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

Treating Yourself with Kindness: On Self-Compassion

For several decades, developing self-esteem in children and adults has been the holy grail of fostering healthy attitudes towards the self. Yet, starting in the early 1990s, criticism arose, pointing towards the absence of positive consequences of having high self-esteem, and highlighting several negative consequences, such as dismissing negative feedback or taking less responsibility for harmful actions. In an influential review article from 2003 titled Does High Self-Esteem Cause Better Performance, Interpersonal Success, Happiness, or Healthier Lifestyles?, Roy Baumeister and colleagues conclude:

We have not found evidence that boosting self-esteem (by therapeutic interventions or school programs) causes benefits. Our findings do not support continued widespread efforts to boost self-esteem in the hope that it will by itself foster improved outcomes.

In the same year, Kristin Neff from the University of Texas at Austin introduced a different kind of healthy attitude towards the self – which may be especially helpful in times of suffering, or when facing adversity: Self-compassion, rooted in the ancient Buddhist traditions of mindfulness and compassion, and Western adaptations such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). In the words of Neff:

[…] When faced with experiences of suffering or personal failure, self-compassion entails three basic components: (a) self-kindness — extending kindness and understanding to oneself rather than harsh judgment and self-criticism, (b) common humanity — seeing one’s experiences as part of the larger human experience rather than seeing them as separating and isolating, and (c) mindfulness — holding one’s painful thoughts and feelings in balanced awareness rather than over-identifying with them.

self_compassion_framework_neu

Furthermore:

[…] Self-compassion may entail many of the psychological benefits that have been associated with self-esteem, but with fewer of its pitfalls. Self-compassion represents a positive emotional stance towards oneself, in that one extends feelings of kindness and caring toward oneself. It helps to motivate productive behavior and protect against the debilitating effects of self-judgment such as depression and anxiety. Self-compassion, however, is not based on the performance evaluations of self and others, or on congruence with ideal standards. In fact, self-compassion takes the entire self-evaluation process out of the picture […].

In the meantime, self-compassion has shown to be a valuable tool for personal development and fighting symptoms such as anxiety and depression. Long-form and short-form scales for measuring self-compassion have been developed, an effective training program has been devised, and a recent meta-analysis finds that fostering self-compassion effectively helps to alleviate several psychopathologies (please see links to research papers below. You can find out more about self-compassion (e.g., free exercises and training opportunities) via Kristin Neff´s homepage.

Some of the core papers on self-compassion (linking to PDFs):

Positive Psychology News Digest | No. 01/2017

mappalicious_news_digest_2017My favorite news and blog articles covering Positive Psychology and adjacent topics from (roughly) the last seven days.

New York Times: The Year of Conquering Negative Thinking by Lesley Alderman


New York Magazine: Living With Purpose Yields a Longer Life and Higher Income by Drake Baer


Guardian: From Groundhog Day to … Raging Bull? – films to inspire and uplift by Peter Bradshaw


New York Magazine: Small Things to Remember to Change Your Life for the Better by Melissa Dahl


Fast Company: How To Use Brain Science To Be Your Best Self In 2017 by Lydia Dishman


Greater Good Science Center: What Does a Compassionate Workplace Look Like? by Nir Eyal & Monica Worline


Harvard Business Review: To Recover from Failure, Try Some Self-Compassion by Christopher Germer


Psychology of Wellbeing: The Law of Diminishing Returns, Applied by Jeremy McCarthy


Fast Company: 10 Science-Backed Ways To Be More Positive In 2017 by Gwen Moran


Inc: 5 things science learned about happiness last year by Jessica Stillman


Greater Good Science Center: How to Reduce Rudeness in the Workplace by Jill Suttie


Wharton Knowledge: Why Mental Bandwidth Could Explain the Psychology Behind Poverty, no author

Fabulous Infographic: Why People become Unhappy

This is yet another fantastic piece covering Positive Psychology by information designer Anna Vital (the other ones I published on Mappalicious can be found here and here). Share and enjoy!

Unhappy_Vital

Why it´s good to have Tea with your dead Aunt once in a while

In my late twenties and early thirties, I was really into Zen Buddhism. I took zazen meditation lessons (stopped it, I think it´s just not for me…), practiced martial arts, and read almost anything related I could get my hands on. I remember a story that was about conquering our fears, where a monk would lay his head inside a dragon´s open jaw – in order to rid himself of the fear of…well…dragons.

I deeply sympathize with this approach of “accepting what´s there” – it´s one of those crucial points where the more helpful spiritual and therapeutic traditions of East and West regularly meet and become friends (e.g., see Kristin Neff´s outline on self-compassion to get an idea for a more Western take on the concept).

I’ve got 99 problems and 93 of them are completely made up scenarios in my head that I’m stressing about for absolutely no reason. (multiple attributions)

John_CageWhile writing this, I remember another sage basically taught me the same lesson almost a decade before my deep-dive into Buddhism. One of my all-time favorites on TV is Ally McBeal. Every other year or so, I start another binge-watching weekend. I still love the affectionately exaggerated characters, the idea of visually externalizing the protagonists´ feelings, and the fabulous blending of music with plot and personal development. Here´s the dialogue that came to my mind:

John: I used to have a hallucination where my dead aunt kept wanting to have tea with me. It went for two years before I finally stopped her.
Ally: How did you stop her?
John: I had tea with her.

Here´s to our dead aunts!