Engagement, the ‘E‘ in PERMA well-being theory, is essential for happiness and arguably the most essential element for life satisfaction. It’s the things that disrupt ‘engagement’ that bring unhappiness, like a lack of Positive emotion and the preponderance of negative emotion, Relationship problems, and a lack of Meaning and Accomplishment.
What came across for me most strongly in our class discussions was the way that the gap between, our capacity to become fully immersed in activities on the one hand and a deep sense of unhappiness on the other, is filled with a host of strategies that help us to engage in activities either alone or with others. Everything we do seems to be some form of engagement as long as we want to do it and we’re not bored, that is everything from passively watching TV to meditation and losing ourselves in our work. The ultimate flow experience is defined in terms of total immersion in an activity to the extent that we lose track of time. Achieving flow is a skill in itself but it’s hard to achieve flow if we must engage in activities that are overly difficult or we lack the skills and know-how. Learned helplessness and feeling powerless undermine the ability to move beyond passive engagement and engage in the kind of activities necessary to accomplish our goals and achieve a sense of purpose. Thus, that kind of engagement involved in achievement appears to be necessary for happiness and well-being.