Positively Blogging

Beyond the Gym! Well-Being@Work

Suzy Green - Monday, October 31, 2016


Walking the Labyrinth, Centennial Park, Sydney



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.


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! 




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)

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

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