Individual and Community Interventions

Individual and Community Interventions

Third wave positive psychology and positive communities For this blog post I want to deviate away from focusing on the individual to reflect on what it might mean to apply a positive psychology intervention at the community-level. As a researcher and practitioner embedded in third wave positive psychology I’m moving towards asking questions about the impact interventions have on whole communities and not just the individual. This post will cover individual and community-level interventions by sharing what these are, and considering whether third wave positive psychology should care about positive communities and not just the individual.   Individual and community-level interventions When Marty Seligman first started talking about positive psychology over twenty years ago he included positive communities. Currently positive psychology is said to be in its ‘third wave’ meaning it is now concerned with systemic and environmental factors. Yet for the most part we are still focused on the individual. At an individual-level a positive psychology intervention (PPI) aims to promote positive life experiences, such as flourishing, in the individual. Definitions differ but overall the individual is invited to experience such interventions as gratitude, strengths development, resilience growth, compassion, and meaning. Often the end game is to improve psychological or subjective wellbeing. Some of these PPIs are likely to have a knock-on effect towards the people that surround the individual, and this ‘pay-it-forward’ outcome is an implicit expectation for PPI application. Yet recent criticism points out that PPIs are often undertaken by privileged members of the population, with little regard to whether a PPI might actually harm or disadvantage other people less fortunate. A personal vex of mine...
The powerful self-question in midlife

The powerful self-question in midlife

The powerful self-question in midlife As a coach I used to think that powerful questions were ‘clever’ questions you learn by rote, but a powerful question emerges from the relationship, from being there with the coachee, curious and genuinely interested in their story from their perspective. A question is only powerful when it is used in the right context and has been formed from the unique moment between coach and coachee during their coaching partnership. This got me thinking about how someone in their mid-life could use this skill on themselves. In my previous posts I have suggested we spend more time reflecting and being mindful. This is not easy for everyone. We often do not listen to ourselves and like to be distracted from too much time alone with our thoughts, yet the powerful self-question in midlife might be just the wake up needed. So what might happen if we asked ourselves some powerful questions, and actually listened to the answer? Here I offer some reflective approaches to help you tune into your own powerful question. Why midlife? A powerful question can be profound at any stage in life but here I am thinking of those who are on their journey of discovery, have lived a life where they have (I hope) been successful but may now think that they want something different. Midlife has so much opportunity in it but we can be overcome by the changes we do not ask for- health, family dependency, or career dissatisfaction. When we ask ourselves what we do want we can push through the challenges and turn them into opportunities....
Mid-life Transitions: How to feel alive

Mid-life Transitions: How to feel alive

Following on from my last post on mid-life (https://www.thepositivepsychologypeople.com/focus-on-mid-life-in-21st-century/), this one is also about mid-life, but here I am focusing on the experience of how to feel alive, even when things are changing for us. It can be very easy to become caught up in anxieties and fear for the future, especially when changes are not expected. Yet it is in these moments of change that we are more alive than ever. There is no one way to be when our lives are in transition, but here I suggest a few techniques which may just help you hold onto some of the awe in the world. How to feel alive “I don’t think [the meaning of life] is what we’re seeking. I think [it’s] an experience of being alive so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” Joseph Campbell The above quote is attributed to Joseph Campbell from the 1980s American series ‘The Power of Myth’. Campbell was a writer who studied mythology and religious texts for most of his life. He became an expert at understanding the patterns within stories which can be found across the many cultures and societies we humans have created for millennia. Campbell argues that despite the belief that we are all searching for some sort of meaning in our lives, what we really want and need is what he calls the “rapture of being alive”. This is when you feel fully alive, and all your senses are piqued and firing. It...
Focus on Mid-Life in 21st Century

Focus on Mid-Life in 21st Century

Mid-life now in the 21st Century is a much different experience to that which our parents and grandparents experienced. Mid-life is broadly considered to be between the ages of 40 and 65 years of age. Many of the adult development theories we still rely on to define our mid-life years were researched decades ago. So much has changed for us so are these theories still relevant? And how can they be used to help us enjoy and flourish in our mid-life? This post explores this and suggests ways we can bring a positive lens to life and enjoy being in mid-life in the twenty-first century.   Are the mid-life theories outdated? There is certainly a great deal which has changed since the time many of the theories were developed, which is anywhere from the 1950s to 1980s. Much of this research is based upon men as the traditional breadwinner and women as the homemaker. Although some of the research has expanded to include career women the research is of its time and focuses mainly on men. Erikson (1950s) created more stages of development for childhood than in adulthood, although this did cover mid-life but not in as much detail as Levinson (1978) who looked specifically at adult development. Levinson’s work identified transitions in the adult life span where big decisions are often made as we move from one decade to the next. Vaillant (2002) who was involved in a longitudinal study lasting over 80 years which mapped the development of a group of mostly men through their childhood through to old age (often called the Harvard Study). He identified...
How to be a Positively Psychology Deviant!

How to be a Positively Psychology Deviant!

For this post I wanted to reflect on a recent article by Carol Ryff ‘Positive Psychology: Looking Back and Looking Forward’ (2022)  which is a timely and needed article about the state of research and the need to expand its focus into the inequalities, greed, and stupidity which drives the inequalities in society. It is so important to have challenges in research and practice to prevent naval gazing and myopic self-serving behaviours that occur when we are too inwardly focused. The article by Ryff made me think of all the areas of society which impact us every day yet we are not included as variables in research studies or discussed with clients in organisations or in the practitioners’ offices. My curiosity and quite frankly excitement at the fun of being a deviant (!!) led me to think about how we can become more deviant and take positive psychology into the next phase, and in doing so address these unspoken areas. I look at the practical ways we can be positively and productively deviant and suggest how Appreciative Inquiry might be one way to bring deviance into practice. This is not a fluffy post, but I hope it gives you food for thought and permission to use your courage to challenge the status quo and be positively deviant!   Ryff’s article Carol Ryff is known for developing the Psychological Wellbeing model and measure (https://sparqtools.org/mobility-measure/psychological-wellbeing-scale/), and for her involvement in the longitudinal study of health and wellbeing called the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) Study (https://www.midus.wisc.edu/). Ryff is a well-known name in positive psychology despite not considering herself a positive...
Connecting Through Stillness and Silence

Connecting Through Stillness and Silence

“The more space we give to stillness and silence, the more we have to give both to ourselves and to others” – Thich Nhat Hahn “A poor life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare” – W.H. Davies The late Thich Nhat Hahn was a wise person indeed. He could see that the world with all of its rushing and busyness was not a rewarding place. There is a significant amount of research that suggests that the way we are living our lives, with speed and urgency to achieve the next thing, to rush to the next challenge, and to have what everyone else has, is making us ill. The sociologist Harmut Rosa has recently developed a theory which proposes the metaphor of being on an escalator trying to get to the top yet the escalator is moving downwards. It is taking all of our effort just to stand still. This post is offering you an opportunity to reflect and think about your own life and where you are on the escalator. Are you running fast to stand still? Positive psychology offers us helpful guidance on how to connect rather than run.   Wanting more, conquering all Rosa (2020) proposes that we are in a state of social acceleration. To be able to stand still we have to aim for more: More money, more growth, more qualifications, more technology to list just a few. For consumer businesses to stay profitable they need to continue to sell to the population. Inventing more things we don’t need, convincing us we must keep doing more and...