Forgive 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!
So 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
Don’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…
Foresight Mental Capital and Wellbeing Project (2008), Final Project Report. The Government Office for Science, London.
1) Everything is changing courtesy of amanky
2) kodame (home)
3) Everything men know courtesy of dailyinvention