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The PERMAH Wellbeing Survey

BY Michelle McQuaid

Why Use This Tool?

The word ‘wellbeing’ gets thrown around a lot these days. In fact, from Buddha to the explosion of the self-help movement, history is paved with hundreds of suggestions on how to create and cling to this concept. It can leave you wondering just where to start.

Of course there are good reasons why a focus on wellbeing is so popular. Studies are finding people who have higher levels of wellbeing are generally more: resilient; have more energy; are more charitable; are more liked by others; are more productive; earn more money; and are healthier and happier.

But let’s be honest if maintaining our wellbeing was easy, we’d all be doing it. After all, by now we all know that we should move regularly, eat wisely and sleep deeply, but the daily demands of life, unrealistic expectations at work and even our own beliefs about our sense of worth, mean that most of us wind up making choices that undermine our wellbeing.

So how can you make improving your wellbeing easier, no matter how busy life gets?

In its simplest form, wellbeing is your ability to feel good and function effectively.  It gives you the resources to navigate the highs and lows we all experience in our work and in our lives, whilst enabling you to intellectually, emotionally, socially and physically ‘flourish’.

Professor Martin Seligman, one of the world’s leading researchers in positive psychology and human flourishing, suggests that wellbeing is cultivated by the presence in our lives of:

  • Positive emotion – the right balance of heartfelt positivity to boost our resilience
  • Engagement – the regular development of our strengths – those things we’re good at and enjoy doing
  • Relationships – the creation of authentic, energizing connections
  • Meaning –  a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves
  • Accomplishment – the belief and ability to do the things that matter most to us

This framework is often referred to as ‘PERMA’.

Other researchers also believe that the cultivation of your Health by eating well, moving regularly, and sleeping deeply is one of the hygiene factors of wellbeing.  So Martin’s framework is now often expanded to PERMAH.

And just like muscle groups, or areas of fitness, these areas of wellbeing can be tested, targeted and developed through the practice of ongoing ‘Positive Interventions’.

In partnership with Dr Peggy Kern at Melbourne University we created The PERMAH Wellbeing Survey tool to make it easy to:

  • Measure your current wellbeing across the PERMAH pillars
  • Set small, manageable goals to improve your wellbeing
  • Create your personal wellbeing plan from more than 200 tested, positive psychology interventions.
  • Track your progress and adjust as needed over time.

All at the touch of a button.

How To Get The Tool?

The tool Is free and you can access it at

What Have Researchers Found?

In its simplest form, Professor Felicia Huppert suggests wellbeing is your ability to feel good and function effectively.  Researchers have proposed numerous theories of wellbeing (Ryff & Keyes, 1995; Huppert & So, 2013), but one of the most popular is that put forward by Marty himself (Seligman, 2011), which suggests that wellbeing is cultivated by the presence in our lives of positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment. Other researchers also believe that the cultivation of your health by eating well, moving regularly, and sleeping deeply is one of the hygiene factors of wellbeing. 

Working alongside Martin at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr Peggy Kern and Julie Butler created a measure of PERMAH that has been tested and validated by more than 16,000 people around the world. In 2012, she created a workplace version of this measure and this is what is used as the measurement tool in The PERMAH Wellbeing Survey. Peggy suggests the goal is not to simply ‘flourish’ all the time at work, but rather to be an informed and active participant in shaping your wellbeing as you navigate the highs and lows we all experience.

For example, the field of positive organizational scholarship has found that when it comes to your work these PERMAH dimensions may offer the following benefits:

  • Positive Emotions – such as joy and hope have been found to have a significant effect on our wellbeing. Researchers suggest that experiencing positive emotions broadens your outlook and helps you build creativity, resourcefulness, and be more resilient and successful.
  • Engagement – being able to use and develop your strengths at work – those things you’re good at and enjoy doing – has been found to boost your confidence, engagement and energy at work.
  • Relationships – creating genuine connections with others at work can give you satisfaction and enrichment.   Researchers suggest it can also lower your levels of stress, improve your concentration and help advance your career.
  • Meaning – understanding how what you do at work makes a positive difference to others has been found to increase your wellbeing motivation, commitment and sense of satisfaction at work
  • Accomplishment – cultivating grit has been found to give you the determination to pursue your goals, and having a ‘growth mindset’ can help you learn and grow from setbacks and challenges to achieve your true potential.
  • Health – staying healthy by eating well, moving regularly and sleeping deeply has been found to build a solid foundation for your wellbeing.

It’s important to be clear however, that research simply tells us what works for some of the people, some of the time. While it can help inform and accelerate our practices, the most important step in improving and maintaining your wellbeing is figuring out what works best for you. For example, researchers suggest that the kind of person you are (everything from your age, personality, cultural background, beliefs and what motivates you) and the kind of activities you try (everything from how long and how often you do it to the kind of social support you have) will determine which interventions work best for you.

Figuring out the best fit between the kind of person you are and the kind of wellbeing activities that help you most, is the key to maintaining your wellbeing. We hope this tool makes it a little easier.

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