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The LIFE model

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Recent years have witnessed the emergence of positive psychology (PP), a field focusing on happiness/wellbeing. A subset of this field is applied positive psychology (APP), which aims to promote happiness/wellbeing through positive psychology interventions (PPIs). However, despite being enthusiastically received in some quarters, PP has an uneasy relationship with psychology as a whole. This unease is partly due to a lack of systematic thinking within PP about its remit, scope, and domain of application. As such, this paper offers a conceptual map that elucidates the diverse ways in which APP might attempt to enhance wellbeing, from cognitive PPIs to more systemic-structural interventions (e.g., government policy). The map is called the LIFE (Layered Integrated Framework Example) model. It is based on Ken Wilber’s Integral Framework, which features the four main ontological ‘dimensions’ of the person: subjective mind, objective body/brain, intersubjective culture, and interobjective society. The paper then stratifies these dimensions to produce a comprehensive map of the person, and of the potential areas of application for APP. For example, it deconstructs the collective dimensions of Wilber’s framework using Bronfenbrenner’s experimental ecology (micro-system, meso-system, exo-system and macro-system). The result is a detailed multidimensional framework which facilitates a comprehensive approach to promoting wellbeing within PP. Moreover, not only does the paper introduce PP to a wider audience in psychology, as a ‘map’ of the person, the model may be transferable to and useful within other psychological disciplines.
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The LIFE model
Dr. Tim Lomas
Applied Positive Psychology
The science and practice of improving
wellbeing” (Lomas et al., 2014, p.ix)
Positive psychology interventions (PPIs)
Defining its ‘terrain’
A multidimensional approach
The LIFE model
Layered
Integrated
Framework
Example
Adaptation of Integral framework’
SUBJECTIVE (INTERIOR) OBJECTIVE (EXTERIOR)
INDIVIDUAL
Subjective
(mind)
Objective
(brain/body)
COLLECTIVE
Intersubjective
(culture)
Interobjective
(society)
The subjective domain
Embodied sensations
Emotions
Cognitions
Consciousness
Awareness+
Embodiment
Bringing the body into PP
Illness narratives (Frank, 1997)
Corporeal post-traumatic growth (Hefferon et al.,
2009)
Body awareness therapies (Barratt, 2009)
Emotions
Emotion-focused PPIs
Ability to work with emotions
Emotional intelligence (Mayer & Salovey,
1997)
Awareness
Generation
Understanding
Management
Cognitions
Cognitively-focused PPIs
Recalling/analysing positive events (2001)
Narrative restructuring exercises (Pennebaker &
Segal, 1999)
Gratitude diaries
Therapies using PP
Consciousness
Exemplar PPI = meditation
Development of attention/awareness
Mindfulness-based interventions (Kabat-
Zinn, 2003)
Awareness+
Advanced consciousness capabilities
E.g., ‘Non-dual awareness’ (Josipovic, 2010)
Self-transcendence (Vago & Silbersweig, 2012)
‘Spiritual’ practices
‘Union with sacred’
Communication with deity
The objective domain
Biochemical molecules
Neurons
Neural networks
The nervous system
Whole body
Biochemistry
Sub-cellular ‘building blocks’
Impact of genetics on wellbeing (Lykken &
Tellegen, 1996)
Manipulating genome (Alexander et al., 2010)
Psychophamacology (Ferguson, 2001)
Neurons
Neural Correlates of Consciousness (Fell, 2004)
Neural correlates of well-being (Urry et al., 2004)
Asymmetric activation of PFC (Davidson, 1992)
Mirror neurons (Gallese, 2001)
Neural networks
Distributionist model
Mental states arise from interaction of brain areas
Electroencephalography
Mindfulness: alpha and theta brainwaves associated
with a state of ‘relaxed alertness’ (Lomas et al., 2015)
PPI neurofeedback (Gruzelier, 2013)
The nervous system
Health-wellbeing interaction (Hefferon 2013)
Psychosomatic
Impact of mental states on physical health
(Cohen et al., 2001)
Somato-psychic
Impact of physical health on mental states
(Horrell et al., 2012)
The body
Exercise (Garber et al., 2011)
Other ways of ‘usingthe body
Art therapy (Pratt, 2004)
Music therapy (Ruud, 2008)
Dance therapy (Loman, 2005)
Socio-cultural domains
Microsystem
Mesosystem
Exosystem
Macrosystem
Ecosystem
Microsystem
Immediate social setting (Bronfenbrenner, 1977)
Positive education: School wellbeing programmes
(Seligman et al., 2009)
Positive relationships, e.g., family centred
positive psychology (Sheridan et al., 2004)
Ergonomics/aesthetics (Liu, 2003)
Mesosystem
Broader social network
Interrelations among main settings
Work-Life balance
‘Families and Schools Together
Well-validated programme (McDonald et al., 1997)
Bridging home and school
Exosystem
Wider social structures
The local or regional community
Bottom up: community interventions
E.g., Well London project (Wall et al., 2009)
Top down: Local government initiatives
E.g., Shared spaces (Jacobs, 1985)
Macrosystem
“Overarching institutional patterns”
Economic, social, educational, legal, and political
systems
Macro-policy interventions
Positive economics (Haque, 2011)
Positive politics, e.g., Bhutan (Braun, 2009)
Ecosystem
Environmental/ecological context
NEF (Abdallah et al., 2009)
E.g., Happy planet index
Still psychology
Existential: Wellbeing depends on it
Behavioural: Encourage change (Hopper & Neilson, 1991)
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