Graduates of the MAPP Program at Penn have just published another issue of the MAPP Magazine with articles about maintaining well-being during the pandemic, caregiving, and exploring character strengths.

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New Articles in Online Magazine on Positive Psychology Applications

By Karen Deppa

By Karen Deppa -

The latest edition of the MAPP Magazine was published this week. The mission of the MAPP Magazine is first to keep Penn MAPP alumni connected and second to share the wide range of our applications of positive psychology with a broader audience to inspire collaboration and growth in the field.  

The latest articles include:

Courtesy of Jeremy Bishop via Unsplash

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: After spending a year at the helm of MAPP Magazine, outgoing editor Carolyn Biondi (C’19) examines the mission of an alumni publication dedicated to well-being. She asks: “What responsibility do we have to one another as individuals and as communities?” Across 32 articles from 26 alumni authors addressing issues such as pandemic fatigue and racial justice, she strove to lift up the voices of MAPP alumni to promote well-being in the world. 

A ROADMAP FOR RESILIENT CAREGIVING: When Karen Warner Schueler’s (MAPP ’13) late husband, Joel, was diagnosed with stage IV cancer, her life very suddenly became organized around providing care and making lasting memories. “We hoped for completing projects, having good days, and watching as many sunsets as possible.” In this article by Kathi Norman (MAPP ’17), Karen shares how this experience led her to write her new book, The Sudden Caregiver, to help others plan for the unplannable.

Courtesy of Laura DelPrato

LOST AND FOUND: RECONNECTING WITH YOUR STRENGTHS: One of the most rewarding aspects of MAPP is learning to express and celebrate our character strengths.  Whether you know a lot or a little about character strengths, Laura DelPrato’s (MAPP ’18) recent experiences may lead to new insights. “What I learned helped me become a better person. This space to focus on learning and growth was incredibly energizing.”

To subscribe to the MAPP Magazine, click here.

This article first appeared on Positive Psychology News. To see the original article, click here. To comment on this article, click here.

Karen Deppa, MAPP '15, is an associate editor of the MAPP Magazine and principal of PilotLight Resilience Resources. She is also the lead author of the 2016 SpringerBriefs in Fire e-book, Resilience Training for Firefighters: An Approach to Prevent Behavioral Health Problems and developer of the class Respond with Resilience™ Psychological Wellness for Emergency Services First Responders. LinkedIn Profile. Karen's articles for Positive Psychology News are here.


    


Evidence in Action Conference coming soon

By Editor K.H.B.

By Editor K.H.B. -

Beginning March 18, the International Positive Psychology Association is kicking off the first Evidence in Action Conference, which celebrates the application of positive psychology across fields and disciplines. The full two-day program is now available.

Register here.

Register here for a full two day program/schedule.

There will be over 60 speakers presenting in panels or individually over the two days. Speakers include

There will be about 30 sessions covering a wide range of topics, all evidence-based applications. Topics include:

  • Positive Psychology Coaching and Executive Coaching
  • Health Promotion and Health Care
  • Bridging Gaps between Science and Practice
  • Building Well-being
  • Learning Globally and Adapting Locally
  • Making Practices Effective and Inclusive
  • Embracing Challenges
  • Even Positive Psychology in Policing

The program is CPD accredited and the majority of the event will be available on-demand for all registrants, after the event concludes.

This is just one of the three virtual conferences that IPPA will be holding this year. There is special pricing for people who sign up for all three conferences at once.

This article first appeared on Positive Psychology News. To see the original article, click here. To comment on this article, click here.


    


Finding a Balance between Optimism and Pessimism

By Darlene Marshall

By Darlene Marshall -


“While you can’t control your experiences, you can control your explanations.” ― Martin E.P. Seligman

It’s been 23 years since Seligman’s original publication of Learned Optimism, in which he describes optimism and pessimism as explanatory styles rather than dispositional traits.  In Seligman’s model, optimists can see the limited context and duration of their problems. They also do not interpret the existence of challenges as comments on them as individuals.  In contrast, pessimists see problems as having lasting effects that go beyond the scope of the original issue. They also believe their challenges are due to causes within their control.  While the optimists have greater happiness and better outcomes, Seligman pointed out that pessimists tend to be better at risk assessment.  In the middle of a pandemic, optimists may have more hope, but pessimists may exhibit more caution and compliance  (There are even masks designed for pessimists as shown here.)

False Dichotomy?

What if there is a false dichotomy between optimism and pessimism?  Could the same individual filter with the caution of the pessimist and choose the hope and positive outcomes of the optimist?

Pouring more into a half-full glass

Those familiar with Learned Optimism or trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy will recognize the ABC model: Adversity (the challenge you’re responding to), Belief (what’s underlying your reactions), and Consequence (your reaction to the event and the fallout).  Psychologists added D and E, suggesting that those looking to become more optimistic could practice Disputing their initial reactions and being aware of the changes in Energy to rewire themselves through positive reinforcement.  

The World Health Organization (WHO) is predicting a spike in the need for mental health support. As Professor Vikram Patel from the Harvard Medical School puts it, “the pandemic presents a historic opportunity to reimagine mental health care, by realizing the science which demonstrates that we must reframe mental health beyond a narrow focus on ‘diagnoses, doctors and drugs’.”  For those with a positive psychology background, Patel is preaching to our choir.

Pragmatic Optimism: Harnessing Both Pessimism and Optimism

Is there a way to gain the benefits of pessimism and the hope of optimism?  Pragmatic optimism is a model for intentional decision making when presented with a challenge or sustained stress.  First, it requires being logically honest about the facts of the situation in order to set the parameters for proper decision making.  Then it involves choosing the most hopeful course of action.  Finally, the individual or group continues to use the ABCDE model to reframe explanations until circumstances change.  

Masks are pragmatic.

In Jim Collins’ Good To Great he demonstrates this same concept under the label The Stockdale Paradox, named after Admiral James Stockdale, a prisoner of war in Vietnam who never doubted his ability to survive captivity.  Stockdale’s faith in survival echoes Viktor Frankl’s description of surviving Auschwitz.  By renewing the well of optimism while continuing to be honest about his circumstances, Frankl avoided sinking into the well of apathy that he engulf others.

As many of us continue to run the gauntlet of pandemic life, social unrest, and political uncertainty, we may feel the strain of our circumstances cause our optimism to wane.  Perhaps we can rest in the comfort that there will certainly be life on the other side of the pandemic. We can choose to be both pragmatic and optimistic about how we get there.


References

Collins, J. (2001). Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t. New York: Harper Collins.

Frankl, V. (1959). Man’s Search For Meaning. New York: Simon and Schuster.

European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infections Diseases (2020, September 26). Dealing with the global tsunami of mental health problems during and post COVID-19. quotes Professor VIkram Patel, Harvard Medical School.

Seligman, M. E. P. (2006). Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. 2nd Edition. New York: Vintage.

World Health Organization (2020, May 14). Substantial investment needed to avert mental health crisis.


Image Credits

This article first appeared on Positive Psychology News. To see the original article, click here. To comment on this article, click here.

Darlene Marshall, MAPP '20, is a personal trainer, wellness coach, speaker, writer, and workshop facilitator. She is a thought leader and expert at the intersection of well-being and fitness. She is also the host of the Better Than Fine podcast, bringing humor and real conversations to the process of building a life above zero. You can learn more about Darlene on her website and on LinkedIn.

Darlene's articles for PositivePsychologyNews.com are here.


    


Practical Self-Reliance: Baking, Mindfulness, and Permaculture

By Elaine O'Brien

By Elaine O'Brien -

What are you doing to keep up your resolve? The skill of practical self-reliance can help build your resilience, appreciation, and well-being.  I learned about practical self-reliance from Jaime Jenkins, a fellow member of a Friday morning Theano Writer’s Workshop organized by Kathryn Britton. These meetings have been a revelation for me, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. I cherish the time with these accomplished and inspiring women. Here’s what Jaime has to say about practical self-reliance:

“Self-reliance, in its most basic form, is having the skills required and confidence in your ability to meet your needs without dependence on others. It is the word dependence that is an essential differentiator between traditional self-reliance and practical self-reliance. As human beings, we thrive in community, and the majority of us do not do well in isolation. Being practically self-reliant does not mean that you are required to, nor should you do, everything on your own. It is the belief and confidence that you will be able to navigate the often complex human relationships necessary to satisfy particular needs. By doing this, we can come to work in community with others to support each other’s needs, but our fate is not controlled or determined by another.” ~Jaime Jenkins

Jaime’s practices are helping me personally, so I wanted to share her wisdom, perspective, and creativity with you. Jaime has piqued my curiosity around mindful transformations, new ways of applying positive psychology, and even celebrating awareness of our day-to-day basic actions.

Jaime Jenkins
Who is Jaime Jenkins?

Jaime Booth (Cundy) Jenkins is an artist, scientist, musician, and mother of two beautiful daughters. Along with a MAPP degree from Penn, Jaime has earned the MSc in Psychology and Neuroscience of Mental Health degree at Kings College, London. Jaime, reminds us it is possible to find the extraordinary in ordinary moments. She recently founded LoAF Farms with her husband, Matt.

“At LoAf Farms we live at the intersection of permaculture and Seligman’s PERMA culture, where sustainable agricultural design meets human well-being theory. The coming together of these principles and practices has allowed us to create the unique learning experiences found in our workshops, and bring a fresh perspective to our more bespoke offerings.”   
What is permaculture? 

Jaime describes permaculture this way:

“Bill Mollison and David Holmgren came together in the 1970’s to synthesize an agricultural design principle that was self-sufficient and self-sustaining. One that would require little work and produce little to no waste. They called it ‘permaculture’ from permanens, to persist indefinitely, and cultura, practices that support human occupation. Their goal was to create a persistent system that would sustain human beings indefinitely. It is shaped around conscious design. Seeing an opportunity to learn from nature, they created a template and core philosophy for others to follow. Permaculture is perhaps more simply defined as an attempt to design a ‘good’ place to live.”

Permaculture involves caring for the earth, caring for people, and ensuring that everyone has a fair share and access to what they need. Jaime embodies the permaculture ethic.

What is PERMA-culture? 

PERMA is the acronym for the elements of well-being described by Martin Seligman in his 2010 book, Flourish. The elements of PERMA are:

  • Positive Emotion
  • Engagement
  • Relationships (Positive)
  • Meaning
  • Accomplishment

Jaime Jenkins defines PERMA-culture simply as “an attempt at living a good life in a good place with good people.” Jaime adds that members of LoAF Farms are driven by the confluence of Permaculture and PERMA-culture. She values building skills through physical action along with stronger relationships with community and environment.

Stress Responses and Innovation: Jaime’s Grounding Strategies

Why do so many of us turn to baking in times of stress or crisis? Jaime reminds us that the flight, fight, or freeze responses to stress can be accompanied by tend and befriend responses. Baking is a way to ground ourselves. When we experience stress, we may feel a build-up of nervous energy in excess of what is required to motivate us. Just like electrical appliances, we need a safe way to ground that excess energy. Jaime offers an innovative repertoire of practical tips related to baking to help us and embody grounding. These include:

  • Mental grounding techniques, such as baker’s math and memory games
  • Emotional grounding techniques to soothe ourselves, such as loving visualizations and listening to favorite music
  • Physical grounding techniques such as gathering ingredients and dancing.

Jaime talks about getting out of the head and into the body, experiencing all the senses, and using baking as a powerful and simple form of practical self-reliance. 

”Jaime shares a lot of reasons to get baking.., and she has just put together this bite-sized course that allows you to capitalize on the mental and social benefits of baking. In Jaime’s program, you will practice mindfulness, gratitude, grounding, and of course a delicious and practical sourdough sandwich loaf!” ~ Lisa Sansom

Lessons of Temperance and Gratitude

In the podcast episode On Transitions and Temperance, Jaime shares her perspective, and recipes:

“In a world that has been turned on its head – some people have taken the opportunity to embrace a different way of living, one that is driven by sustainability instead of scarcity. We dive in deep and talk to people who have made, or who are making the shift. We’ll hear their stories, learn some of their lessons, and of course share a Freshly Baked Loaf of Bread.”

Jaime reminds us that there are spirited gratitude traditions across most cultures. Adapting the Gratitude Letter Exercise, Jaime created the following exercise around appreciation, baking, and building connections:

“Take some time and think of someone in your life, past or present, who your feel gratitude for. There is no limit to how many times you can practice the gratitude (bake) so if more than one person comes to mind, try to narrow it down to the someone that you could reasonable meet with to share….” 

Jaime encourages us to bake bread as a rich sensory experience applying music, movement, taste, smell, touch, hearing.

Jaime’s idea of practical self-reliance serves up a welcome, encouraging balm for my weary heart. Jaime gives us hope and inspiration to celebrate the simple and good. In the spirit of thanksgiving, wherever you are, I’m happy to share the resources below to help you boost your practical self-reliance.

Resources

Loaf Farms Webpage

Jaime Jenkins’s Blog, Practical Self-Reliance

Sign up, or give the gift of Jaime’s practical self-reliance.

Jaime Jenkins feels her mission is represented the old lady in The Dumpster Fire and the Garden. Tend the garden and do good today. What a beautiful blessing!

Check Jaime’s Facebook post here.

You can also listen to Jaime’s podcast here.

Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being. New York: Free Press.

Image Credits

Loaf of bread on cutting block by Duminda Perera on Unsplash

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

This article first appeared on Positive Psychology News. To see the original article, click here. To comment on this article, click here.

Elaine O'Brien, PhD, MAPP '08, is a positive psychology, fitness leadership, positive health promotion, movement science, aging, and well-being speaker, author, trainer, thought leader, people/project manager, educator, and consultant. Elaine creates programs promoting proactive positive health/fitness, and optimal performance. Elaine presents internationally and online. She advances health, fitness, and flourishing by inspiring people to move more and to find both enjoyment and meaning in motion via PEP: Positive Exercise Practices. Elaine's website.  Full bio. Elaine's articles are here.


    


Character Strengths in Difficult Times

By Jenny Brennan

By Jenny Brennan -

The global COVID-19 pandemic, the fight for racial justice, and a divisive American election have left many people feeling stressed and uncertain. While this may be an appropriate reaction to what is happening, the fact that we all have powerful inner resources called character strengths can help us cope with adversity. Thus, strengths can be a source of hope.

Character strengths are ways of thinking and behaving that come naturally to people. Researchers have identified twenty-four strengths such as Social Intelligence, Bravery, Curiosity, and Honesty that represent the best human qualities and are valued across cultures and time.  When people use their strengths, they feel energized, competent, and in tune with their values.  Using character strengths can expand their ability to think and act in ways that buffer them from stress. 

Reframe Stress

Take a mindful moment.

One way that character strengths might support coping is by helping people reframe stress.  According to health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, the way people think about stress influences how it impacts their well-being. Stress can make people believe that there is a threat that they cannot handle. However, McGonigal suggests that if people instead think about stress as a motivating force that helps them protect the things they care about, then it can “awaken core human strengths involving courage, connection, and growth.”

But how do we do that?  First, we can become more aware of our beliefs about stress by using Self-regulation and Curiosity to practice mindfulness. When people are mindful, they observe their emotions without judgment.  For instance, instead of saying,  “I am so stressed!” a person might say, “I am noticing that I am so stressed.” This tiny change puts a little bit of distance between the person and the feeling.  It loosens the grip of stress.

One way to cultivate mindfulness is to practice a mindful pause. According to Ryan Niemiec, this entails pausing to feel your in-breath and out-breath for 10-15 seconds. Then we can ask ourselves, “Which of my character strengths will I bring forward right now?” We could practice taking a mindful pause every time we hear a candidate’s name mentioned.

Choose a New Response

Once we have created mindful space between ourselves and stress, we can use Judgment and Perspective to check our beliefs for accuracy. We could ask ourselves, “Is there really a threat that I can’t handle?”  From that vantage point, we can more easily choose a healthy response. McGonigal says that in addition to the well-known fight, flight, or freeze responses to perceived threat, people can also tap into the rise to the challenge response by marshaling resources to take action. Other healthy responses include the bigger than self response in which we connect with others for social support and the look for what I can learn response that facilitates growth.

Pandemic Chat

Character strengths can then provide us with tools to respond.  Let’s use the 6 categories of strengths shown in the figure above. The Courage strengths might be useful for the rise to the challenge approach. The Wisdom strengths might help us reappraise and evaluate situations for the look for what I can learn response. The Humanity and Justice strengths might help us connect with others in the bigger than self response. The Transcendence strengths could help us connect with something bigger than self and tap into the protective benefits of positive emotions. The Temperance strengths might help us avoid or de-escalate conflict and stressful situations.

Kindness in action

Support values
Another way to mitigate stress is to use character strengths to take meaningful action in support of personal values. If we are stressed out about the election, it may bring us a sense of comfort and control to consider that no matter what happens on November 3rd, no one can take away our ability to support the things that matter to us. For instance, if we value social justice, we could use our strengths of Kindness, Teamwork, and Social Intelligence to volunteer for nonprofit organizations. We could use Love of Learning and Perspective to explore how others have used Justice or Bravery to make changes in the past. We could use Creativity to create a piece of art that shines a light on an issue. 

I invite us all to take the time to consider how we can use our strengths to navigate the next few weeks and months. A great source of ideas is the recent paper by licensed clinical psychologist Tayyab Rashid and researcher Robert McGrath offering more than 100 suggestions for ways to use character strengths to cope during the pandemic. 

Perhaps by employing our strengths for coping and advocacy, we might uncover common values with others that help us transcend political and physical barriers and work together towards the future we would like to see.


References

Gustems-Carnicer, J., & Calderón, C. (2016). Virtues and character strengths related to approach coping strategies of college students. Social Psychology of Education, 19(1), 77-95. http://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-015-9305-y  

McGonigal, K. (2016). The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It. New York: Penguin Random House.

Niemiec, R.M. Six functions of character strengths for thriving at times of adversity and opportunity: A theoretical perspective. Applied Research Quality Life 15, 551–572 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-018-9692-2. Abstract.

Niemiec, R. M. & McGrath, R. E. (2019). The Power of Character Strengths. VIA Institute on Character.

 Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2009a). Character strengths: Research and practice. Journal of College and Character, 10 (4).

Peterson, C. & Seligman, M. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification.. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rashid, T., & McGrath, R. E. (2020). Strengths-based actions to enhance wellbeing in the time of COVID-19. International Journal of Wellbeing, 10(4), 113-132. https://doi.org/10.5502/ijw.v10i4.1441

Tugade, M.M., Fredrickson, B.L. and Feldman Barrett, L. (2004), Psychological resilience and positive emotional granularity: Examining the benefits of positive emotions on coping and health. Journal of Personality, 72:6, 1161-1190. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.2004.00294.x

Image Credits

Mindful moment Photo by Sam Carter on Unsplash

Woman talking to granddaughter during pandemic @kiwitanya from Twenty20

Food courier @Maria_Sbytova from Twenty20

This article first appeared on Positive Psychology News. To see the original article, click here. To comment on this article, click here.

Jenny Brennan, MAPP 2012, is an internationally recognized practitioner in the science of applied positive psychology. She is the founder of the social impact consulting firm Ardent Wellbeing and creator of ElectionZen.com. She is an elected member of the Council of Advisors to the International Positive Psychology Association. Jenny's articles are here.


    


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