The current stress level experienced by Americans is 20 percentage points higher than the global average (American Institute of Stress). Stress can negatively impact our mental and physical health, our productivity, and even our relationships. But we don’t have to suffer in silence or even spend any money to feel better.
While studying positive psychology, I learned about a model for subjective well-being that changed my life. The PERMA model, created by Dr. Seligman, basically states that positive emotion, engagement, meaning, relationships, and accomplishment are the key factors for happiness and great tools for helping to reduce stress. In this post, I’ll break down what each of those components means and, more importantly, share free resources to help you get more of each of those things in your life so you can reduce stress and create a happier, more meaningful life.
This post may contain affiliate links that allow this blog to earn money without a cost to you. Many thanks if you use them. Please read my disclosure for more info.
The P in the PERMA model stands for positive emotion. Positive emotions include love, awe, gratitude, hope, interest, joy, compassion, pride, and amusement. While it’s easy to sit around and wait for positive emotion to magically appear in our lives, it’s also pretty easy to curate positive emotion. For example, you can do an activity you enjoy, talk to someone you like being around, or listen to good music, just to name a few. So if you want a quick boost of positive emotion and easy ways to reduce stress right now, give one of these free resources a try:
Live Stream Concerts Online
NPR has an amazing series called NPR Tiny Desk Concerts. What better place to look than music if you want a boost of positive emotion? The Linda Lindas can boost your awe and joy, Lizzo can uplift your spirits and get a boost of amusement, and Sting and Shaggy put on a truly interesting mashup.
Live Stream Animals
Listen to Standup Comedy on Spotify
Sometimes you just need a good laugh. When I need a boost of amusement, I hop on Spotify and listen to a stand-up comedy show. Aziz Anzari, Dave Chappelle, and Mitch Hedberg are some of my favorites.
Play Free Games Online
Want some fun and nostalgia rolled into one? The Internet Arcade is a web-based library of arcade (coin-operated) video games from the 1970s to the 1990s that you can play online for free.
Play Free Math Games
If you want to have fun and also be intellectually stimulated, check out Cool Math Games. They are on a mission to provide wholesome fun to people of all ages while also helping people think more strategically and hone their math chops.
Want to learn more about optimizing your life and how to reduce stress and become happier and more successful? Take my free quiz to learn your optimizer personality.
Engagement is basically the concept of being in the zone. First developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (one of my college professors), flow is the concept of being so engrossed in a task that you lose track of time and are entirely in the present moment. It’s the sweet spot between challenge and skill. Here are some free resources that can help people learn something new, challenge yourself, and be more engaged in your life. Pick an area you are already strong in, and try to develop it further. This can help you get into the zone and feel a sense of accomplishment (more on that in a minute).
MIT OpenCourseWare is an online publication of materials from over 2,500 MIT courses, freely sharing knowledge with learners and educators worldwide. While you won’t get an official degree by taking their courses, you can learn about entrepreneurship, AI programming, negotiation, and even fluid dynamics if that tickles your pickle.
Learn Something New
Open Learn, aka the Free University, has the vision to break down barriers to education by reaching millions of learners each year through free educational resources. You can use Open Learn to learn just about anything, and it allows you to earn badges that you can show off to improve your job prospects.
Read a Great Book
Project Gutenberg provides free access to classic literature; they focus on older books for which the U.S. copyright has expired. For example, they have Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. Reading a great book that makes you think is a great way to get in the zone and feel more engaged in your life. If you want more modern books, you can also check out Libby by Overdrive, a free app that most public libraries support. If you don’t already have a library card, get one from your local public library and then use your free member benefits to access modern books for free.
The R in PERMA stands for relationships. Relationships are important for reducing stress because they are all about feeling loved, supported, and valued by other people. While we may see our friends and family on social media, how often are we actually connecting with them in a deep and authentic way? Here are some free resources that you can use to develop your relationships.
Deepen Your Relationships
Looking to build a deeper connection with your partner? Check out the Paired App. They provide daily questions for free that you and your partner can answer to spark deep and meaningful conversations that bring you closer together. Yes, they have a paid version, but you can skip that and get one free question to answer daily, and it works just as well.
Dolly Parton’s nonprofit Imagination Library gives free books away to children ages 0-5. You can check out the website to see if there’s availability in your neighborhood. Reading to children has been shown to not only help with literacy and brain development, but it can also help you deepen your connection with your children or grandchildren. If you can’t get free books through the Imagination Library, check out your local library or look for a Little Free Library near you.
Learn Something Together
Kahn Academy is on a mission to provide free learning resources to people all over the world. If there’s a new subject you want to learn or something you need help with, Kahn Academy is a great place to start. Want to believe people are caring and helping? Feel supported by the instructors in the Kahn academy. Another way to deepen your relationships is to learn something new with your child or partner and help each other understand the subject better together.
A great way to deepen a relationship is to do a unique activity with someone you care about. So why not go on an urban treasure hunt to do just that? Geocaching is an any-day, anytime adventure that can take you to unique and beautiful places. Simply log into the free app or website, create an account, and then look for a geocache near you.
We all want to feel like our life has meaning and that we are valued, but what gives us a sense of meaning varies from person to person. Some people find meaning in their work, and others find meaning in raising children, volunteering, giving back, or being part of a community. Here are some free ways to find more meaning in your life.
Give & Receive Free Stuff
Need something but don’t want to or can’t afford to buy it? Check out your local FreeCycle community and see if there’s someone that no longer needs what you’re looking for. If you have stuff you need to get rid of, this is a great place to post it to keep stuff out of landfills and in the hands of people that can use it.
Volunteering is a great way to gain a sense of meaning and also build relationships and create positive emotions in your life. Studies show that volunteering can reduce loneliness, alleviate stress, and improve overall health. If you don’t want to volunteer in person, there are resources that can match you with online volunteering opportunities. Additionally, if you don’t want to volunteer with people, you can volunteer to foster kittens or puppies.
Become a Mentor
Ever wish you could share your wisdom with someone to make their life just a little easier? If that’s the case, consider becoming a mentor. Career Village matches professionals with students so they can get real-world career advice.
The A in PERMA stands for accomplishment. If you’ve ever felt the joy of accomplishing a major goal you’ve set out for yourself, you know how powerful accomplishment can be in living a happy life. Here are some ways you can bring more accomplishment into your life.
Learn to Code
Code Academy is committed to empowering all people, regardless of where they are in their coding journeys, to continue learning, growing, and impacting the world around them. They provide free resources anyone can use to learn how to code, web development, computer science, and much more. Not only can learning to code help you feel more engaged, but once you start to master it, it can help you feel accomplished. Plus, who knows, maybe it can also help you land a new job or create something new, giving you another boost of accomplishment.
Learn a New Language
Ever wish you could communicate more easily with people that speak another language? Or even just order a meal easily in another country? Obtain a sense of accomplishment by learning a new language. Duolingo provides fast and free lessons to help you master a language with daily practice.
Learn How to Fix Your Car
When I was 18, my tire blew out on the freeway, and I had to figure out how to change it on the side of the road. Luckily, I had taken auto shop in high school, and I was able to do it myself. A couple of guys pulled up to help me when I was, and I was able to say, “Thanks, but I think I’ve got it.” I felt a huge sense of accomplishment that day. If you wish you could fix your car or change a tire on your own, check out 1A Auto. They teach exactly how to fix your car yourself with their free tutorials.
Want to create just about a graphic or visual project? Check out Canva.com. They have thousands of free resources to create beautiful work without spending a dime. Get a sense of accomplishment by seeing a blank screen go to something original.
Want to learn more about how to reduce stress and optimize your life for success and happiness? Take the optimizer personality quiz to get curated resources just for you.