Positive Psychology News Digest | No. 14/2017

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

mappalicious_news_digest_2017

Penn News: Penn Researcher Awarded $2.5 Million to Study Well-being Effects of the Arts and Humanities by Michele Berger & Katherine Unger Baillie


New York Times: Turning Negative Thinkers Into Positive Ones by Jane Brody


Quartz: Knowing when to quit is as important as having grit by Susan David


Atlantic: How Loneliness Begets Loneliness by Olga Khazan


Fast Company: Want To Be Happier And More Successful? Learn To Like Other People by David Mayer


Psychology Today: Having a Religion Doesn’t Help You, But Practicing One Does by Ryan Niemiec


Psychology Today: Presidents and the Pursuit of Happiness by Benjamin Radcliff


New York Times: Check This Box if You’re a Good Person by Rebecca Sabky


Harvard Business Review: Meaningful Work Should Not Be a Privilege of the Elite by Richard Straub & Julia Kirby


Harvard Business Review: 6 Ways to Look More Confident During a Presentation by Kasia Wezowski

Positive Psychology News Digest on Mappalicious | No. 50/2016

My favorite pieces covering Positive Psychology and adjacent from (roughly) the last seven days.

New York Magazine: Why Danes Think They’re Always The Happiest Country by Drake Baer


The Week: 4 ways to bring more meaning into your life by Eric Barker


Guardian: Are you too old to find success? by Oliver Burkeman


Atlantic: Praise is a consolation prize (about Carol Dweck’s work in growth mindset) by Christine Gross-Loh


Atlantic: Awesomeness Is Everything by Matthew Hutson


Guardian: Happiness depends on health and friends, not money, says new study by Phillip Inman


Washington Post: Leaders are more powerful when they’re humble, new research shows by Ashley Merryman


Psychology Today: Want Your Work to Flourish? Link Strengths and Goals by Ryan Niemiec


New York Magazine: To Be More Productive, First Figure Out Your Productivity Style by Cari Romm


Science Daily: People’s energy in the workplace is key to staff retention, no author

Positive Psychology News Digest

10 must-read Blogs on Positive Psychology and adjacent

IMG_2317Truth be told: it was pretty hard to limit my selection of Positive Psychology blogs to only ten because there´s so much good stuff out there. But if I look to those that I read most frequently, it probably the following list. Share and enjoy!

Positive Prescription by Samantha Boardman is a blog that shares helpful practical advice for different aspects of life based on Positive Psychology; oftentimes also very funny.

Dan Bowling, a former SVP of HR at Coke, writes a witty and Positive Psychology-infused blog about Talent Management.

Todd Kashdan is a professor at George Mason University and co-author of “The Upside of Your Darkside” (among other books). He regularly writes about Positive Psychology via Psychology Today.

High Existence created by Jordan Lejuwaan is a multi-author blog on personal development and life hacks – some of the authors seem to be influenced by Positive Psychology. I frequently read their articles which are crafted exceptionally well (if you ask me…).

Mark Manson blogs about a wide array of personal development topics. He’s seems not to be directly influenced by Positive Psychology – but I love his no-bulls..t attitude towards this oftentimes rather shallow topic.

Ryan Niemiec, Education Director of the VIA Institute on Character, regularly blogs via Psychology Today, mostly on the science and application of character strengths.

Seph Fontane Pennock runs the site PositivePsychologyProgram.com, a great resource when you are looking for courses and study programs on that topic. But the site also contains a blog where he writes articles, interviews researchers, or hosts pieces written by a variety of guest authors.

Robert Quinn, co-founder of the Center for Positive Organizations at the Ross School (University of Michigan) writes about Positive Organizational Scholarship via The Positive Organization.

Emma Seppälä is Science Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford University. She blogs via Psychology Today, oftentimes on mindfulness, meditation, and compassion.

Brett Steenbarger writes on Success via Forbes, especially in the field of stock trading – yet he often peppers his entertaining pieces with research on Positive Psychology.

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Honorable mention: Fulfillment Daily, a multi-author site run by Emma Seppälä. I write for them occasionally, so it would have been cheesy to put it in the actual list.

Positive Psychology at the Movies: Character Strengths in “Love Actually”

Positive Psychology at the MoviesOne of the central concepts in Positive Psychology is the framework of 24 character strengths that have been outlined by Chris Peterson and Martin Seligman in their 2004 tome. It was the foundation for the VIA Institute on Character – where you can take a test (for free) to find out what your top strengths are.

Ryan Niemiec, VIA´s Education Director, has published the book Positive Psychology at the Movies. It examines nearly 1,500 movies with regard to their display of the 24 character strengths throughout their plots. Frankly, so far I did not have the time to watch all of those movies – but considering general life expectancy, I will be able to so until I´m grey and old (don´t know where Ryan finds the time, considering how many books he publishes).

Anyway, I had an idea: instead of trying to find all of the character strengths throughout a ton of movies – would it be possible to find them all in just one? Therefore, I picked one of my all-time favorites, romantic (Christmas) comedy Love Actually, watched it for the hundredth time (or so…) – but for once, looked through the eyes of the VIA taxonomy. And tadaaa: I was able to spot all of them, even though I have to admit that two or three of the attributions may seem somewhat debatable.

Here´s what I´ve found:

  • Mark displays creativity when having arranged the special version of the Beatles´ “All you need is love” for Juliet and Peter´s wedding.
  • Karen displays perspective and humor when cheering up Daniel as he mourns for departed wife.
  • Mark displays creativity when having arranged the special version of the Beatles´ “All you need is love” for Juliet and Peter´s wedding.
  • Harry the Boss displays social intelligence and leadership when confronting his employee Sarah about her being in love with co-worker Carl.
  • Little Sam displays honesty and bravery when telling his step father Daniel about being in love with Joanna.
  • Little Sam displays spirituality when he tells his father about how he believes in love and that there’s one true love out there for each and every one of us.
  • Prime Minister David displays humor when he tries to cheer up Natalie after she told him how bad she has been treated by her ex-boyfriend.
  • The Prime Minister displays prudence and judgment when, at first, he does not want to confront the U.S. delegation during the meeting with U.K. ministers.
  • The Prime Minister displays leadership, humor, and bravery when confronting the POTUS at the press conference.
  • Jamie displays love of learning and perseverance when trying to learn Portuguese in order to be able to talk to Aurelia.Love Actually - Billy Mack
  • Colin displays zest, curiosity, hope, and bravery when deciding to leave the UK for Wisconsin.
  • Mark displays kindness, great honesty, love, and bravery when meeting Juliet at her house on Christmas Eve to confess his love, but also his approval of her living with Peter. (By the way, this is probably my all-time favorite movie scene).
  • Karen displays self-regulation and judgment when pulling herself together on Christmas Day after having found out Harry has cheated on her – in order not to spoil Christmas for their kids.
  • Sarah displays fairness and (the capacity to) love (and be loved) when spending Christmas together with her mentally ill brother.
  • John displays gratitude after having been kissed by “Just Judy” for the first time.
  • The school orchestra/choir displays teamwork when performing at the Christmas concert.
  • The whole audience displays appreciation of beauty and excellence when witnessing young Joanna sing “All I want for Christmas” at the school’s Christmas celebration.
  • Little Sam displays perseverance, and bravery when running to say good-bye to his love Joanna at the airport.
  • Jamie displays hope, bravery, and love when he leaves his family’s Christmas party to spontaneously board a plane to ask Portuguese housemaid Aurelia to marry him.
  • Billy Mack displays humility and gratitude when deciding to return to Joe, his ugly manager, instead of spending Christmas Eve at Elton John´s party.
  • Karen displays forgiveness when she consolingly welcomes her husband Harry at the airport after he has betrayed her.

What´s your favorite movie – and are you maybe going to see it with different eyes in the future?

My Mind´s MAP(P): The 4-minute Ivy League Diploma in Positive Psychology

MAPP 9 Superhero MedalFor one of our MAPP final papers, we were asked to come up with a list of bits and pieces of insight, those “eureka moments of comprehension” we´ve had over the two semesters at Penn. I´d like to share those with you as a kind of “MAPP in a nutshell”. As I like to tie knowledge to those teachers that are “responsible” for my comprehension, I will present them to you in that way. Therefore, I´ve created a list of (to my knowledge) all the persons that have taught in MAPP 9 at one point or the other, and will name those that have provided me with an especially memorable insight. Those perceptions do encompass theoretical insights from positive psychology, its real-world application (or its contribution to real-world application of other psychological concepts), or style of (teaching) delivery…

Roy Baumeister: Bad is stronger than good (precisely: bad events and emotions create a stronger and longer-lasting impact on our brains). Therefore, we need to purposefully create more positive events and emotions in our lives to counterbalance this one-sidedness (with a tip to the hat to John Gottman…).

Dan Bowling: Everything that can be done can also be done with style. It makes the world a brighter place.

Art Carey: Has shown me how important the process of writing is for my own life – and that part of my future career should consist of getting paid for being a “wielder of words”.

David Cooperrider: Words create worlds. Accordingly, positive words will create (mostly) positive worlds – whereas negative words will create (mostly) negative worlds. So use your words wisely, especially your questions – as they tend to create the worlds within other people´s minds.

Angela Duckworth/Peggy Kern: Woohoo! Learning (and teaching…) statistics can be fun. Go figure…

Jane Dutton: High-Quality Connections (HQC) are the high-octane fuel of every organization. Suspend your judgment and try to walk a mile in your fellow men´s shoes before coming to any conclusion. Build trust via giving open, positive feedback – if possible, on a daily basis.

Chris Feudtner: Keeping an open heart while working in dark places (e.g. palliative care units for children) can grant you an enormous “aura” and tangible “clarity of the mind”. When there´s nothing left, there can still be hope. What do we hope for – when there´s no other option left but hope?

Barbara Fredrickson: Positive emotions are not a trifle. They are essential building blocks for our well-being and should be fostered actively.

Adam Grant: It is more blessed smarter to give than to receive. Being altruistic does not turn you into a doormat. It can lead to success, even in competitive corporate environments.

Jonathan Haidt: 1) There are no good reasons (at least not good enough) to be pessimistic about the fate of mankind. Judged by most empirical indicators, it´s not foolish to say that we are on an “upwards trajectory”: things are bound to get better. On that note, I would also like to thank my classmate David Nevill for giving me the sentence “We never have enough data to be pessimistic.” It continues to inspire me, even on a sort of metaphysical level. 2) Look to the extreme ends of the (positive) emotional continuum, e.g., to emotions such as awe and elevation. They may be powerful change catalysts.

Emilia Lahti: You have tons of soul mates somewhere out there. They may live at the other end of the world. But eventually, some of them will find you (especially if you start a blog, that is…)

Ellen Langer: Everything that can be done is worth being done mindful. It leads to better results and more satisfaction. Plus: Don´t fear getting old.

Daniel Lerner: Everything that can be done can also be done with “an eye for excellence”. It pushes the boundaries of human achievement.

Chris Major: A man with a true purpose is (almost) unstoppable.

Ryan Niemiec: 1) Strengths matter more than frailties. They are the key to our “true self” and the building blocks on our road to (work and life) satisfaction. 2) A movie is never “just a movie”. It´s a lesson on character strengths.

Off the Beat: Singing is life!

Ken Pargament: Even atheists value the “sacred moments” in their lives. Find them, cultivate them, and cherish them. They are valuable.

James Pawelski: 1) Trust the process. 2) It´s always valuable not to be the smartest person in the room. 3) Know which giants´ shoulders you are standing on. 4) There is nothing more practical than a good theory (and a proper definition). 5) Know the limits of your knowledge. 6) Positive psychology is grounded in meliorism (the belief that people/things can improve/be better than they are today). 7) You can be a proper scientist and nevertheless enjoy Tony Robbins.

Isaac Prilleltensky: Fairness on the community and societal level influences our individual well-being. Countries with developed democracies, a high degree of personal freedom, generous social security systems and relatively small gaps between top earners and “normal” workers are the happiest (on average)

John Ratey/Tom Rath: Move your ASS! Your brain will appreciate it.

Ann Roepke: Our life is a narrative and as such, we do have tremendous power over it by actively re-writing or pre-writing the storylines.

Esa Saarinen: Don´t hold back. Create systems of generosity. Err on the giving side. Embrace your inner (and outer!) “weird”.

Barry Schwartz: 1) Most times, “good” is “good enough”. 2) Purposefully limit the choices you have to make in life. E.g., choose not to choose by setting defaults and creating habits.

Martin Seligman: Think and dream big.

Daniel Tomasulo: Everything that can be done can also be done with a twinkle in the eye. Makes hard work feel “easy”.

Amy Wrzesniewski: Purpose and meaning (at work) are the result of finding work that integrates your strengths, passions, and values. The calling comes from within. Other people matter (at work, too).

I am deeply thankful to all of you!

 

P.S. Thanks to my classmate Linda Rufer for designing those MAPP 9 superhero medals. The backside says I was voted “most mappalicious” person in our cohort. Whatever that means at the end of the day… 🙂

Positive Psychology and MAPP at Penn: Doing that Namedropping Thing

Actually, I should be busy writing on my MAPP final papers right now. But then, taking short breaks is supposed to help your mind stay fresh, right?

By now, a lot of people that have read my blog also contacted me to ask about my MAPP experience. Obviously, it´s not that easy to tell a story of 10 months in a few sentences. Hey, that´s why I started this blog in the first place…* There´s also been some questions about the tuition – and to be honest, it´s not exactly a bargain. I could have not taken part without some generous support from my employer (or rather: my boss). But hey – Penn belongs to the Ivy League and that comes with a price tag.

If you´d like to know why I am convinced that it was worth each and every penny (and much more…), please read my blog front to back. Otherwise, you might be convinced by the sheer (work-)force of people that you’ll  have the pleasure and honor to learn from. So here is the name-dropping list. Please note that the guest lecturers and assistant instructors will vary from year to year (C = core faculty; G = guest lecturer; A = assistant instructor that has taught part of a class at some point):

That´s value for money…

*And to become super-duper famous, of course…

Field of Dreams: Positive Psychology at the Movies

As we´ve entered the second semester of the MAPP program, the subjects have changed. To put it black & white: while the first semester was (mostly) focused on the theory of Positive Psychology, the second semester zooms in on the application in different domains (e.g. healthcare, coaching, consulting with organizations). One of the courses explicitly focuses on the value of the “humanities” (music, art, philosophy, history, etc.) for enhancing “the good life”. That´s why I´ve been writing so much about my love for heavy metal in recent posts.

Positive Psychology at the MoviesNow, a lot of people may not like to go the theater, opera, or museums that much. But there are hardly any people that do not like to go the movies. As such, I am thrilled that some researchers explicitly focus on cultivating psychological well-being, meaning in life, and similar “positive constructs” via watching the “right kind” of movies. One of those people is Ryan Niemiec who also was a guest lecturer at our January onsite period. He´s the author of Positive Psychology at the Movies – and also happens to be the director of the VIA Institute on Character.

Field of DreamsDrawing on the insights of this branch of Positive Psychology, from now on, we´re going to have a movie night once every onsite. Last night, lead by Marty Seligman, we watched Field of Dreams (1989) starring Kevin Costner. Now this film is not that well-known in my home country Germany because baseball is just not a big thing in our culture.* Even though, I tremendously enjoyed watching that film since – at the end of the day – baseball is just used an analogy for conveying ideas about callings, purpose, meaning in life, reconciliation, and finding peace of mind (and heart).

Actually, the whole plot very much reminded me of a psychotherapeutic method by the name of Family Constellations that has become a sort of “movement” in Germany, but is really not well-known anywhere else. I do not wish to expand on this here – but if you´re interested to know more about this: here you´ll find a concise scientific paper in English on the underpinnings and application of this method.

So, it´s Saturday. If you go to the movies tonight, why not put on those “positive psychology glasses” and e.g., look for the expression of character strengths in the protagonists?

* The only baseball player that I really knew about before watching the movie is Yogi Berra – who is quite famous for his brainy quotes (Yogiisms) such as: “Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t go to yours.”

P.S.

Another valuable resource is the film index at cinematherapy.com.