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Positive Psychology in Perspective – A Future View from the UK

By on November 26, 2008 – 5:34 am  4 Comments

Bridget Grenville-Cleave, MAPP graduate of the University of East London, is a UK-based positive psychology consultant, trainer and writer. She is author of Introducing Positive Psychology: A Practical Guide (2012), and The Happiness Equation with Dr Ilona Boniwell. She regularly facilitates school well-being programs and Positive Psychology Masterclasses for personal and professional development. Find her on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter @BridgetGC. Website. Full bio. Her articles are here.



everting-is-changing-by-amanky.jpgForgive my shorter than normal posting; I know that regular readers of Positive Psychology News Daily are used to having far more substantial material to get their teeth into than this particular piece appears to deliver  – but all will become clear in a moment.

There’s less than six weeks to go before the 1st Cohort finishes the first-ever European MSc in Applied Positive Psychology at the University of East London, UK, under the inspirational leadership of Dr Ilona Boniwell. It’s been an interesting journey. And yes, I say that with typical British understatement.  At the start, in February 07, I expected that the “destination” would reveal itself at some point along the way, and that as a result I would have the option of mapping out (no pun intended) my second, or possibly third, career; this, I now realize, was a tad naive.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel?

Here we are, with the final dissertation deadline in sight, and I’m still questioning:  What did I do all this for? And where am I going with it? Perhaps this is a normal reaction to being neck-deep in statistics and interview transcriptions, grappling with the finer points of SPSS and Quantitative Analysis. And yes, I do regret opting to do mixed methods research…[I feel like a miner, down in the dark, chipping away at the rock face, not knowing whether what I find will be valuable, hoping it will be worth hauling all that way back to surface…This particular research project has literally taken over my life for the past year. But that’s another story…]. In short, perhaps my current unease with the “meaning and purpose” of Positive Psychology is pretty normal for this stage in the game. Maybe some of you Penn MAPP graduates can reassure me!

neagtive-positive-by-kodame-home.jpgSo it was with huge relief that I stumbled over this gargantuan (12Mb/317 pages) , multi-disciplinary report “Mental Capital and Well-Being: Making the most of ourselves in the 21st century” from the Government Office for Science, London, published October 22 2008. Quite how anything this substantial managed to slip under our radar is anyone’s guess. Well, no, actually, it’s quite likely that on that particular day last month you were bailing out the banks, trying to ward off a global recession and focussed 24/7 on the presidential election instead…and I was only waist-deep in statistics…

The Future for Positive Psychology

I’m not going to try to review this report (it does that pretty well itself in the Executive Summary, a mere 52 pages), other than to say it’s truly comprehensive, referencing all aspects of psychological well-being, not just from cradle to grave, or individual v societal v environmental, but it also includes the basic biological building blocks, nutrition, sleep and exercise, which seem to be given only a token mention in most Positive Psychology material I’ve read. The key message of Mental Capital and Well-Being is stated as follows:

“…if we are to prosper and thrive in our changing society and in an increasingly interconnected and competitive world, both our mental and material resources will be vital. Encouraging and enabling everyone to realise their potential throughout their lives will be crucial for our future prosperity and wellbeing”.

Of particular importance for students, practitioners and policy-makers alike, I think, are the Systems Maps, which include illustrations of

i)             Mental capital through life

ii)            Conceptual overview of mental health

iii)           Well-being at work

These are the first systems views of psychological well-being that I have seen. They capture so much insight on just one page each – I’m going to enlarge them and stick them on my office wall. And if you turn to Appendix B (pp283-288) you’ll find three pretty scary ‘Future Scenarios’, which outline the challenges for mental capital and well-being that we might be grappling with in 2020…

Turning Negatives into Positives

everthing-men-know-by-dailyinvention.jpgDon’t be put off by the fact that this report is a British perspective; although the work on which the report is based references many recent or current political initiatives in the UK, over 400 leading experts and stakeholders from countries across the world were involved in the project, so I would suggest that the vast majority of the theory behind the work is relevant to other countries too.

So I’d encourage you to stop whatever else you’re currently doing, and take a quick look now. It may help put things in perspective (the Systems Maps did for me), and potentially may provide you with your Positive Psychology ‘destination’, whatever that might be.

And now, feeling much more motivated, I’ll get back to those stats…

 


References:

Foresight Mental Capital and Wellbeing Project (2008), Final Project Report. The Government Office for Science, London.

Images:

1)    Everything is changing courtesy of amanky

2)    kodame (home)

3)   Everything men know courtesy of dailyinvention

4 Comments »

  • Jo says:

    Thanks for the heads-up. Will have a look, and good luck with finishing the research!

  • Dave Shearon says:

    Thanks, Bridget, and good luck as you charge, trudge, and roll(!) toward the conclusion of your MAPP program! Thanks also for the link. The interconnecteness of well-being is an area I’ve been thinking about. I’ll enjoy looking through this. Already found the following on p. 43 of the Executive Summary that seems relevant to those of us seeking to apply positive psychology:

    “How might we address future challenges in those cases where today’s science does not
    provide clear advice?”

    “In general, interventions need to be evidence-based and include a careful appraisal of
    costs and benefits. However, whilst science tells us a great deal, many uncertainties
    remain. In particular, evidence on the cost-effectiveness of mental capital and wellbeing
    interventions is generally sparse, certainly for the UK. A very high priority should
    therefore be assigned to improving that evidence base.
    Where uncertainties remain, it is often desirable to trial new approaches in ways that
    further understanding. Also, more emphasis on rigorous evaluation of existing and
    proposed new interventions is required. Both will require a high-level commitment to
    careful planning and, where relevant, a step-by-step roll out.”

  • bridget says:

    Hi Jo and Dave
    Thanks for your comments. I’m sure you’ll both find the reports/systems maps useful, whether you’re studying or practising. I particularly like the fact that they’re inter-disciplinary; they seem to have covered every base.

    I wonder if the reference to ‘cost effectiveness’ is something to do with the UK’s plans to introduce a widespread programme of CBT to combat mental illness – I believe Lord Layard (who is one of the report’s contributors) was spearheading this a year or so ago. At the time it was piloted there was talk of it being very cost-effective versus the cost of Incapacity Benefit, even though it would mean having to train thousands more therapists. I don’t know how the pilot ended, and whether the programme is being rolled out in full now. Perhaps one of our UK readers might know more.

    Bridget

  • Bridget, best wishes for your final 6 weeks! Yes, a number of the Penn MAPP candidates had similar questions to yours back in the spring of 2007. It took me a long time to understand that although new methods and approaches are nice, they weren’t the primary benefit.

    One big surprise for a number of us: a major benefit was simply the personal MAPP experience and connections with like-spirited people all over the world. And while it was a lot of time and money to spend for simply personal benefit, some of us also evolved into unexpected new career paths. At a more immediate, pragmatic level, a number of us found that we can bring positive psychology into our traditional work to make the work much more rewarding for ourselves and our clients. All of the above have been my experience in the year + since graduating from MAPP. I look forward to hearing about the exciting new paths you take in the coming years!

    Congratulations,
    Christine
    http://www.positiveleaders.com

    PS — if you want more on use in consulting/executive coaching, there is a brief description at http://www.impactpartners.biz of how I use positive psychology in my traditional change leadership work. The unexpected new work is described at positiveleaders.com

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