Image by Sergio Cerrato - Italia

Instead of understanding depression as a chemical imbalance we have to
overcome, or a mood disorder we have to be in charge of, what if it were just
the result of us not being able to use our strengths? What if it were just us
feeling blocked from being who we truly are?

                                 — DAN TOMASULO, LEARNED HOPEFULNESS

There have been many moments in which I have felt the light in me was blown out. This feeling sat in my heart, painted dark purple. It felt similar to stale energy, like the stiffness in your legs when you’ve been sitting all day. This feeling, which was always more prominent during Chicago winters, became even stronger during my spiritual journey.

In the West, we call this depression, or maybe seasonal affective disorder (SAD). But those diagnoses never resonated with me—I believed I was happy and had a healthy relationship with myself and my loved ones. I just felt kind of blah, a feeling I learned later was my cue that I was understimulated. Maybe you’ve experienced this feeling-state as well.

At Columbia, I took a life-changing positive psychology course with Dr. Dan Tomasulo. Of all the brilliant topics I studied, I found learning about personal strengths to be transformational when it came to healing understimulation and living a nourishing life.

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Identifying personal strengths is my go-to exercise for clients who are feeling seasonal depression, depression, burnout, disconnection from Self, or understimulation. I also refer to this framework when I learn from my clients that they are trying to “fill themselves up” with an unhealthful pattern such as excessive alcohol or drug use, extreme promiscuity, compulsive shopping, or, like for myself, overeating.

Positive psychology translates into what makes life worth living. Over time, scientists have learned that positive emotions and positive thoughts are nutrients for the soul and lead to a happier life. Those who study positive psychology have happiness down to a science.

We are all unique, as no one has experienced life quite the way you have. However, there are specific formulas and protocols that can help you increase your level of happiness. One particularly powerful tool is the PERMA model, developed by Dr. Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania.

The PERMA Model

The PERMA model introduces five principal components that lead to a life of increased joy, nourishment, and connection:

P = Positive emotions

E = Engagement

R = Relationships

M = Meaning

A = Achievement

Let’s look at each of these one by one.


We know through positive psychology that feeling and connecting with positive emotions is likely to increase overall well-being. There are lots of ways to encour­age more positive emotions. One route is by adopting an attitude of gratitude or taking part in hobbies that bring you joy and a sense of gusto. The point here is that you are making a conscious effort to experience positivity and engage in enjoyable activities.


Have you ever experienced a flow state? It could be that wonderful feeling where you’re completely engaged with a task and all of a sudden you look up and dis­cover that three hours have flown by. Or maybe you move through your day with ease and grace and just generally feel good and connected with wherever you are. It could also be the feeling of getting into bed at the end of the day with a smile.

A key to being engaged is doing things that align with your interests and your aptitude. Seligman and his partner, Dr. Christopher Peterson of the University of Michigan, conducted a three-year research project developing a system of twenty-four of the most common character strengths. From there, they created a character strength assessment, a quiz to discover your leading strengths.

For many years in my spiritual coaching and retreat travel business, I required my clients to take the VIA Character Strengths Survey. It’s free and only takes about ten minutes to complete, it offers guidance on how to live an engaged life, and it provides a strong foundation on how each strength increases well-being, as detailed in Peterson and Seligman’s 2004 book Character Strengths and Virtues. (Note: I am not affiliated with viacharacter. org; I’m simply an enthusiastic supporter of their product.)

Once you take the test, you can then schedule in activities that will nurture your top strengths. For example, my top strength is appreciation of beauty and excellence. This is easy to nurture when I am traveling. However, when I am back home in my normal routine, it is essential that I plan outings to muse­ums, gardens, and parks, or schedule a nourishing coffee date, to stay con­nected to my top strength. Top character strengths I see amongst my clients are oftentimes in curios­ity and love of learning.


When you are seeking a life of happiness, having positive, uplifting relationships and social connections is transformational. Having a community of like-minded peers will increase your well-being.

Are there any activities you’re currently doing where you’re taking an active role by welcoming in like-minded relationships? You don’t need to have everything in common—just having this one interest can be enough to kick off a new friendship.

So many of us have felt alone as we walk our spiritual path. Yet there are people you know who desire this connection, too. I felt happier when I was having intimate spiritual conversations with those around me. I noticed that I had to be an active participant in my own life and invite in the community I desired.

In Chicago, I started hosting women’s circles with one of my friends where we would share about our lives, the obstacles we were facing, and what we were manifesting. I now call these circles CounSOULS. This is a way to bring meaning to our lives as we connect with our inner guides in the company of other people who are also on the spiritual path.

Can you imagine wanting to start your own circle? If so, who would you want to invite?

Another great way to meet new friends is through friend matchmaking. I love this concept, and in Yiddish we actually have a word for this: shidduch.

Do you have any friends you could ask for introductions to someone with whom you might get along? Do you have any friends you can set up? I always love being able to connect other people and take a lot of pride when a new relationship takes off!

Finally, while meeting new people and growing new social circles to reflect your current interests, don’t forget to nurture those stable, long-standing relationships too. For example, maybe you’re still close with your best friends from fifth grade even though your lives have taken you across the country from each other and you’ve started families of your own. Maybe you still reminisce about the great friendships you made during a summer internship or camp and wonder if you should try to reach out.

Having people in our lives who have known us a long time is grounding. While we’re always changing and evolving, it’s nice to have a connection with someone who knew us way back when (when it makes sense to keep them in our lives). Consider which of those relationships are worth preserving and tending to.


One of my favorite books is Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor Frankl. The first half of the book is his memoir sharing his experience in the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust. Frankl shares that not even Nazis can take away the beauty of the sun rising and setting in the sky. The second half of the book contains his teachings of Logotherapy, a type of therapy explaining how essential it is to have meaning in your life.

Some people find meaning in being a caregiver to their children or tend­ing to their animals, loved ones, or garden. Others find a charity they align with and dedicate their time to that cause. And some of us are lucky enough to derive meaning from our career.

So often on the self-development path, people ask me about their purpose and how to unlock their purpose. I believe it is clearer to work with meaning and legacy energy, as these two themes will root you in action for how you want to live day to day. Legacy energy is what I call connecting to the reason you are here during this moment in time on planet Earth.

Connecting to your legacy energy means paying attention to your natural strengths and being clear on how you want to make an impact while you’re here in this lifetime. What nourishes and excites you? You will experience moments when you think, Ah, yes! This I enjoy. I’m good at it, and it feels good, too! This is legacy energy.


Achievement means leveling up in your life. It signals that you’re not just keeping pace, you’re making positive progress forward. And even if your progress is more crisscrossed and zig-zagged than linear, taking stock of your wins, big or small, adds up over time and leads to massive growth.

In a corporate setting, achievement might mean getting that promotion with increased flexibility and more money. It could mean formal recognition for your contribution on a successful project, or an invitation to work on an excit­ing brand-new team. Achievement can also mean accomplishing personal goals, like running a 10K, writing a book, starting a podcast, learning to ski, consis­tently doing your laundry, or reaching a new level of financial abundance in your business. Spiritual achievement may look like staying calm during a conflict, or reaching a serene state of inner peace during meditation.

One of the keys to achieving anything is having a concrete, measurable goal in mind. For example, I have many clients looking to “become more mindful.” What does that look like? Maybe it’s maintaining a meditation streak for forty days. Maybe it’s consistently taking fifteen seconds to think before responding to a tough question.

Seasons for Integration and Seasons for Growth

In the Western world, we tend to champion pushing, hustle, and financial suc­cess and minimize the importance of rest, repair, slowing down, and presence. As a result of this imbalance, we often slip into unhealthy patterns, and our culture is rife with burnout, chronic fatigue, and stress-related health prob­lems.

By honoring the difference between growth and integration, we can see which season we are in right now and allow for moments of stillness and inner growth.

Embodiment Practice: Should I Stay, or Should I Grow?

Below are key indicators that can help you understand which season you’re in right now. Are you implementing any of these?

Growth Season

* Traveling

* Studying

* Signing up for yoga or meditation teacher training

* Reading spiritual self-help books

* Raising children

* Listening to soul-nourishing podcasts

* Exploring food and relationships

* Being curious about language and culture

* Making new connections and relationships

Integration Season

* Weaving in what you’ve learned

* Launching a program

* Writing a book

* Starting a podcast

* Getting quiet

* Sitting in stillness

* Testing what feels aligned with your morning routine

* Showing up from a place of knowing

Look at your life through the lens of seasons. Take a moment. Are you in a growth season or an integration season right now? Seasons can last months or years. Do you want to stay in the season you’re in, or do you want to shift? How can you explore the season you are in further?

Happiness and living a life rooted in joy is down to a science. The PERMA model is a transformational framework for getting clear on what will bring us everlasting joy. When we begin to look outside of ourselves to fill a void within our hearts, it is time to reflect and actively plan more positive experiences that are aligned to our strengths.

Copyright 2024. All Rights Reserved.
Adapted with permission of the publisher,
Hampton Roads Publishing.

Article Source:

BOOK: Nothing Can Stop You

Nothing Can Stop You: A Revolutionary Guide to Unleash Your Authentic Self
by Erin Rachel Doppelt.

A self-study book that blends Eastern ritual and Western psychology and invites you to bring more happiness practices into your daily life, Nothing Can Stop You shows you how to:

* Manifest your highest soulmate
* Claim a life that fills you up with overflowing gusto and joy
* Overcome decision fatigue and connect to crystalized clarity 
* Reshape your connection to regret, grief, fear, and “what if” scenarios
* Learn to support your inner voice
* Choose actions that uncover and align with your most authentic Self
* Lean into your strengths
* Heal negative thought patterns
* Overcome your limiting beliefs with rituals and ceremonies

For more info and/or to order this book, click here.  Also available as a Kindle and an Audiobook edition.

About the Author

photo of Erin Rachel DoppeltErin Rachel Doppelt is a spiritual psychology and meditation teacher with her master’s in psychology from Columbia University. She spent her twenties living in Israel, India, and across Asia and Europe, studying with diverse gurus and yogic educators. She is CEO and founder of the international brand Spiritual Intelligence LLC, which hosts certification training, business, and spiritual courses to support those who desire to live their most unedited, nourished, and soul-authentic life.

Erin is the creator of UpLevel Meditation, which is a specific active meditation framework supporting those in healing anxiety, depression, and ADD/ADHD, while shifting negative thoughts toward the light. Erin is also the founder of The Align Coaching Certification where you become a certified meditation teacher and spiritual psychology coach. Erin is also the host of The Wise Woman Podcast.

Visit her website