose the sense of time; that should be recognized more. Especially in relationships, we should be able to just be so gratified by the moment of the connection in that relationship that we aren’t peeking at the clock every few minutes. The PERMA method reminds me to get involved and be in the moment of learning or of life! To allow yourself to share your experiences and analogies to connect fully.

  • Would you utilize positive psychology and the PERMA method in your instructional design or coaching? Why or why not?

    100%, yes. I am all about positive psychology and instead of telling a learner while learning/being vulnerable “no, you’re wrong”, focus on what they did well and find a way to redirect to give them more coaching. For example the other day I was co-teaching a training class and my co-teacher has a much less positive approach. I noticed when she would tell someone they did something wrong, their guards immediately went up and they stopped wanting to participate.

    Do you think positive psychology is a complete learning theory or rather a component of a more established theory such as Andragogy or Humanist Learning Theory?

    I think that it is a component of a more established theory. I think it’s something that needs to be kept in mind, practiced and applied but can’t stand on it’s own. It has to have more components about learning in order to be alone.

  • Applying positive psychology to business coaching for improved performance, is a practice that I have been trained on and implemented for the better part of my career. Overall, as a concept, the more that performers identify their strengths, demonstrate those strengths in their work performance and mitigate any gaps, the more successful they are in the role and the more satisfied. It was helpful to think about applying the PERMA model of positive psychology to change management strategies such as the below:

    Positive emotions – feeling positively about the past, present and future
    •Change Management application: in communications, focus on similar changes that have gone well in the past to build on the success.

    Engagement – Identification and participate in activities that result in a “flow” state

    •Change Management application: involve impacted stakeholders in the planning of the change tapping into creativity

    Relationships – Establishing and maintaining positive working relationships that support our social need to connect with others

    •Change Management application: Establish a change network that connects leaders and employees impacted by the change

    Meaning – purpose in choices and actions

    •Change Management application: Link organizational goals to personal values and goals

    Achievement – creating and attaining goals

    •Change Management application: Recognize those that have adapted well to the change to reinforce behaviors

    Overall, I think the application of PERMA is a great approach to continue to take a learner focused approach in our work as OD professionals and continue to tailor the approach to the people that we serve in our various organizations.

  • Mary Zmorzynski Dojutrek

    With coaching, I would use the PERMA method in moderation. Although critical to build an employee’s self esteem and create a positive environment, honest, constructive feedback helps identify opportunity areas and increase self-awareness. Not knowing your weaknesses can be detrimental, hindering forward progress. Everyone stumbles and makes mistakes while learning, but they need to be provided the grace to recover and the encouragement to carry on–positive psychology. Is a balanced perspective the key– somewhere between rainbows and unicorns and gloom and doom?

  • Michael A. Sullivan

    I love positive psychology! Positive psychology is amazing!

    Would you utilize positive psychology and the PERMA method in your instructional design or coaching? Why or why not?

    Yes, I would use PERMA in an instructional design or coaching. Looking at Seligman & Csikzentmihalyi article it describes the purpose of positive psychology quite well by emphasizing that its goal is to help develop new cognitive and emotional tools, for fulfillment and well-being (2014). I think to truly enjoy any occupation we should find a something that gives us purpose. PERMA just gives us a way to communicate with others our desires and give frame work for us to develop a healthy lifestyle.

    Seligman, M. E., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). Positive psychology: An introduction (pp. 279-298). Springer Netherlands

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