Home All Positive Psychology Road Trip: Summer 2014

Positive Psychology Road Trip: Summer 2014

written by Lisa Buksbaum 1 August 2014

Lisa Buksbaum, MAPP '13 is CEO & Founder of Soaringwords. She has shared positive interventions with more than 250,000 patients and families and 120,000 employee volunteers. Three experiences with death and illness in her family motivated her to launch Soaringwords, a non-profit organization devoted to inspiring ill children and their families to "Never give up!" Lisa's articles for PositivePsychologyNews.com are here.

Less than a year after my capstone thesis from MAPP was accepted, I was thrilled to speak at two back-to-back Positive Psychology conferences this summer. I came away from the two experiences a bit jet-lagged, with my brain filled with new findings, pages of new research and resources to integrate into my work, and dozens of new friends and connections. In each plenary, workshop, or break, I found myself surrounded by enthusiastic positive psychology practitioners who are doing ground-breaking work. Being at these conferences was a positive intervention! I am so grateful to be part of a community that is at the forefront of bringing positive health and wellness to people worldwide.

First Stop Amsterdam

The energy of the European Conference on Positive Psychology (ECPP) reflected the vibrancy of the host city of Amsterdam with its incredible architecture, lively street life, and terrific food.

The conference was located in the stunning Beurs van Berlage building in the center of town, complete with 100 foot clock tower, red brick and iron and glass work from 1903. The conference was 920 positive psychology practitioners strong, with almost as many attendees as the 1,000 canals that grace the city.

Barbara Fredrickson with Lisa

Barbara Fredrickson with Lisa

Barbara Fredrickson’s opening keynote set the bar high. With her signature understated grace and brilliance, she shared new findings on love and health based on her research on behavioral synchrony and her latest book, Love 2.0. A “daily diet” of positive emotions broadens and builds more positivity and health, creating life-giving nutrients of positive resonance.

John Helliwell shared a captivating summary of the World Happiness Report as more countries are measuring happiness and using indices of flourishing alongside traditional financial metrics such as Gross National Product (GNP).

Attending Tayyab Rashid’s pre-conference workshop titled Positive Psychotherapy: Integrating Symptoms and Strengths to Treat Psychological Distress, the four hours flew by as we engaged in many dyadic exercises under Tayyab’s expert facilitation.

Vanessa King with Lisa

   Vanessa King with Lisa

James and Susie Pawelski’s standing-room-only workshop, Positive Psychology for Couples, was packed with tremendous take-home value as they explored the power of psychological passion, the gratitude dance, and using signature strengths in action by taking strengths dates.

Vanessa King shared the work she’s championing in the UK with Happiness Works, an organization that is motivating thousands of people to experience positive interventions.

Mortena Kossalowska’s session on The Role of Illness Perceptions in Benefit Finding among Chronically Ill People was fascinating.

I presented the findings of my capstone, Soaringwords Empirical Research to Measure the Well-being of Hospitalized Children, in a stately room that was more than 120 years old. I told the audience that it was a great honor to present to them as well as to a portrait of the King of the Netherlands that benevolently watched over the workshop.

James Pawelski in green cape

James Pawelski in green cape

James Pawelski emceed A Positive Utopia? This was an immersive evening showcasing the eudiamonic benefits of the humanities. It featured a riveting musical performance by pianist Sander Sittig and world-renowned violinist Carla Leurs, Concert Master of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra.

Then Ryan Niemec, Educational Director, VIA Institute on Character, shared insights from his book, Positive Psychology at the Movies showing how films contain powerful metaphors of character strengths in action and inspire us to embrace our signature strengths.

Jane Turner, Head of the Print Room at the Rijks Museum gave a lively behind-the-scenes look at the successful Alain de Bottom and John Armstrong exhibit: Art is Therapy. My husband and I enjoyed five action-packed days of sight-seeing prior to the conference. As we bicycled and walked through the city, we visit more than 12 museums. We had spent several hours in the newly renovated Rijks Museum where more than 2 million people had visited since it reopened in 2013. The Art as Therapy exhibit provokes people to rethink the purpose of art and museums, putting the emphasis on what the art can do for you, rather than what art critics or curators tell us to think about the works of art.

On the eve of the last day of the conference, hundreds of attendees took the ferry to a wonderful restaurant for the conference’s closing social event. Our table had people from Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Poland and the USA. Everywhere you turned there were people from around the world enjoying drinks, grilled fish, and fresh salads while dancing and talking under the stars.

Next Stop Ottawa

Louisa Jewell with Shannon Polly & Kathryn Britton

Louisa Jewell
with Shannon Polly & Kathryn Britton

Ten days after returning from Amsterdam, I packed my suitcase and flew to Ottawa. 400 attendees benefited from the Second Canadian Conference On Positive Psychology, a tour de force provided by Canadian Positive Psychology Association under the leadership of MAPP graduate Louisa Jewell, association president.

The conference took place at the stunning Chateau Laurier overlooking the Houses of Parliament and canals. Another impressive achievement is that the CPPA organizers had a French language track within the conference.

Here is a tasting menu of some highlights.

Lisa Sansom gave a compelling workshop, Experiential Corporate Training on Positive Psychology.

Shannon Polly gave a knock-out standing-room only talk, Positive Presenting: Techniques from Theater and Psychology to Increase Your Presence and Somatic Well-being.

Emilya Zhivotovskaya

Emilya Zhivotovskaya

Sherri Fisher filled the ballroom with her talk on Spotting and Managing Strengths for Gritty Self-Regulation, Resilience and Achievement.

Emiliya Zhivotovskaya shared a high energy workshop, Experiential Interactive Exercises and Materials to Activate Somatic Learning.

Dan Tomasulo’s workshop was the emotional highlight of the conference for me: Wrong to Strong: Using Positive Psychology for People With Chronic Mental Illness and Intellectual Disabilities. Dan showed a powerful animated video using the actual sound track from a session where he taught his clients how to use group therapy to “turn the anxiety of transformation into the transformation of anxiety.”

Marsha Snyder presented findings from her new book Positive Health which will be published in 2014.

Scott Asalone shared success secrets in his workshop, The Mental Edge: The Difference Between the Best and the Rest.

Several speakers with Canadian Parliament in the background

What a setting! Conference speakers with
Canadian Parliament in the background

Andrew Soren shared Banking on Empowerment: The Why, What and How of a Strategy for High Performance.

Dan Bowling presented The Correlation of Character Strengths and Grades in Law Students.

Kathryn Britton talked about using PERMA-A (the extra A is for Autonomy) to think about ways to enhance the well-being of the oldest old. She wasn’t initially in the program, but agree to speak to fill out a symposium.

Pamela Teagarden presented Business Models Often Overlook the Modus Operandi of the Individuals: How Positive Business Can Really Work.

I presented my research findings as part of a panel on Pediatric Healthcare.

Kate Hefferon with Lisa and Sherri Fisher

Kate Hefferon with Lisa and Sherri Fisher

There were actually more than 90 presenters beyond the MAPP community and conference highlights included Sonya Lyubomirsky’s opening keynote Happiness: Science, Practice and Myths. Sonja shared key findings from her latest book The Myths of Happiness in a talk that was riveting, understated, and fun.

Kate Hefferon gave a powerful talk on The Body 2.0: Bringing Bodies Back to Positive Psychology. Her talk included slides that said Stretch! that showed up about every 15 minutes, reminding the audience to get up and stretch.

Robert Vallerand closed out the Conference with a thoughtful talk on The Role of Motivational Processes in People’s Lives.

Now Where?

In case you missed these two conferences, you can start making plans to get a booster shot of the latest findings and trends in the field because the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA) Conference will be held in Orlando, June 25-28, 2015. Save the date and join two thousand of the leaders in the field and make newly found friends and colleagues as we learn and share together.

Editor’s note: In case the titles of talks make you curious, many of the speaker presentation slides from the Canadian Positive Psychology Association conference are available online.


Buksbaum, L. (2013). Soaringwords Empirical Research to Measure the Well-being of Hospitalized Children. Capstone report for the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology Program, University of Pennsylvania.

de Botton, A. & Armstrong, J. (2013). Art as Therapy. Phaidon Press.

Fredrickson, B. L. (2013). Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become. Hudson Street Press.

Grenville-Cleave, B. (2014). Other People Do Matter: ECPP 2014. Positive Psychology News.

Hefferon, K. (2013). Positive Psychology and the Body: The Somato-Psychic Side to Flourishing. Open University Press.

Niemiec, R. M., & Wedding, D. (2013). Positive Psychology at the Movies: Using Films to Build Character Strengths and Well-Being Gottingen, Germany: Hogrefe.

Pawelski, J. (2014). The Eudaimonic Turn: Well-Being in Literary Studies. Fairleigh Dickinson.

For books by MAPP graduates that spoke at the conference, consult the MAPP Alumni book directory.

Photo Credit: via Compfight with Creative Commons licenses
Amsterdam courtesy of Bert Kaufmann
Rijksmuseum courtesy of Karen Horton
The photo of Louisa Jewell and friends is used with permission from Shannon Polly.
The other photos are used with permission from Lisa Buksbaum.

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Judy Krings 1 August 2014 - 2:37 pm

Wow! What encompassing synopses. I felt like I was there, and I so wish I had been. Lisa, you had me at hello! Many thanks for such a thoroughly enlightening and fun trip to Amsterdam with the movers and shakers of positive psychology. Talk about a vibrant, zestful group. Your photos were terrific, too Many thanks!

Louisa Jewell 1 August 2014 - 2:41 pm

Lisa this is so wonderful! We were so pleased you were there to share those three days of magic! I am so grateful to you. Your note just before the conference was very uplifting and a reminder of the amazing support we received from the MAPP community. Your article also highlights the incredible knowledge we have in the MAPP community. Thank you so much.

angus Skinner 10 August 2014 - 9:28 am

Thanks Lisa. I was only there for a day but it was inspiring. So is this.


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