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Positive psychology

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Tim Lomas
added a research item
Happiness is an increasingly prominent topic of interest across numerous academic fields. However, the literature can sometimes imply it is predominantly a modern concern. Relatedly, critics have argued that contemporary scholarship on happiness is Western-centric, yet in so doing can appear to suggest that happiness is mainly a Western preoccupation. However, taking an expansive view of happiness-defining it broadly as a desirable mental experience-one can appreciate that versions of this phenomenon have been of interest to humans across cultures and throughout history. To articulate this perspective, this paper offers a brief overview of 14 different eras, spanning a range of global regions, in each case highlighting concepts and concerns that bear some close resemblance to happiness. In so doing, the paper encourages a deeper and more inclusive understanding of this vital topic.
Itai Ivtzan
added a research item
Objectives: Mindfulness has become a main topic in Positive Psychology, as well as other disciplines, due to its effect on numerous positive outcomes, such as wellbeing and stress reduction. Many different mindfulness-based interventions have emerged in the last decades, however, to this point there is limited literature available for brief mindfulness-based practices that can be easily integrated into people's daily life. To address this gap in research, this study is going to examine the Mindfulness Bell, which offers individuals an opportunity to focus on the present through an audible notification at random moments during the day. Methodology: The study made use of an existing smartphone application, instructing participants to bring their attention to the sound of the bell, their breath, and their current activity at six random times each day. A two-week repeated-measures design was applied to measure effects of the Mindfulness Bell on participants' (N = 21) levels of mindfulness, both subjective and psychological wellbeing, and stress. Results: A statistically significant correlation was found between the Mindfulness Bell intervention and levels of mindfulness, subjective wellbeing and psychological wellbeing. No significant correlation was found for stress. Discussion: As a mediator of positive wellbeing outcomes, mindfulness is related to environmental mastery, purpose in life, and self-acceptance. Research shows that the length of the study and the level of mindfulness experience affected the success of the intervention. Conclusion: This paper reveals insight on the importance of engaging with the mindfulness concept and outlines what scholars need to consider when creating mindfulness-based interventions.
Tim Lomas
added 3 research items
This presentation suggests there have been four waves of wellbeing scholarship in modern times: (1) the instantiation of psychiatry and psychotherapy around 150 years ago, which focused on ameliorating mental illness; (2) the emergence of humanistic psychotherapists and psychologists from the 1930s onwards, who turned their attention to more positive aspects of wellbeing; (3) a burgeoning emphasis on science, beginning around the 1960s and especially taking off with the creation of positive psychology in the 1990s; and (4) a more global approach which has been gathering energies over the last decade. In this context, we have also seen the evolution of positive psychology itself, over three main waves: (1) its founding (the culmination of the third wave of wellbeing scholarship); (2) a second wave, involving a foundational critique of the notions of positive and negative (drawing energy and inspiration from the emerging fourth wave of wellbeing scholarship); and (3) a new third wave, featuring a 'broadening into complexity,' including a more globally-inclusive focus (firmly situated within the fourth wave of wellbeing scholarship). The presentation concludes by looking ahead to a future potential fifth wave of 'cosmic' wellbeing scholarship (and fourth wave of positive psychology), characterised by engagement and concerns with non-human forms of wellbeing (including all living beings on earth, AI, and even extra- and ultra-terrestrials).
Tim Lomas
added a research item
Background: Psychology is open to the charge of being Western-centric, with its understanding and conceptualisation of topics such as wellbeing influenced by the mainly-Western cultural contexts in which it has developed. As such, efforts are underway to explore and incorporate ideas and perspectives from non-Western cultures. Aims: One such effort has been the initiation of a collaboration between Gallup and Well-Being for Planet Earth (a new Japanese foundation promoting cross-cultural research). This effort has focused on developing new items for inclusion in the Gallup World Poll that reflect expanded and primarily nonWestern perspectives on wellbeing. Methods: A summit was convened in Kyoto in August 2019, involving representatives of Gallup and WellBeing for Planet Earth, as well as six other scholars focused on cross-cultural research. Through intensive discussion, main topics of importance were identified, and item phrasings proposed in relation to each. Results: Four key topics of were identified, and item phrasings agreed upon: balance and harmony; low arousal emotions; relationship to group; and meaning in life. Conclusion This initiative has highlighted dimensions of wellbeing that are currently missing from surveys such as the Gallup World Poll, and without which our understanding of wellbeing is incomplete. Such initiatives help provide a more comprehensive and global understanding of wellbeing and its dimensions, and will be vital to the future development of fields like positive psychology.
Tim Lomas
added 3 research items
The development of academic fields is often described through the metaphor of ‘waves.’ Following the instantiation of positive psychology (the first wave), scholarship emerged looking critically at the notions of positive and negative, becoming known as its second wave. More recently, we discern an equally significant shift, namely scholarship that in various ways goes beyond the individual and embraces greater complexity. This includes going beyond the individual person as the primary focus of enquiry to look more deeply at the groups and systems in which people are embedded. It also involves becoming more interdisciplinary and multicultural, and embracing a wider range of methodologies. We submit that these interrelated ripples constitute a form of epistemological ‘broadening’ that merit the label of an incoming ‘third wave.’ This paper identifies the key dynamics of this wave, allowing appreciation not only of the field’s leading edge, but also its developmental potential into the future.
Tim Lomas
added a research item
Positive psychology has fruitfully interacted with numerous other disciplines, creating new hybrid paradigms. One such instance involves coaching and coaching psychology, which share the field's focus on enhancing wellbeing and performance across life domains. As a result, there is an emergent interest in exploring their interaction with positive psychology, and developing frameworks for their integration. To shed further light on their relationship, this paper explores four perspectives on the intersections between these emerging fields, including (a) the fields as essentially coterminous; (b) positive psychology encompassing coaching psychology; (c) coaching psychology encompassing positive psychology; and (d) the fields as overlapping but not coterminous (the author's preferred perspective). More generally, the paper offers suggestions for how positive psychology can integrate with the various kinship fields in these processes of hybridisation.
Tim Lomas
added a research item
Definitively identifying a particular activity as a positive psychology intervention can be difficult. The issue is compounded by lack of clarity around where the boundaries of positive psychology itself lie, and how it intersects with conceptually-related disciplines. A case in point is coaching, which shares positive psychology's interest in enhancing wellbeing and performance across life domains. Coaching's status with respect to positive psychology is a matter of debate: is it a subset of positive psychology (e.g., part of its applied arm), or alternatively a distinct field that overlaps in complex ways. This chapter considers these issues, looking firstly at the nature of positive psychology itself (including who practises it, and what constitutes a positive psychology intervention), and then at the relationship between positive psychology and coaching (as a case study to shed light upon the issues). Lessons will be drawn about how positive psychology interacts with kinship fields, and what it means to identify something as a positive psychology intervention.
Tim Lomas
added a research item
Although semiotics has historically been a focus of interest in psychology, its impact over recent decades has been fairly muted. Moreover, no systematic efforts have been made to study and understand it from a positive perspective, i.e., the way sign-systems are or can be “positive.” As such, this paper introduces the notion of “positive semiotics,” a label for the disparate research and theorising that is already underway across academia relating to this topic. The paper draws on the work of C. S. Peirce, particularly in terms of his triadic view of sign-systems as comprising a sign, an object, and an interpretant. The idea of positivity is then elucidated using the criterion of desirability, drawing on the work of James Pawelski. Attempts are also made to ascertain the nature of desirability, including normative forms (clarified here using the conceptual triad of goodness, truth, and beauty) and non-normative forms (understood as personal wants). The paper then considers four key semiotic channels – discursive language, body language, symbols, and art – looking at selective examples of how positive semiotics might pertain to that channel. It is hoped the paper will stimulate further interest in, and work on, a phenomenon that is of considerable importance to psychology and beyond.
Tim Lomas
added a research item
A prominent criticism of positive psychology is that is has been shaped by its Western context, and yet that this 'situatedness' often remains unacknowledged. Consequently, this paper offers an archaeological analysis of conceptualisations of happiness in the West. More specifically, the paper explores the emergence of significant ideas relating to the good life through the innovative device of studying artworks, on the premise that being featured in art is an effective signifier of when a given idea rose to prominence. Taking a time span of 1,000 years, one artwork per century has been selected to illustrate the emergence of a particular stream of thought during that centennial period. The paper elucidates the roots of currents ideas around happiness in fields like positive psychology, and in the West more generally. It is hoped this type of 'consciousness-raising' activity may help such fields acknowledge and overcome any limitations arising from their cultural situatedness.
Tim Lomas
added a research item
In thinking and talking about wellbeing, people often deploy spatial metaphors, such as identifying positive and negative affect with “up” and “down” respectively. However, there has not yet been a systematic investigation of how wellbeing is represented through metaphor. To shed light on this topic, a content analysis was conducted of spatial metaphors in academic discourse on wellbeing, focusing on recent editions of two leading journals, the Journal of Positive Psychology, and the British Journal of Clinical Psychology. Across 28 papers, 54 spatial metaphors were identified, grouped into four main categories: verticality; horizontality; configuration; and dynamism. Above all, wellbeing is associated with interior expansiveness, with positive valence usually attaching to vertical metaphors of height and depth, horizontal metaphors of width and breadth, and configuration metaphors of size and growth. The analysis thus offers valuable insights into the subjective dynamics of wellbeing.
Tim Lomas
added a research item
Critical theorists have accused positive psychology of paying insufficient attention to cultural variation in the way wellbeing is constructed and experienced. While there may be some merit to this claim, the field has developed a more nuanced appreciation of culture than its critics suggest. However, it could also be argued that positive psychology has not sufficiently appreciated or absorbed the wealth of literature within cross-cultural psychology pertaining to wellbeing. This paper aims to forge a bridge between positive psychology and cross-cultural psychology by introducing the idea of ‘positive cross-cultural psychology,’ an interdisciplinary conceptual space for existing and future cross-cultural research on wellbeing. Moreover, the paper offers a meta-theoretical perspective on trends within this literature. It is suggested that cross-cultural research is underpinned by two broad orienting perspectives: a ‘universalising’ perspective, which holds that, despite apparent cultural differences, people share a common human nature; and a ‘relativising’ perspective, which argues that people are strongly shaped by their cultural context. However, the paper finally argues that most research can actually be seen as offering a synthesising perspective – labelled here as ‘universal relativism’ – which recognises universals in the ways wellbeing is sought, constructed and experienced, but allows for extensive variation in the ways these universals are shaped by culture.
Tim Lomas
added 2 research items
The impact of politics on wellbeing has perennially been a topic of some debate in society, and has more recently been a focus of concern in academia too. The current chapter considers this academic literature, drawing it together under the proposed rubric of 'positive politics,' defined as the study of the impact of political policies and processes upon wellbeing. The aim of this chapter, and of positive politics generally, is to encourage the use of wellbeing research to inform: (a) politicians and policy makers (with regard to policy making); and (b) citizens (with regard to democratic choices). To do this, the chapter offers a set of orienting analyses concerning the differences between left-wing and right-wing political perspectives. Rather than presenting left versus right as a unidimensional spectrum, the chapter suggests that the left–right polarity plays out across multiple spectra. Twelve different spectra are identified, three of which are constructed as overarching, with the remainder positioned as subsidiary to these: attributions (encompassing justness and equality), locus of concern (encompassing taxation, welfare, and institutional balance), and directionality (encompassing religion, freedom, statehood, and immigration). The chapter explores the implications that different perspectives on these twelve spectra have for wellbeing, thereby setting out an agenda for further research into the impact of politics upon wellbeing.
As positive psychology has matured as a field, among its most prominent successes has been the emergence of a strong applied dimension, known as applied positive psychology. This burgeoning arena of praxis has involved the development of interventions and activities designed to promote well-being. This chapter offers an overview of these efforts, which are organized here according to a multidimensional meta-theoretical framework known as the LIFE (Layered Integrated Framework Example) model. This framework features the four main ontological “dimensions” of the person (mind, body, culture, and society), each of which is stratified into five levels. The model provides a comprehensive map of the person, and of their well-being, allowing us to situate and appreciate the range of interventions and strategies that have been developed within APP.
Tim Lomas
added 3 research items
The impact of politics on wellbeing has perennially been a topic of intense debate in society, and has more recently been a focus of concern in academia too. The current paper considers this academic literature, drawing it together under the proposed rubric of ‘positive politics,’ defined as the study of the impact of political policies and processes upon wellbeing. The aim of this presentation and of positive politics generally, is to encourage the use of wellbeing research to inform: (a) politicians and policy makers (with regard to policy making); and (b) citizens (with regard to democratic choices). To do this, the presentation offers a set of orienting analyses concerning the differences between left-wing and right-wing political perspectives. Rather than presenting left versus right as a unidimensional spectrum, the paper suggests that the left-right polarity plays out on multiple spectra. Twelve different spectra are identified, three of which are constructed as overarching, with the remainder positioned as subsidiary to these: attributions (encompassing justness and equality), locus of concern (encompassing taxation, welfare, and institutional balance), and directionality (encompassing religion, freedom, statehood, and immigration). The presentation explores the implications that different perspectives on these twelve spectra have for wellbeing, thereby setting out an agenda for further research into the impact of politics upon wellbeing.
Although positive psychology was initially conceived as more a shift in perspective (towards the “positive”) than a new field per se, in pragmatic terms, it is arguably beginning to function as a distinct discipline, with people self-identifying as “positive psychologists.” Thus, this conversation hour explores whether it is time for the field to start developing a system of professional (e.g., ethical) guidelines to inform the practice of positive psychology. This means asking questions around who has the ‘right’ to practice positive psychology, and how best practice can be supported and upheld. In the first half of the hour, the discussion will be focused around one set of proposals in which the field might be professionalised and regulated. Specifically, the panel will consider a paper by Tim Lomas and Itai Ivtzan that, at the time of writing this, is forthcoming in the International Journal of Wellbeing [Lomas, T., & Ivtzan, I. (2016). Professionalising positive psychology: Developing guidelines for training and regulation. International Journal of Wellbeing.]. This paper outlines one possible system of professionalization (e.g., the development of ethical protocols), drawing on guidelines in counselling and psychotherapy. Moreover, it advocates the creation of two tiers of professional identity within positive psychology. Firstly, people with a master’s qualification in positive psychology might label themselves “positive psychology practitioners.” Secondly, the paper raises the possibility of creating a professional doctorate in PP which would enable graduates to assume the title of “positive psychologist.” This paper will be used as a starting point for a discussion, in which the various panel members – which together have a range of perspectives on the issues in question – can debate these timely and important issues. Then, in the second half of the hour, the discussion shall be opened up (i.e., away from the paper specifically), allowing for questions, and interaction with the audience. As such, we hope that the discussion hour as a whole will contribute towards a dialogue within the field around issues such as ethics, regulation, and accreditation, thus helping positive psychology to develop further over the years ahead.
Recent years have seen an interesting process of dialogue and interaction between coaching and positive psychology. On the one hand, coaching practitioners have expanded their repertoire by applying positive psychology in their practice. From the other direction, positive psychology has embraced coaching as a way of delivering and applying its insights. We might refer to this alliance or cross—fertilisation of the two fields as Positive Psychology Coaching (PPC). However, although progress has been made regarding the theoretical foundations for the interaction between the two fields, particularly by pioneers like Robert Biswas-Diener, the nature of their interaction is still a topic of debate. As such, this conversation hour allows the opportunity for the various issues to be explored. These issues include: (1) a conceptual definition of PPC, in terms of both existing knowledge, as well as its potentiality for expansion; (2) the prospect for PPC to generate distinct knowledge from positive psychology and coaching practice separately; (3) guidelines for researchers and practitioners as to the direction they can take to further develop the field; (4) PPC’s scope for informing professional practice, ranging from business to sports application; (5) PPC’s scope for enhancing pedagogical practice, at all levels of education; and (6) different avenues for potential research in PPC. Overall, the hour will allow for an interesting and lively debate about these important and timely issues.
Tim Lomas
added a research item
: Although positive psychology (PP) was initially conceived as more a shift in perspective (towards the “positive”) than a new field per se, in pragmatic terms, it is arguably beginning to function as a distinct discipline, with people self-identifying as “positive psychologists.” Thus, we contend it is time for the field to start developing a system of professional (e.g., ethical) guidelines to inform the practice of PP. To this end, we outline one such possible system, drawing on guidelines in counselling and psychotherapy. Moreover, we argue for the creation of two tiers of professional identity within PP. Firstly, people with a master’s qualification in PP might label themselves “positive psychology practitioners.” Secondly, we raise the possibility of creating a professional doctorate in PP which would enable graduates to assume the title of “positive psychologist.” We hope that this paper will contribute towards a dialogue within the field around these issues, helping PP to develop further over the years ahead.
Tim Lomas
added 10 research items
Positive Psychology has evolved rapidly over the past decade, attracting an ever-increasing number of adherents in academia and beyond. In just over 15 years since the emergence of the field, interest has grown exponentially, drawing in both new students and established scholars, generating a proliferation of journal articles and international conferences, and attracting considerable interest in the media and society at large. This major offers a clear and comprehensive assessment of Positive Psychology, assembling the seminal theories, studies and applications together in one overarching compendium and bringing clarity and definition to this emerging discipline. Volume 1: Philosophical and conceptual perspectives Volume 2: Constructs and theories Volume 3: Measurement and assessment Volume 4: Interventions and activities Volume 5: Positive psychology in applied settings Volume 6: Critiques, controversies, and current issues