Building Wellbeing, One Brick at a Time

PERMAH model in lego

I don’t know about you but I felt inundated with challenges during lockdown; 30 day fitness challenges, social media challenges, learn a skill, become fluent in another language. It’s been exhausting just reading them. Coping with coronavirus is enough of a challenge.

Challenge implies a battle, a struggle, a competition, striving or proving yourself, not that these are necessarily negative but just exhausting at a time when we are all exhausted anyway. So when someone suggested I run a lockdown Lego challenge I had to take a step back.

What would that look like? How can we reframe ‘challenge’?

So I decided not to ask people to join me in a Lego challenge but to join me in taking some time for themselves and see it as an opportunity to build on wellbeing, to experience something different and see how it can open up new thoughts and ideas about personal wellbeing.

With that in mind, participants were invited to look out some Lego, set aside some time to understand themselves a little more and how positive psychology, Lego and coaching can change how you view your wellbeing.

This led to a week of ‘Building Wellbeing’ online that allowed participants to explore their own current wellbeing in a unique way that combined Positive Psychology Coaching questions with Lego Serious Play. This was in response to how Covid-19 was affecting wellbeing and that all face to face workshops and coaching weren’t taking place.

Was it possible to build wellbeing using the online space?

Well-being itself is build-able. It isn’t just about the absence of negative functions such as depression, loneliness and illness but about the presence of positive attributes (such as happiness, connection and wellness) that make a person’s life fulfilling. It is about being able to thrive, as well as healing pathology.

In order to allow people to focus on their wellbeing building opportunities were developed based around Martin Seligman’s PERMA Model of Wellbeing. Seligman states Positive Psychology is about the concept of well-being, which he defines using 5 pillars. These 5 elements can help people reach a life of fulfilment, happiness and meaning. They are:

P – Positive Emotions

E – Engagement

R – Relationships

M – Meaning

A – Accomplishment

More recently, Health has been added as a 6th pillar of well-being as eating well, good sleep and enough exercise are all essential to both our physical and mental health. Health is the corner stone the other pillars rely on. When we pay deliberate attention to these interrelated areas of well-being and take positive action towards them we have the potential to improve individual, organisational and community well-being.

During the Building Wellbeing week, held on LinkedIn, each building opportunity presented enabled participants to focus on one of these aspects of wellbeing. To illustrate, the first aspect of wellbeing to reflect on was Positive Emotions.

Before, starting the activity it was useful for participants to familiarise themselves with Lego especially if they hadn’t used it for a while. Getting used to how the bricks fit together and thinking about how you could use the Lego to represent your thoughts helped prepare for the coaching question.

Giving themselves time to think whilst building was an integral part of the building opportunity.  There were no rules, no expectations. No one to judge the models, no competition. Participants could use as many or as few bricks as needed. There was no right or wrong answer.

The Positive Emotions activity was to:

“Build a model that reflects what you hope your life will look like look when you are no longer in lockdown.” Give yourself 20 minutes to complete this task.

Participants were asked to keep their models or take a photo for all the building opportunities during the week and post a photo and any comments/questions they had.

Here is a sample of the insights that participants discovered.


“We have full control to choose whether we walk through the door to a new way and my hope is to walk straight through and enjoy more of the good life, love, beauty, variety and our natural world.”


“Here is my ‘Hope’ model. I’m probably unlike a lot of people in that I’m (really really) enjoying lockdown. There’s such a lot of it that is already good, primarily the vast reduction in road traffic and having more time with my family.  A lot of wanting that to remain is tied up in the model – represented by the prevalence of green.”

Positive emotions are represented by feelings such as hope, joy, optimism and gratitude. Focusing on this area of well-being by broadening our experiences means we are more likely to try new things, step out of our comfort zones and engage with other people, enabling us to learn and grow. This in turn allows us to build lasting emotional resources. Focusing on positive emotions puts us on an upward spiral of being more positive and doing and learning more, increasing our levels of well-being. Exploring hope through the building of a Lego model gives participants the time to create new awareness and insights into a hopeful future in a safe environment, enabling them to set realistic and intrinsically motivating goals.

Participants were invited to further building opportunities on the remaining 5 pillars of wellbeing. Such wonderful moments were shared, some deep reflections and a feeling of connection, just some of the feedback on how using Lego influences coaching conversations even when carried out as online building opportunities with conversations, connections and experiences just shared on an online platform.

lego models

“I found that I was able to really connect to the topic I was building about, on a more emotional level than perhaps I normally would, which was interesting. Also as you can ‘rebuild’ any part of it of the model, the process felt more organic and natural, rather than saying something to a coach, then having to say, “oh what I meant was…”.

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Theresa Quinnis a psychologist specialising in positive and coaching psychology. She holds a BA in Psychology from Strathclyde University and a MSC in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology from University of East London. A qualified facilitator for Lego Serious Play for Positive Psychology she is currently exploring the use of Lego Serious Play within a Positive Psychology framework in individual coaching.
Theresa owns Building Thought Change. Having spent the last 3 years studying and researching she is pioneering thought change by combining Lego, Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology to enable individuals and organisations facing the uncertainty of change to positively reframe change to growth.
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