If you read my last post you won't be surprised that I just spent 4 days in Philly at the Second World Congress on Positive Psychology sponsored by ippa - International Positive Psychology Association.
ippa promotes the science, practice, collaboration and communication of positive psychology. Let me tell you first, that doesn't merely mean thinking good thoughts.
In a nutshell, positive psychology is a practice and a means to greater well being and happiness. The road is largely composed of: Being engaged more of the time in positive emotions (love, play, curiosity, compassion...) than negative ones (fear, guilt, shame...); Being engaged with life - you know those times when you lose track of time because you're in "flow" with whatever you're doing; Enjoying loving and supportive relationships; Having meaning/purpose in your life; Having a sense of accomplishment.
In a practical sense, it also involves discovering, focusing on and using our strengths (you can take a survey here), being engaged in a mindfulness or meditation practice and being solution-focused rather than problem-focused.
The conference speakers were the world's heavyweights in the field including psychologists and PhD's Martin Seligman, Barbara Fredrickson and Ed Diener (these are merely the names I remember) as well as scientists, neurobiologists, university professors, psychologists, you get the idea. We participants were largely 1200 therapists and coaches from 62 countries around the world. I was indeed struck by the amount of Australians, Asians and Europeans who'd made the journey.
In general the conference is a coming together to share scientific research that validates the positive effect of positive psychology.
There was so much to take away after 4 days of back to back lectures, workshops, and symposiums that I, and my mind, are rather exhausted. But these are a few things I took away:
1. Positive psychology is not just about being positive. It's about living with your full range of emotions - including the negative ones - in a healthier way. Or as Dr. Fredrickson would say, it's about using your positive emotions to broaden and build your resources, skills, connection to others, flexibilty and perspective to create greater well being and happiness.
2. Meditation and mindfulness do increase biological (slow and strengthen heart rhythm, increase circulation, lessen inflammation) and psychological health (increase compassion and awareness, make your thinking more open, quicker to see solutions) - and, it's high time I got back to a regular practice.
3. If people are not ready to change behavior, they need information not persuasion. If they're ready they need a plan and if they're taking action they need to know how they will prevent relapsing back into their old behavior.
4. Focusing on what you want is a much more compelling strategy to move forward than avoiding what you don't want.
5. "Coping" is a word that signifies "less than." Whereas "thriving" and "flourishing" are words that signify "more than."
6. Love is the seed that forges bonds, weaves social fabric, promotes health
I'll also give you three things you can do right now and on a daily basis to up your Positivity Quotient and create greater health - and you can do them without attending a conference or reading a book:
1) Reflect each evening while falling asleep on 3 things you are grateful for or that went well that day
2) Give out more praise and compliments than you do criticism
3) When you get angry, catch your breath, pause, and try to see the person who's making you angry, not what they just did. We are all caught up in the stresses of life. Slow down and change or reframe the interaction.
My mind and my heart are all about this field and it's a strong place to work from for anyone who has, treats or coaches anyone with a chronic illness. The next conference in the U.S. will be in two years. Maybe I'll see you there.