Positive Psychology News Digest | No. 15/2017

My favorite news and blog articles covering Positive Psychology and adjacent Topics from (roughly) the last seven days.

Thrive Global: The Father Of Mindfulness on What Mindfulness Has Become by Drake Baer

CNN: Want to be happy and successful? Try Compassion by Jen Christensen

ScienceAlert: There’s now a brain scan to tell if you’re depressed – and what treatment is needed by Cynthia Fu

Fast Company: The Power of Pride at Facebook by Lori Goler, Janelle Gale, Brynn Harrington & Adam Grant

Psychology Today: How I Learned About the Perils of Grit by Todd Kashdan

Atlantic: Can a Difficult Childhood Enhance Cognition? by Olga Khazan

New York Times: Rude Doctors, Rude Nurses, Rude Patients by Perri Klass

New York Magazine: The Original Natural Remedy for Burnout: Nature by Brad Stulberg

Time: The Lifelong Problem With Loneliness by Elizabeth Tillinghast

Huffington Post: How to Avoid Being a Fake Positive Leader by Chris White

Please like my new Facebook Page

Dear Mappalicious Visitor!

In the past, I ran a Mappalicious Facebook page where I basically re-posted all the articles that I’ve published on this blog.

Recently, I’ve decided to abandon this site. The reason is that I also publish regularly on other outlets, sometimes on topics that are not directly related to Positive Psychology.

In order to have “everything in one place” in the future, I’ve created a new Facebook page that is directly associated with my name: Dr. Nico Rose on Facebook Therefore, if would like to be notified about new Positive Psychology content via Facebook regularly, I kindly ask you to “like” this new page.

You can find it here.

Thank you!

Dr. Nico Rose

Your Strengths, as seen by Others: The Reflected Best Self™ Exercise

If you’re a bit like me, you do have a hard time talking about your strengths. As a German, I tend to be not that good at this – it basically is not really something that you do in our culture. I could tell you a long story about each and everyone of my flaws, but you probably don’t want to hear that.

Maybe you don’t even know what your strength are. So how are you going to find out? Obviously, there’s lots of tests and questionnaires out there. By way of example, you could take the Gallup StrengthFinder, or the VIA Questionnaire which will display your personal order of 24 character strengths according to a framework by Positive Psychology researchers Christopher Peterson and Marty Seligman.

But then, you might feel uncomfortable with regard to being assessed by an algorithm. Those tests are very reliable but on the other hand, they will only show you results depending on a fixed framework. What others really think of you or perceive as being your strengths could be a lot more nuanced than what those tests will be able to show you.

Granted, it might feel a little awkward asking other people to name your strength. The good thing is: there is a structured framework to achieve just that: the Best Reflected Self™ exercise. It was developed at University of Michigan´s Center for Positive Organizations and you can purchase the official exercise book there in case you want to use the that tool with your students or clients.

But basically, it involves just a couple of easy steps:

1) You ask a group of people that know you (friends, relatives, coworkers, clients etc.) to provide you with feedback. They should tell you what your strengths are from their point of view and ideally provide examples to back up their opinion. Instead of asking people in person, yesterday, I reached out to my network on Facebook to do just that:


2) You gather all the responses and try to identify common themes. Here, I tried to detect all the words that alluded to a strength, turned them into nouns, and then harmonized those terms that represent very similar concepts. Finally, I took the result and inserted it into http://www.wordle.net. Here´s what came out of it (it´s German, but I guess you´ll understand most of it anyway):

Best Reflected Self - Nico Rose

3) Now, write up a paragraph, summarizing your findings, describing what you are really, really good at: this is your personal strengths profile.

4) Finally, you should reflect on your current life roles with regard to this profile. E.g., does your current job give you frequent opportunities to play on your strengths? And if the answer is “no”: what could you do to adapt your role so it better reflects your best self (–> Job Crafting)?

I have to admit it was really touching to get all this positive feedback. Typically, when you work in an organization, you tend to get feedback (if things go well…) based on what you do well, but mostly on your potential (a.k.a.: where you need to improve).

Explicitly asking people to look on your bright side exclusively yields a special kind of learning experience – it´s like a mirror that somehow manages to make you look really, really good. I definitely know that it´s an idealized picture that I don’t live up to each and every day – but I know that I have it in me. And I can rely on it when life requires me to shine…

The 10 most Valuable Positive Psychology Resources on Mappalicious

Ever since the beginning of Mappalicious about 20 months ago, I´ve not only shared my own take on Positive Psychology with you – I´ve also tried to compile valuable resources that help to spread research (and knowledge in general) on all things Positive Psychology. Based on feedback, such as shares via social media, these 10 resources have been the most useful pieces of information so far:

Please share this if you like…

Positive Psychology Resources on Mappalicious

10 great Ways to stay up-to-date on Positive Psychology (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc.)

Keep calm and study Positive PsychologyLuckily, the field of Positive Psychology is growing fast. Yet sometimes, it can be hard to stay up-to-date with all the latest studies coming out, books being published, articles and blog posts being written – and all the other exciting PP stuff that happens around the globe 24/7.

Below, you’ll find 10 social networking and news groups that you might want to join to be part of the ongoing conversation on all things Positive Psychology.

Please note that some of the groups might have a restricted access and/or posting policy. Anyway, I would like to encourage you to read the corresponding FAQs and “house rules” (e.g., on advertizing) before actively participating. See you there…





XING (the German LinkedIn, sort of…)

American Psychological Association (APA)

Social Media and Wellbeing – or: Can your iPhone tell if you´re depressed?

For a moment, please imagine that you have had an episode of depression at an earlier point in your life. Obviously, you would not want anything of that to return anytime soon. Unfortunately, that´s just not an easy thing to do. Relapse rates for depression are rather high – thus, there is a considerable probability of experiencing at least one other episode once who been there for the first time.

Now imagine there´s someone that could give you an early warning. Someone that would be able to detect and interpret all those little behavioral signals that typically occur when a person slips in into depression. This someone would also automatically notify your doctor so she can catch up with you. Sounds like a dream of the future? Well, maybe not. What if your smartphone could understand what you are saying all day long – and then infer from your words that you are currently talking like somebody who is depressed?

Enter several researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, of whom one is Johannes Eichstaedt (who was in the MAPP program three years ago). They analyzed 700 million words and phrases collected from Facebook messages of 75,000 volunteers, who also took standard personality tests. What they´ve found is pretty amazing: the usage of certain (groups of) words on Facebook can be highly predictive of certain aspects of our personality, but also other variables like gender or age. So while there are a lot words that basically everybody uses to the same extent, there are specific words or sentences that on average tend to occur more often when, e.g., you´re a woman (as opposed to a man), or 35 years old (as opposed to 15), or extroverted (as opposed to introverted), or displaying high levels of Neuroticism (as opposed to Emotional Stability).


Have a look at the image (click to enlarge), especially at the grey, blue, and red wordles at the center of the word clouds (those that are surrounded by the greenish ones). They can tell us something on the language(s) of a) extroversion, b) introversion, c) neuroticism, and d) emotional stability. The size of each word will tell you something on the predictive power pertaining to the variable in question.* By way of example, the use of the word ‘internet’ is a better predictor of being introverted than the use of ‘comic’. Additionally, the color will tell you how often that word is used (relatively; grey = not that often; blue: often; red = very often).

Now isn´t that cool?  But…you might ask: So what?

The ‘So what?’ leads us back to beginning of this post: if there is a typical ‘language of neuroticism’, there might also be a typical ‘language of depression’ – since displaying, e.g., a high level of neuroticism is correlated with the prevalence of depression. Or there might be a typical ‘language of mania’, or a ‘language of schizophrenia’ etc.

Now suppose there were an app on your smartphone that – at certain intervals over the day – switched on and took sound files of whatever you´re doing at a specific moment. It would surely pick up a lot of your conversations. By way of speech recognition (and prior, being fed with the algorithms that the abovementioned research is based on), your smartphone could detect if, over the course of time, your use of language changes from a ‘language of (relative) mental health’ to a ‘language of relative mental illness (perhaps, the app could also analyze whatever you´ve written on Facebook, Twitter and e-mails on a specific day). And if that were the case, the app would report this change back to you (or your doctor) as a means of early recognition. Wouldn’t that be really, really beneficial to a lot of people?

Now to date, this is a dream of future. But all the ingredients are there!

If you would like to learn more on this research, please click here for the original research paper. Also, there is a lot of cool stuff coming up in the near future – so you might want to check out the website of the World Well-Being Project.


*Please note that this is correlational research – so it is not appropriate to make any causal inferences. For instance, frequently using the word ‘party’ will not make you more extroverted. Rather, it can be likened to a ‘side effect’ of already being extroverted.