Positively Blogging

Beyond the Gym! Well-Being@Work

Suzy Green - Monday, October 31, 2016

  

Walking the Labyrinth, Centennial Park, Sydney

 

Well-Being@Work

Last week I spoke at the Work 2.0 Conference on Positive Leadership and the impact of applying the science of Positive Psychology at Work. Many of you know I’ve rabbiting on about this for years! And it was certainly inspiring to see some exemplar organisations like Google, Amex and Atlassian moving ahead in leaps and bounds when it comes to pushing the well-being@work boundaries beyond the office gym or even massage and yoga.

Now, don't get my wrong, I love the gym, yoga and massage but we've all probably heard the story of the person (and it may well be you) that got sick when they were "taking care" of themselves! Most of us nowadays have a regular fitness regime and we know the importance of being proactive around our physical health, but for many of us, we've still got a way to go when it comes to seriously investing in our emotional and psychological well-being. And whilst there are an increasing number of leaders, teams and workplaces who are also just starting to get the need to think more proactively and strategically about their workplace wellbeing programs, in my professional opinion there's a lot more that can be done to support well-being@work. There's also a growing business case as to the ROI (email us if you would like some science to support your pitch!).

Green & Palmer (2014)


It's also been great to see more workplaces hosting talks and workshops on psychological disorders like depression and anxiety, which I've heard referred to as becoming the "common cold" of mental health. Now these disorders, unlike the common cold, don't often appear overnight, and similarly don't disappear overnight. For many individuals, engaging in a proactive well-being strategy may have prevented them from ever occurring. Which is why we need our workplaces to invest in psychological well-being programs to complement their physical well-being ones! And while we know having a regular exercise regime can definitely reduce the chances of developing depression for many, we now have enough science to support the uptake of targeted well-being and resilience psychological programs at work – which ideally need to be undertaken in a workplace culture that helps rather than hinders well-being!

So what can companies do? Yes they can, and they should, invest in training programs on well-being and resilience for their staff and leaders but we need more than training alone. You may be aware the take always (retention of knowledge) from training (workshop) days is less than 10%! That’s why it’s not enough to just train people in one-off workshops – we need follow-up coaching (and not just for leaders) and we need opportunities out of office to reflect on our own lives and the place of work within them.

We also need to create "self-reflective" spaces for our precious "human resources". Where do you or your staff get the opportunity to reflect on your life at work and outside of work? Are you flourishing? Are you truly living a values-congruent life and playing to your strengths at work? Both of which have been shown to impact on psychological well-being in a big way! Unless you're someone who takes regular time-out to meditate or go on retreat, most of us are "mindless" when it comes to what really matters most and designing a life that supports our psychological well-being.

Dr William DeJean – www.williamdejean.com – and I have been running “Flourishing Retreats” for 4 years now! We usually run these 3 times a year – beginning, mid and end of year – to help people carve out a little “me time” to identify what’s working well and what’s needs tweaking or a major overhaul! We’ve had fabulous feedback and we intend to continue to offer these “community” retreats.

So you may be thinking, how are these relevant to the workplace? As noted above, I see more and more organisations investing in well-being workshops and it’s just not enough! People need time out to reflect on what they’ve learned in a safe space, outside of the office, surrounded by nature (which primes for wellbeing) to think about putting knowledge and learnings into action with the help of a supportive community of like-minded individuals!

You might also be thinking this might be all too new-age for my staff? Well consider this, in our past retreats, attendees have been a Dean of Business, People & Culture leaders, teachers, health and community workers, parents and individuals who are just seeking to create a better life for themselves!

So we’d like to invite you to consider how our “Flourishing Retreats” might form part of your overall workplace wellbeing strategy. We would suggest that a placement at one of our retreats be an option that staff might self-select from a range of wellbeing offerings – giving staff the autonomy (also shown to impact well-being) to choose a strategy that works best for them. As we’re seeing more workplaces encouraging staff to set “wellbeing goals” in addition to the normal performance and development goals, again this is a great way to help your staff improve their wellbeing. 

We also think that a placement at one of our 2017 retreats makes for a great staff Christmas gift! 

Here’s a link to our upcoming end of year retreat – Saturday 26th November – http://www.williamdejean.com/product/reflect-renew-reinspire/ – and if you’re in charge of your workplace well-being strategy and would like to give it a trial yourself in November, let us know. For more information don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

 Dr William DeJean & Dr Suzy Green, Centennial Park

 

REGISTER NOW AND DON’T MISS OUT – http://www.williamdejean.com/product/reflect-renew-reinspire/


Hope to see you there!

 

Lots of love, PI & I (Suzy)

The Science and Practice of Positive Psychology for Educators

Suzy Green - Tuesday, May 24, 2016


 

Dr Suzy Green, Founder of PI, presenting to Fahan School, Tasmania


The Emergence of Positive Education

I'm fortunate to have been involved in, and been witness to, the emergence of Positive Education in Australia. My first engagement with schools began in 2005 when I conducted a randomised controlled trial on evidence-based coaching for senior high school students (Green, Grant & Rynsaardt, 2006) which was followed by another RCT on evidence-based coaching for teachers (Grant, Green & Rynsaardt, 2010). In 2009 and 2011 I was the Director of two "Positive Psychology in Education" symposiums hosted by the Coaching Psychology Unit, University of Sydney and in 2013 I was the Co-Director of the First Australian Positive Education Conference hosted by Knox Grammar School. Last year I was the Co-Director of the Inaugural Positive Education Conference in Perth hosted by Perth College and will do the same again this year on Friday October 7th – stay posted! I've also been fortunate to work on large-scale, whole-school, strategic Positive Education programs with schools such as Knox Grammar, Loreto Kirribilli and Perth College and many, many smaller to medium scale engagements with private and public schools like Tully State High, Newtown High School of the Performing Arts, Northern Beaches Secondary College, Fahan School, John Wollaston Anglican College, Georgiana Molloy Anglican College, Sapphire Coast Anglican School and Loreto Ballarat to name a few. Our BHAG here at Pi though has always been that Positive Education continues to grow and spread to all schools in Australia and the world! With the support of the PI-School Team and ACER (read on!) this dream is quickly becoming a reality!

And it's been wonderful to observe that there’s been a recent significant increase in schools looking to apply the science of Positive Psychology in various formats – often under the guise of “Positive Education”. In the early days the interest was primarily driven as a response to a mental health crisis at the school and very much a reactive response. Today though, schools looking to apply the science of Positive Psychology are in the main doing so as a proactive strategy to enhance not only student, but staff and whole school well-being.


Mythbusting

Despite there being greater awareness of the field of Positive Psychology in education and the general population since its beginnings in the late 1990’s, there still exists misperceptions and myths about what it is or isn’t and how it can be best applied. This is also relevant when it comes to Positive Education, particularly as a whole school approach rather than a piecemeal approach. I still meet many people who say "we don't do Positive Education at our school" or "we're not going down the path of Positive Education". That actually interests me as it confirms for me that many people still don't fully understand what the term means or what it involves. Like the term "Positive Psychology", it is an umbrella term, which means there are various topics and approaches and there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to it. In fact, most schools are already doing aspects of Positive Education in various formats because they care about student and staff well-being and achievement. I actually believe this is also Positive Education's greatest strength as each school will apply it in their own bespoke manner and it becomes part of the school culture rather than a "program" that sits on a shelf!

Positive Psychology has been formally defined as the “scientific study of the conditions and processes that lead to optimal human functioning” (Gable & Haidt, 2005). In a nutshell, that means that it looks to study what it means to truly flourish – a term that’s used extensively in the field. Topics such as strengths, mindfulness, gratitude, kindness, forgiveness are just a few of the topics that fall under the Positive Psychology umbrella. After 15 years of research we now have significant amounts of scientific evidence to support the uptake of Positive Psychology research at the individual, team and organisational levels for not only enhanced well-being but reduced psychological distress and improved organisational effectiveness. 


Learn it, Live it, Teach it, Embed it

There’s often a lot of energy and enthusiasm when a school commits to a Positive Psychology/Positive Education approach and often a rush to apply it in the classroom for the benefit of students. Our approach at The Positivity Institute has always been to “hasten slowly” in regard to application to students, until the staff has made sense and meaning of the science for themselves. So much has been written over the years, in the scientific and popular press recognising the enormous stress experienced by teachers in their roles, yet historically, an explicit focus on teacher well-being has not been a priority for schools. As such the Learn it, Live it, Teach it, Embed it is our approach where staff are encouraged to enhance their own wellbeing first through applying their learnings to their own professional and personal lives. Having run professional development workshops on Positive Psychology for educators for many years now, I’ve seen people’s lives transformed by what they’ve learned and applied. For others, it’s a much slower consideration and journey dependent on their own life history and current circumstances. Many workshop participants take their knowledge home to their families and friends, reporting powerful positive outcomes in their relationships, which are often referred to as the “trump card of well-being”.



Power-posing with the Perth College Positive Education Team of Champions


The PI Partnership with ACER

My BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal) is that every school implements the science of Positive Psychology to significantly impact the wellbeing and mental health of communities. As such, I’m so delighted to announce our partnership with the Australian Council for Educational Research to bring our one-day workshop on “The Science and Practice of Positive Psychology for Educators” to educators across Australia. 

We will offer 6 workshops in 2016 in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth and I’ll have my Senior Associate, Claudia Owad co-facilitating the workshops with me. Claudia has extensive experience in positive education, evidence based coaching and worked as a school counsellor for many years. The one-day workshop is definitely an opportunity to put your big toe in the pond of Positive Psychology and Positive Education and hopefully experience the “ripple effect” that is now being scientifically measured when the positivity contagion effect occurs in schools, organisations and communities. 



PI Senior Associate Claudia Owad and PI Founder, Dr Suzy Green


We hope to see you soon! 


REGISTER NOW AND DON’T MISS OUT! 

https://www.acer.edu.au/professional-learning/events/the-science-practice-of-positive-psychology-for-educators/

 

Lots of love, PI & I (Suzy) 

Happy Easter!

Suzy Green - Sunday, March 27, 2016

 

 

Happy Easter everyone!

So much to savour at Easter time!  The Easter bunnies, Easter eggs, lots of chocolate, family and friends get-togethers – and so many opportunities for pleasure and positive emotions – all factors proven to positively impact psychological well-being – well in moderation that is!

And for many of us it’s the first real break that we’ve had since Christmas so we may find ourselves collapsing into Easter to rest and recover to be reborn again until the next mini-break  – being the Queens Birthday weekend in June! 

Yes Easter gives a chance to take a break, catch our breath, and hopefully the opportunity to share the joy with people we love, before returning to the frenetic pace of modern day living.

 

But what of the historical meaning of Easter?

Whilst most of us understand that Easter represents the time of Jesus Christ's resurrection, many may not know that the festival of Easter existed in pre-Christian times and according to a famous Christian Saint was named for the German goddess Eôstre (pronounced East-ra), the "goddess of dawn". The word Ēostre apparently also means “to shine".  Eôstre is associated with renewal of life. She is associated with springtime, fertility, the hare and Easter! 

 

 

However in modern times, festivals like Easter and Christmas often seem to have lost their original meaning, simply becoming holidays or times of conspicuous consumption. We don’t realise that in celebrating Easter, we are participating in an age-old ritual celebrating the return to the light after a period of darkness and death.

 

What might this mean for us in modern times?

This Easter take some time out to reflect on the need for rest, renewal and resurrection in your life?  Have you created enough mini-breaks besides Easter and Christmas to fully recharge in 2016?  What other rest and renewal periods do you prioritise in your life to enable rebirth and resurrection?

And to make the most of the Easter period for rest, renewal and rebirth here’s a few suggestions:

  1. Sleep in… A study at the University of Chicago found that sleeping less than six hours a night causes a 40 per cent drop in sensitivity to insulin. This, in turn, increases the risk of developing weight gain, obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes – all conditions that can shorten your lifespan.
  2. Meditate. There are increasing amounts of research that show that those who engage in regular meditation practices report higher levels of well-being.  Research also suggests that meditating for just 30 minutes a day for eight weeks can increase the density of gray matter in brain regions associated with memory, stress, and empathy.
  3. Take a stroll. When you’re on a break, learn to walk for pleasure rather than for getting from A to B.  The Italians call it the passegiata and it’s often taken before dinner. Also consider mindful walking – In a one study, researchers divided 135 people into five groups of walkers for 16 weeks. One group walked briskly. Group 2 walked at a slow pace, group 3 walked at a slow pace while practicing mindfulness, group 4 practiced tai chi, and group 5 changed nothing about their lives. The researchers found that the group practicing mindfulness while walking had a significant reduction in anxiety. They also had more positive and less negative feelings about themselves, and that the benefits were noticed immediately.
  4. Switch off.  Will the world end if you don’t update your status on Facebook, miss a tweet or two over Easter? Research has shown that the brain doesn’t do multitasking well and taking a break can be good for you. Individuals who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time, a group of Stanford researchers has found.
  5. Diarise R & R – “rest & resurrection”. Tal Ben Shahar, a leading Positive Psychologist suggests diarising micro, mezzo and macro breaks. Micro breaks are the ten minutes breaks you need to take regularly throughout the day (a great opportunity to do a 5 minute mindfulness exercise!). Mezzo breaks are the traditional “mini-breaks”, the 3 day weekend we all need at least every 3 months! The macro break is the annual holiday and we really need this to be bi-annual rather than annual!  Grab your diary now and commit to action!  You’ll have something to look forward to and be doing yourself a big favour when it comes to your psychological well-being!

 

 

And finally a quote to reflect on at Easter:  

Let us be lazy in everything, except in loving and drinking, and of course in being lazy!

Happy Easter!

Lots of love, PI & I (Suzy)


Accomplishment

Suzy Green - Thursday, October 15, 2015

Are all goals created equal?


This year I set a BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) to complete the Blackmore’s Half-Marathon in Sydney. It was a huge accomplishment for me given the longest I’ve ever run is 14 kms (last year’s City to Surf). And while it took a few days to recover, the positive emotions that I felt from the sense of accomplishment will last a very long time! 

I’m also not the first person to recognise the impact that a sense of accomplishment or achievement can have on our psychological well-being. In fact, those of you that are familiar with Positive Psychology, will know that one of the popular models of well-being created by Prof Martin Seligman is PERMA with A standing for accomplishment!


So far, I’ve not seen the A of Accomplishment unpacked particularly well within the field of Positive Psychology however there has been a lot of research done in the psychological literature on goal striving/attainment and its impact on well-being.


What does the science say?

Research has consistently found that individuals who feel personally involved in the pursuit of goals indicate higher psychological well-being and display better health than do individuals who lack a sense of goal directedness in their lives (Brunstein, Schultheiss & Maier, 1999).

However, not all goals are equally likely to contribute to our well-being (Emmons, 1999).  

Research has generally shown that it’s the striving towards personally meaningful goals that leads to well-being!


Are all goals created equal?

“Material strivings” (ie, goals for fame, fortune and success) have been repeatedly shown to detract from well-being and are more likely to lead to psychological and personal problems.

Whereas the presence of intrinsic goals (eg goals relating to relationships, personal growth and leaving a legacy) lead to increased well-being!


Research has also shown that pursuing goals from an intrinsic motivation leads to greater goal attainment and greater levels of well-being, for example, pursuing goals that you love or find meaningful rather than pursuing goals for extrinsic reasons – because you “have to” or feel that you should”.


What does accomplishment mean (to you)?

The Miriam Webster dictionary defines accomplishment as:

  • something done, achieved, or accomplished successfully
  • the successful completion of something : the act of accomplishing something
  • a special skill or ability gained by practice or training. 

In my work in the education, health and corporate sector I meet a lot of accomplished people. However, what I also observe is that there is often a cost to that accomplishment. For senior high school students, the pressure to achieve often results in clinical levels of anxiety or depression and in the workplace, the pressure to achieve often unrealistic KPIs or to keep a job can lead to similarly high levels of psychological distress – often manifesting in serious issues in relationships at work and/or home and unhealthy behaviours such as drug and alcohol abuse or retail therapy gone wrong!

I think it’s high time we all took a step back and really considered what accomplishment means to us personally! Perhaps achieving a 99.9 ATAR and getting into medicine or law is not the only measure of accomplishment. Perhaps achieving something that’s personally meaningful to you, whether that’s in an occupation you love or another type of life goal, may really be the key to living the good life! 

Research also tells us that “competence” is a core psychological need – essential for our well-being – so I’m not saying let’s not strive for goals at all but the focus should be on setting and striving for personally meaningful goals

When it comes to achievement, we need to ask ourselves WHY? Knowing why you’re investing so much time and often money into a pursuit can not only boost your chances of attaining that goal but it can also significantly affect the way we feel during the process of attainment. Whilst motivation can wax and wane, research tells us that when we’re pursuing “self-concordant” or “authentic goals” we’ll experience greater levels of well-being.


This month’s challenge:

This month I’m going to challenge you to review your goals whether they’re explicit (ie, written down/spoken) or implicit (you have a general internal sense of what they are but you’ve not made them explicit). 

  1. Are they authentic? – Are you pursuing goals that are aligned to your core life values? If you don’t even know what your values are, then how on earth are you going to be able to set and strive for authentic goals! Feel free to email us for a core values list.
  2. Set a SMART Goal – Most of us are familiar with the acronym SMART when it comes to goal setting. Please note the though that we’ve replaced the A for achievable/attractive with authentic as noted above. Spending time though in ensuring your goal really is SMART on all fronts will aid your goal pursuit.
  3. What’s your motivation? – Not sure if your goals really are personally meaningful ie,, intrinsic versus extrinsic? If you’d like to assess your motivation for your goals, email us for a personal strivings scale.

We’d love to hear more about your #positiveaccomplishments on our Facebook page and or Instagram. Remember life’s too short to languish!


Until next month, may you achieve (or make progress towards) everything that your heart desires… 

Lots of love, PI & I (Suzy)

Good Mornings or Moanings?

Suzy Green - Monday, August 24, 2015



Are you a morning person?

This month I was asked to be an expert consultant on the new Nespresso Positive Morning campaign. You may have seen some of their advertisements in magazines recently including this month’s Qantas in-flight magazine. Unfortunately Geoge (Clooney) wasn’t available for the gig but the amazing Donna Hay was! I was also lucky enough to meet Donna and admit to her that cooking is not one of my strengths!

My role was to review and release survey results that Neilson Research had conducted on behalf of Nespresso that found that 8 out of 10 people believe that having a morning routine is essential to creating a positive day yet 7 out of 10 state they feel too rushed to implement one! The statistics were even more compelling for women and for those living in Sydney!

I also was asked to do a review of the scientific literature to find evidence for the benefits of being a morning person and boy there's a lot! The benefits include:

  • Being happier
  • Being healthier
  • Getting better grades at school
  • Getting into better colleges
  • Getting better jobs
  • Being more proactive
  • Eating breakfast
  • Having lower alcohol and drug use
  • Having a lower BMI (body mass index)

I also found literature that suggested those that are identified as “evening people” tend to suffer higher levels of depression.

So if you’re looking for reasons to become a morning person, these should be at least a kick-start in considering a move towards morningness!


Age does matter!

I also discovered that there are more evening people in the under 30 age group and more morning people in the over 50’s. Between the ages of 30 and 50 morningness and eveningness (as they are referred to in the scientific literature) are evenly spread. So if you’re under 50 there could be a real benefit in becoming a morning person, even giving you a competitive edge in terms of creating success in your life and work.


Can you become a morning person?

Yes, the answer is definitely YES! For people that suffer depression there is something known as “light therapy” (for more information – http://psycheducation.org/treatment/bipolar-disorder-light-and-darkness/light-therapies-for-depression/) which basically creates artificial morning light for you to wake up naturally. I also discovered an App called “Sunrise Alarm” where you can set an alarm to wake you up over a period of time (eg. 10 mins) to music that you choose (eg. birds or roosters).

Another simple way is to slowly start to push your waking time backwards – even 5-10 minutes earlier than you usually get up can move you towards morningness. To support you though in fully utilising the 5-10 minutes that you now have up your sleeve, the best recommendation I could give would be to proactively create a positive morning ritual or routine before you begin.




Creating Positive Morning Rituals

For those at the extreme end of morningness, I found in my research that these "morning people" have clear and energising positive morning routines often lasting up to an hour – often referred to as the “Golden Hour”. However even 5-10 minutes can make a huge difference particularly if you practice some of the techniques proven by science to boost your well-being such as mindfulness. Here’s a list of common morning ritual activities for you to consider:

  • Mindfulness Meditation (or another form of meditation)
  • Journalling
  • Gratitude exercises
  • Lighting a candle
  • Praying
  • Visualisation techniques
  • Affirmations
  • Setting an intention for the day
  • Yoga/Tai-Chi
  • Reading uplifting literature
  • Listening to uplifting music
  • Hydrating – Drinking water with lemon
  • Writing or Reviewing your Goals/Tasks list

If you’re looking for a brief routine, check out the 6 Minute Miracle Morning routine. I came across this in my review and can highly recommend it – http://themiraclemorning.com/6-minute-miracle-morning/.


Are you a morning person?

Yes there’s even a scientific assessment you can do to determine whether you are a morning or evening person – email us for it if you’d like a copy – info@thepositivityinstitute.com.au.



 


Recommended Reads

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

A wonderful book aimed at enhancing creativity. One of the main ideas is to implement the "morning pages". Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. You can purchase "The Artist's Way" via our Book Depository Affiliate link – http://www.bookdepository.com/?a_aid=PosInstAff

And for a bit of fun….

For those of you that are old enough to remember “Allo Allo” you will recall Officer Crabtree, the Gendarme, whose catchphrase was “good moaning”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGNVU5ZjlgA.


This month’s challenge…

Given the psychological benefits shown to be associated with morningness, this month we’re going to challenge you to make the most of your mornings by:

  1. Committing to waking up earlier – Set the alarm to at least 5 minutes earlier but ideally aim for at least 15 minutes. Write out a list of 5 reasons WHY you would benefit from being a morning person.
  2. Creating a positive morning routine – Before you begin, invest in some time creating your own bespoke routine. Perhaps review the list of potential activities above and commit to trialling at least one this month. Of course, if you’re keen, try out more!
  3. Reviewing your progress – At the end of the month, determine if you’re going to keep it up or step it up a level? What worked well? What would you do differently? How can you maintain a positive morning routine? Finally be clear on the benefits you’ve gained and how these can support you in creating a flourishing life.

We’d love to hear more about your #positivemorningroutines on our Facebook page (The Positivity Institute). And if you’re looking for inspiration, Oprah recently conducted a series of interviews with some of her favourite people about their morning rituals – here's the link to Oprah interviewing Jon Kabat-Zinn (creator of MBSR – Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bl7_vFWZqkU.

Oh and of course, I personally end my positive morning rituals with my favourite Nespresso Grand Cru (Fortissio Lungo) – it's the green capsule of course!

Until next month, happy positive mornings…


Lots of love, PI & I (Suzy)

Emotional Intelligence: An Oxymoron?

Suzy Green - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

with Guest Blogger Dr Deb Perich, Perth College

 

Emotional Intelligence?

For some people, the term “emotional intelligence” (EI) is an oxymoron. They struggle to understand how emotions (particularly at their extremes) can be intelligent or at the very least helpful. 

Professor Marsha Linehan, a respected psychologist and creator of a psychological therapy known as DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy), proposes that we can operate from a “emotional mind”, a “reasonable mind” but the ideal being a “wise mind” that combines both i.e. hearts and minds.




The fact is, that for most of us, we know little about emotions (ours or other people’s). Most people have limited emotional vocabularies, tending to use the same language for a broad range of sophisticated emotional states. The most alarming fact is that most adults have had no education or training in how to manage or intelligently use emotions. Thankfully there is an increased interest and application of social and emotional learning in schools – see below.

Interestingly though, there has been much interest in the topic, primarily through the publication of the New York Times Best-Seller written by Daniel Goleman entitled “Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ” – http://www.bookdepository.com/Emotional-Intelligence-Daniel-Goleman/9780553383713.

And it’s not just “waffle” – there’s hard science that underpins the topic. Two of the key experts in this field are academics from Yale, Professors Mayer and Salovey. Their model of Emotional Intelligence incorporates the abilities of identifying emotions, understanding emotions, using emotions and managing emotions. They’ve also created an “ability” test of EI known as the MSCEIT – more on this to follow.

The Yale Centre for Emotional Intelligence is also renowned for it’s research and application of Mayer & Salovey’s model of emotional intelligence for children and in schools. In fact, some of you may recall, here at PI, we were fortunate to have Professor Marc Brackett, the Director of the Centre, give an inspiring breakfast presentation in Sydney for us last year. Their model is called “RULER” and is outlined below:


For more information on the RULER program – go to – http://ei.yale.edu/ruler.

This month I’m delighted to introduce Dr Deb Perich from Perth College, who we’re working with to apply Positive Education broadly and strategically at the school. Deb recently accompanied some of the students to see the movie “Inside Out” and has kindly written the blog below – thanks Deb!


Inside Out (Guest Blogger Dr Deb Perich, Perth College)

There’s a buzz around Australia and the world – about the new Disney Pixar movie Inside Out.

The animated film tells the story of 11-year-old Riley, whose world is turned upside down when her dad moves the family from Minnesota to San Francisco. The audience meets the little voices within Riley’s head as the colour-coded emotions Joy (yellow), Anger (red), Disgust (green), Fear (lavender) and Sadness (blue) work with and against each other to shape the young girl’s life as she settles into a new home. 

It was an absolute delight for Perth College to hear about “Inside Out” given it is the same name given to the self-leadership programme Perth College created for its students from Kindergarten through to Year 12. It also aligns with the messages we teach the girls to help them understand and manage their emotions. We’ve been telling the girls Disney made a movie just for them!

After a year of research, Perth College implemented “Inside Out” based on a positive psychology model in 2012 to guide girls through childhood and adolescence, and equip them with the skills to lead themselves as well as others. Workshops, seminars and guest speakers specific to each year level – from Kindergarten to Year 12 – help students become more resilient, emotionally stronger, confident and capable, and improve general wellbeing.

The School felt so strongly about the way the film addresses emotional wellbeing that it treated all classes from Kindergarten to Year 6 to a screening of “Inside Out” at a local cinema on the first day of its release. Countless reviewers are calling this Disney Pixar’s best movie yet – a masterpiece that easily breaks down a complex subject for both children and adults. As a parent and an educator, I’ve seen the film twice and got something different out of it each time.

Inside Out has a truly important message and has sparked deep conversations amongst our staff, our students and their parents. All of the Perth College girls who attended one of the screenings returned to School and recorded her reactions via drawings or a short report. The Year 2 class noted:

Kate Walton (Teacher): The movie was a wonderful way for our students to visualise how emotions work inside the brain. It supported the discussions we have in our own Inside Out program at Perth College about looking after our feelings. It also highlighted the importance of acknowledging the feelings we have in order to move forward, that it’s okay to be sad sometimes but finding ways to move forward from this, by talking with our families or exploring happy memories, can help us through these moments.

Lauren: I learned that sometimes after you are upset and have had a cry you might feel better, and that sadness is okay.

Aliza: I thought it was a good way to learn about how feelings can control your body and how they kind of do different things when you are in different situations.

Ellsie: I thought it was amazing and I learn that you have feelings inside your head and they control how you feel.

To see a short clip of the film – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzVY_Cu7DEQ. And if you’ve not seen the movie yet, whether you have children or not, go treat yourself! 

Here at PI HQ we did just that last Friday night. It was a cold and dismal evening with only 7 people in the cinema, including us, and all adults! As the movie begun and the characters were introduced, it became apparent not only to myself, but to Tracy, who was sitting next to me, that I was wearing the same jumper that “Sadness” was wearing! Oh well, how apt – even at The Positivity Institute, sadness is embraced as one of the full range of human emotions! Too funny!

 

Want More?

For those of you that would like to undertake a valid and reliable, scientific assessment of Emotional Intelligence, known as the MSCEIT (Mayer Salovey Emotional Intelligence Test), contact us at info@thepositivityinstitute.com.au for more information.

 

Recommended Reads

 

This month’s challenge… 

Whilst we can’t offer you the magic bullet in becoming emotionally intelligent overnight, we can offer you two kick-start activities to help you on your way:

  1. Assess and commit to expanding your emotional vocabulary – How large is your emotional vocabulary? Set a timer for 5 minutes, and then write down as many “emotion” words as you can. In the EI workshops we run at PI, what we normally find is 1) women have a larger vocabulary than men; and 2) most people (both males & females) have fairly limited vocabularies, whereby people tend to use the same “emotion” words for many different and distinct emotions without a nuanced understanding of the difference say between frustration and irritation. Set a goal to learn 1 new emotion word each week.
  2. Be a mindful and compassionate observer of your emotions – Commit to being more aware of your emotions and the subtle and significant shifts that occur on a daily basis? What triggers emotions for you? Are there certain situations or people that cause you to feel a certain way? More importantly, start to be mindful of any types of thoughts (ANTS: automatic negative thoughts) that might create stronger and unhelpful emotions such as rage, anxiety and depression. Try to practice naming these emotions. Sometimes simply naming them can help you understand and manage your emotions better. If you find this to be a difficult task, or discover that you could do with some assistance in managing emotions better, don’t hesitate to seek professional help – go to the free “Find a Psychologist” service offered through the Australian Psychological Society – http://www.psychology.org.au/FindaPsychologist/Default.aspx – or contact us for recommended providers of psychological services.

So until next month! Let’s hope Joy takes the lead role on stage!

 

Lots of love, PI & I (Suzy)


Looking Backwards: Ruminating or Reminiscing?

Suzy Green - Monday, June 22, 2015

 

 Looking back?

There’s been some interesting research conducted on time perspective by Professor Phillip Zimbardo (some of you might remember him from a fabulous TV series years ago on psychology). Zimbardo’s research has found that people have different approaches to time.

Zimbardo found that some of us tend to get stuck in the past, live only for the moment, or are enslaved by our ambitions for the future – and these time perspectives can predict everything from educational and career success to general health and happiness.

 

What’s your time perspective?

Zimbardo identified five key approaches to time perspective. These are:

  1. The ‘past-negative’ type. You focus on negative personal experiences that still have the power to upset you. This can lead to feelings of bitterness and regret.
  2. The ‘past-positive’ type. You take a nostalgic view of the past, and stay in very close contact with your family. You tend to have happy relationships, but the downside is a cautious, “better safe than sorry” approach which may hold you back.
  3. The ‘present-hedonistic’ type. You are dominated by pleasure-seeking impulses, and are reluctant to postpone feeling good for the sake of greater gain later. You are popular but tend to have a less healthy lifestyle and take more risks.
  4. The ‘present-fatalistic’ type. You aren’t enjoying the present but feel trapped in it, unable to change the inevitability of the future. This sense of powerlessness can lead to anxiety, depression and risk-taking.
  5. The ‘future-focused’ type. You are highly ambitious, focused on goals, and big on making ‘to do’ lists. You tend to feel a nagging sense of urgency that can create stress for yourself and those around you. Your investment in the future can come at the cost of close relationships and recreation time.

To find out your time perspective go to – http://www.thetimeparadox.com/zimbardo-time-perspective-inventory.

Ideally though, we can learn to shift our attention easily between the past, present and future, and consciously adapt our mindset to any given situation. Learning to switch time perspectives allows us to fully take part in everything we do, whether it’s a relaxed evening enjoying a glass of wine or reminiscing about long-ago events with an old friend.

 

Ruminating or Reminiscing?

Rumination is defined as the compulsively focused attention on the symptoms of one's distress, and on its possible causes and consequences, as opposed to its solutions (Wikipedia).

If you find yourself being more of a “past-negative” type then you’ll be familiar with just how debilitating ruminating can be, particularly at 3am in the morning! In fact, ruminating is symptomatic of depression and at the very least not helpful for your overall well-being.

On the other hand, positive psychology researchers have found that those who engage in positive reminiscing tend to experience higher levels of well-being. This might mean you are more of a past-positive person. Although Zimbardo’s research tells us that it’s important to not only understand our time perspective type but learn how to use it for our well-being. If you want to learn more, you can purchase his book – Time Perspective – http://www.thetimeparadox.com/

 

Positive Reminiscing, Savouring and Self-Soothing

Positive Reminiscing is a type of “savouring” (Bryant, 2005) and has been defined as a type of mental time-travel whereby people engage in “reminiscing-recalling memories in order to re-experience and thus savour positive emotions” and has been highly correlated with the experience of well-being.

In fact, looking at meaningful photos is a traditional method used in therapies to promote improved mood. For example, Reminiscent Therapy (RT) is a popular method used in promoting positive mood and well being, and reduces the sense of feeling alone for people with dementia. It involves using meaningful prompts, including photos, music and recordings, as an aid to remembering life events (Norris, 1986).

Whilst it has been predominantly used in the treatment of people with dementia, there could be opportunities to apply the theory of RT for depression and general low mood more broadly. The researchers suggest this could potentially induce a “self soothing‟ process which could lend itself well to people who struggle with day to day living as a result of low mood, or indeed who experience the occasional “off-day” (Gold et al, 2013).

A recent study on the impact of positive reminiscing utilised Facebook pictures/posts. The results from the study appear to indicate that in comparison to other Facebook activities, looking back upon uplifting photos and wall posts could have a positive impact upon wellbeing (Gold et al, 2013).

 

This month’s challenge…

If you’re old enough you’ll still have a box of photographs (like I do) or albums filled with old-style photographs (yes remember the days we had them developed and you couldn’t wait to go and pick them up! If not, do as the previous suggested, go back through your Facebook posts and pick out at least 3 photos/posts that boost your mood – and perhaps you can print them out and keep them somewhere handy so when you need a quick mood-boost you can look back at these and smile! 


This weekend I’m off to the International Positive Psychology Association Conference in Orlando, Florida. Yes, it’s being held at “Disneyworld”! In anticipation of this trip, I recalled my first trip to Disneyland when I was 12 (yes that’s me below with my nephew Scot in 1977 – love the red flares!). This trip changed my life – it broadened my view of the world and inspired me to see more of it. I have so many wonderful memories of the holiday and it elicited the full ten positive emotions that Professor Barbara Fredrickson has found in her research (http://blogs.psychcentral.com/positive-psychology/2011/03/the-top-10-positive-emotions/) – particularly my first ride on “Space Mountain”!




So this trip, I’ll give myself plenty of time to positively reminisce on those wonderful memories but I’ll also be working hard at creating some new ones! Stay posted for next month’s blog and PI-news!

 

Want to learn more about Flourishing?

 

Lots of love, PI & I (Suzy)

Why "flourishing" is the buzz-word right now…

Suzy Green - Tuesday, May 19, 2015


What is Flourishing?

In positive psychology, to flourish is “to live within an optimal range of human functioning, one that connotes goodness, generativity, growth, and resilience”.

Flourishing is the opposite of both pathology and languishing, which are described as living a life that feels both hollow and empty (Wikipedia). 

The Institute of Well-Being at Cambridge University defines flourishing as...the experience of life going well. It is a combination of feeling good and functioning effectively. Flourishing is synonymous with a high level of mental well-being, and it epitomises mental health (Huppert, 2009a,b; Keyes, 2002; Ryff & Singer, 1998).  

Here at PI (The Positivity Institute), we help people, schools and businesses to “flourish” and be the best they can be. And whilst we acknowledge, there is a need to appropriately provide “clinical treatment” for mental disorders, research has shown that treatment alone isn’t sufficient to shift the population bell-curve of mental health i.e., it wont’ help move more of the general population towards flourishing.


Huppert (2009)

What we need is proactive, non-stigmatised positive psychology programs in our schools, workplaces and our communities to move the bell curve to the right! 

The Benefits of Flourishing?

Research has shown that flourishing individuals report the fewest missed days away from work, the fewest half-day or greater work cutbacks, the healthiest psychosocial functioning (i.e., low helplessness, clear goals in life, high resilience, and high intimacy), the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease, the lowest number of chronic physical diseases with age, the fewest health limitations of activities of daily living, and lower health care utilization.

So flourishing is not just about feeling good, it’s about functioning well!

However, the prevalence of flourishing is barely 20% in the adult population, highlighting the need for proactive positive psychology programs that complement ongoing efforts to prevent and treat mental illness.

Are you Flourishing? 

The Flourishing Scale below was developed by Robert Biswas-Diener and Ed Diener, pioneers in the study of happiness and well-being.

Please note though – there are no categories in terms of a certain low score indicating you are a “languisher” or a certain high score indicating you are a “flourisher”. Use the scale to raise awareness and to help you determine your best course of action at this time. 

The scale is also not meant to diagnose depression, anxiety or any other disorder. So if your scores are low across many of the questions that may indicate distress or disorder and we’d highly recommend that you consult with your General Practitioner as soon as possible. You can also undertake a depression self-assessment at the Black Dog Institute website – http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/public/depression/self-test.cfm.

Lose the Stigma!

We also urgently need to lose the stigma of seeking help. Here in Australia, we’re a long way from New York where people brag about having a therapist! Most people wait too long to get assistance. And we know it’s far easier to proactively boost our well-being when we’re well but much harder to boost well-being, if you’re depressed or anxious. 

The good news is though – there are many evidence-based interventions that can successfully treat psychological distress and disorder – so don’t put it off any longer! Many people often falsely think that seeing a “shrink” means lying on a couch for years unearthing and sharing deep, dark secrets from your childhood. Whilst that may be true in some instances for severe, long term, intractable psychiatric disorders, for most people it’s 6-12 sessions of brief therapy. Many of my past clients have said that having therapy has “changed my life” and “why on earth didn’t I do this earlier?”. You can also use the free “Find a Psychologist” service offered by the Australian Psychological Society (http://www.psychology.org.au/FindaPsychologist/Default.aspx)

The Flourishing Scale ©Copyright by Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener, January 2009.

Below are 8 statements with which you may agree or disagree. Using the 1–7 scale below, indicate your agreement with each item by indicating that response for each statement. 

7 – Strongly agree

6 – Agree

5 – Slightly agree

4 – Neither agree nor disagree

3 – Slightly disagree

2 – Disagree

1 – Strongly disagree

 

____ I lead a purposeful and meaningful life

____ My social relationships are supportive and rewarding

____ I am engaged and interested in my daily activities

____ I actively contribute to the happiness and well-being of others

____ I am competent and capable in the activities that are important to me

____ I am a good person and live a good life

____ I am optimistic about my future

____ People respect me

 

Scoring: Add the responses, varying from 1 to 7, for all eight items. The possible range of scores is from 8 (lowest possible) to 56 (highest PWB possible). A high score represents a person with many psychological resources and strengths.

The Foundations of Flourishing

Whilst psychology as a scientific field of study has helped us to understand how to reduce mental illness, it’s not been until the field of Positive Psychology emerged that we have learned what it takes to flourish. 

Professor Martin Seligman, known as the Founding Father of Positive Psychology, has outlined his own model of well-being consisting of the five foundations of flourishing i.e., PERMA (Positive Emotions, Engagement, Positive Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment). Flourishers rate highly on each of these five foundations.



Is your school or workplace Flourishing?

There are many ways we can determine if a school or workplace is flourishing, and historically through the use of a culture, climate or engagement survey. Another simple way is to notice how you "feel" when you enter the organisation. Who is the first person you meet, are they are a "positive energiser"? Does the environment "prime" for well-being? Is there an abundance of positive emotions over negative ones; do people know and use their strengths on a daily basis? Are their positive social networks that extend into the community? Do people feel a sense of meaning and purpose in the work they do and see their role's connection to the values, vision and mission of the organisation?

Whilst the application of the science of well-being is relatively new to schools and workplaces, there's some great stuff happening. Check out the Positive Education Schools Association – http://www.pesa.edu.au and you could spend all day on the website of the Centre for Positive Organizations at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, the leader in the scientific study of flourishing organisations – http://positiveorgs.bus.umich.edu/.

Want to learn more about Flourishing?


Lots of love, PI & I (Suzy)


 

 


Mental Toughness – For when the going gets tough...

Suzy Green - Friday, April 17, 2015



What is Mental Toughness?
Whilst the term is being increasingly used in sporting contexts, it’s also being increasingly used in schools and workplaces to describe a mindset (that leads to a set of behaviours) of individuals that are able to deal with challenging situations without “derailing”, as is commonly referred to in organisational settings.
 
Alternatively, for those going through significantly stressful circumstances or who have suffered trauma, which may for many people may lead to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), there is an increasing interest in developing mental toughness to prevent distress and disorder (check out the US Army Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program – http://www.usar.army.mil/resources/ForSoldiers/Pages/Comprehensive-Soldier-Fitness.aspx to hopefully create a more positive outcome for such individuals. This is being referred to as PTG (post-traumatic growth) (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 1998).
 
Whilst various definitions, theories and models of mental toughness currently exist, some more scientific than others, and continuing debate in scientific circles, one of the most widely used models, albeit with a strong scientific foundation and ongoing research is the 4C model and associated assessment of mental toughness, the MTQ48, originally developed by Professor Peter Clough. It’s also built on an earlier and much researched model of “cognitive hardiness” by Kobasa (1979).
 
It’s pretty simple to understand and in our Mental Toughness Training workshops here at PI, we know from experience that people can easily relate to it and find it useful to their everyday lives, professionally and personally.

 
The 4Cs
In a nutshell, the Mental Toughness model is made up of 4Cs – control (environmental and life), challenge, confidence (abilities and interpersonal) and commitment. (For a good overview of the model, email us for some recommended readings.)


What are the benefits of being mentally tough?
In an increasingly complex and stressful world, the benefits of being mentally tough or at the very least learning strategies to increase your mental toughness are pretty obvious. I’ve had some feedback so far that tells me that people don’t always initially understand the term, with some people responding with “I don’t want to be tough, I like being sensitive”. In fact the opposite of mental toughness is not weakness, it is sensitivity!
 
Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being mentally sensitive and there are associated benefits to sensitivity, however the research is continuing to show us that for those individuals that report higher levels of mental toughness (as assessed by the MTQ48) they do better in stressful occupations and situations, their well-being is better and they engage is a range of positive behaviours that lead to greater levels of overall success in life. This is particularly important for occupations where there is a high risk of trauma such as the armed forces or the police for example. Although as many of you will know, corporate settings and in particular educational & health settings also provide an enormous amount of stress for people that reside within them.

 
Can we develop Mental Toughness?
The good news is – yes we can! In fact, one of the main attractors to me when I came across the 4C model and associated recommended interventions for mental toughness development was that many of the interventions were ones I’ve used extensively in the past in my clinical psychology practice, such as relaxation training and cognitive behavioural thinking skills. 
 
However, the Mental Toughness Training program that we’ve been developing here at PI encompasses a comprehensive range of scientifically proven tools and techniques that are easy to learn and apply in a proactive way rather than waiting until things go wrong and seeking out a psychologist to learn these skills reactively! 
 
Madness isn’t it that we aren’t teaching our kids these skills? Well again - good news! Many schools are now teaching resilience skills although mainly in primary and junior schools, and from my perspective there’s a huge need to get these skills into senior high school in a proactive, engaging way for kids to learn. Oh for the teachers as well!
 
Want to learn more?

 
Lots of love, PI & I (Suzy) 




To visit our website and leave a comment – http://www.thepositivityinstitute.com.au/journal

Dr Suzy Green
Founder, The Positivity Institute
www.thepositivityinstitute.com.au

Retreats – Why taking a personal retreat is a non-negotiable for a flourishing life…

Suzy Green - Tuesday, March 17, 2015

“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. 
Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. 
The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, 
it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” 

– Franz Kafka
Austrian (Czechoslovakian-born) author (1883–1924)

 

  
What is a Retreat?   
  
Definition of Retreat: A place affording peace, quiet, privacy, or security; a period of seclusion, retirement, or solitude.   

Are you someone that takes retreat? Whether that’s time out to visit an amazing health or wellness spa, a long hike in the mountains (think Reese Witherspoon in the “Wild”) or something more spiritual like a retreat to a convent or temple. Perhaps you’re someone who wants to really experience the real deal and are considering an overseas holiday to live like a “monk for a month” at a temple stay in Thailand – check out http://www.monkforamonth.com/        

OK, OK, I know there are many of you rolling your eyes thinking “yeah right, like I’ve got time to go and contemplate my naval” or“how on earth could I escape the daily grind?” And yes, you can come up with all the excuses under the sun, however the fact remains, that taking time out, whether that’s a macro-break (eg, a 10 day retreat), a micro-break (eg, a a half-day, whole day or weekend retreat) or a micro-break (that could be as little as a 15 minute meditation at work or home) is one of the best things you can do for your own and your loved one’s well-being. Yes, your loved ones will also benefit from you returning from retreat, refreshed and reinspired, as the human being they once knew and loved!   

Why Retreat?   

Many of my clients have used retreats to gain greater clarity on their values, vision and purpose, discovering that taking time out, particularly in nature, seems to allow them to really hear their “authentic voice” with intuitive insights rising to the surface, to which they were mostly deaf in the busyness of their day-to-day lives.   

Other clients, seeking a greater sense of meaning and purpose in their lives, often look to attend a spiritual retreat (for those in NSW, check out the Nan Tien Temple – http://www.nantien.org.au/en/retreats-classes – or the Vipassana Meditation Centre in the Blue Mountains – http://www.bhumi.dhamma.org/about.htm). There are so many options available with various retreats offered by various religious and spiritual orders – so there really is something for everyone!   

Many people I meet who work in schools, the health sector and the corporate sector are just plain burnt out from all the “doing”. They’ve hit the wall with an illness or realise that if they don’t take time out for “being” they are going to get sick in the very near future. Gone are the days when we would have been “prescribed” a holiday by the sea to recuperate rather than a whole host of medications and vitamins and just managed to soldier on!   

Finally for those that are thinking there’s just no way I can even contemplate time away right now, the best gift you can give yourself is to schedule in a 2 hour micro break. Take a long walk on the beach or a bushwalk. And you can stop the guilt right now, as that’s often the only thing standing between you and your retreat, and your health and well-being.   

Remember also, as the opening quote suggests, “there is no need to leave the room”, so if a beach walk is just too hard right now, close your bedroom or office door, light a candle or some incense, put on some relaxing music, and do some deep breathing for five minutes, let your thoughts settle, and then ask yourself “what do I really need right now?”. Try to let the answer rise from your heart, bypassing your critical mind, and just be curious. It’s also helpful to use a journal, using an “automatic writing” process, to allow yourself to tap into your unconscious desires. More often than not, we know what we need, we just don't create the time and space to listen to our wise selves.   

Lots of love, PI & I (Suzy) 

PS If you’re looking for a mini-retreat, why not join my colleague Dr William DeJean and myself at one of our upcoming half-day retreats? For more information go to – http://www.williamdejean.com and check out our “Flourishing in 2015” Retreats. 
        



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