The adverse impact on the state of mental health and wellbeing of New Zealanders over the last 3 years due to COVID, plus with the recent weather events, does not require any research or studies. All you need to do is to simply ask people, “how are you coping?”. Sadly, the normal response I receive from this question are stories of challenges, struggles, and hardship.
It’s a bold assumption, but one I believe is true, and that is, no-one has escaped from the negative tentacles of these events… myself included! By knowing this, and since my focus is in the area of Emotional Wellness, the question I asked myself was, “what can I do?”.
This resulted in the development of the course Riding Life’s Emotional Waves. The course establishes how to build a strong Emotional Wellness foundation by developing an individual’s emotional readiness and responsiveness, which will support their state of Emotional Wellness when faced with life’s evitable waves (challenges).
However, it has become evident that even with the best intent, I can only make so much of a difference. The Solution: There are amazing individuals and organisations with diverse knowledge and services within the NZAPP community whose purpose aligns with mine, which is to make a positive difference to state of mental health and wellbeing of New Zealanders. Recognising this, I thought wouldn’t it be incredible if we were to collaborate for the greater good and establish a ‘Tribe’ of like-minded people. Instead of only an individual approach, the tribe would deliver a holistic approach to support New Zealanders to address the short and long-term psychological impact of these events.
Support could be through courses, clinical interventions, and other modalities. Since this initiative is only at the conceptional stage, the details would be confirmed by the members of the tribe as part of the strategic planning process.
Therefore, the first stage is to gain initial interest from potential tribe members, which could consist of:
Please contact me if you would like to discuss this exciting opportunity to create a like-minded tribe to make a positive difference to state of mental health and wellbeing of New Zealanders.
Emotional Wellness Thought Leader
We were left inspired and invigorated by our March Lunchtime Learning event with South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute’s (SAHMRI) Matthew Iasello and Joep van Agteren who presented the findings from their huge systematic review and meta-analysis (419 randomised controlled trials, 53,288 participants) into the efficacy of a range of psychological interventions.
Matthew and Joep drew on their learnings from delivering mental wellbeing programs to thousands of Australians, and wrapped them up into very straightforward tips for practitioners and teams considering psychological strategies in the promotion of wellbeing.
Please find their slides here.
Among the many interesting findings, they found:
Mindfulness-based interventions appear to be most effective for increasing wellbeing states. This was followed by Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT); more so than Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), for example, which was not found to be meaningfully significant in building wellbeing on its own
Positive Psychology Interventions (PPIs) focused on a single element, e.g. Best Possible Self, Acts of Kindness, had a significantly lower effect size when used on their own. Thus, if you want to see impacts on wellbeing, group your PPIs
The only PPI that was found to be meaningful on its own was Character Strengths
Wellbeing intervention efficacy drops off after a few months. Much like going to the gym, mental wellbeing and wellbeing programmes need to be maintained and sustained
More intensive wellbeing activity is more impactful than ‘short talks’. The short talk approach can work for engagement, but if you want to build wellbeing, intensity of the intervention is important.
One-on-one activity works better than group-based activities, and both are are better than online interventions when it comes to increasing wellbeing states
Think about positive and negative outcomes separately. There is evidence to illustrate that you can record both positive wellbeing and mental ill health concurrently, thus it’s important to measure both, independently, and don't assume one impacts the other.
It's important to understand the main aim of your wellbeing programme - structure matters, more so than simply being in a social environment talking about wellbeing.
How interventions are ‘operationalised’ matters - think about what to build around an intervention to ensure it’s effective in building wellbeing.
Ultimately, the study found evidence of the protective effect of focusing on wellbeing, and a relationship between positive psychology and positive mental states. You can read their research here.
It was great to see so many of you on the Zoom. We will watch with anticipation for the results from Matt and Joep’s follow-up study in the near future, and keep you all up to date, too.
Our next Lunchtime Learning series takes place in June, with the brilliant Sue Langley, founder of the Langley Group. More info will be with you soon.
Dr Robert Isler: Sharing inspirational insights and practical applications of Positive Psychology
If you attended this talk please answer a few feedback questions here!
1. This talk will first briefly define what Positive Psychology is (the science of wellbeing, what makes us flourishing – the good life) and what it is not (Happiology). It does not ignore the negative stuff but it is mainly focused on understanding positive emotions, signature strengths and resilience.
For a short overview of Positive psychology: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qJvS8v0TTI
Get in touch with me: Robert@Isler.co.nz if you wish a summary article.
2. What are the strongest predictors for a good life?
The skills of building social capacity by deeply connecting with some people who are on the ‘same frequency’.
Brenee Brown: Connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship. Disconnection is often equated with social rejection, social exclusion, and /or social isolation.
Recommended Brenee Brown’s
Atlas of the heart series streamed on NEON
Vulnerably and courage on NETFLIX
Epigenetics: the study of changes in organisms caused by the modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself.
Steve W. Cole: The genomic perspective on human well-being
Being connected is as good as smoking is bad for your health (Life expectancy)
Social isolation downregulates the expression of gens that promote wellbeing!
See his talk on www.ippanetwork.org
Barbara Frederickson: The role of positive emotions in Positive Psychology
Positive Psychology and Road Safety:
Positive Psychology and Neuroscience
Neuroplasticity: The ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to the learning or experience or following injury.
The mind is what the brain does.
Please feel free to get in touch with me Robert@Isler.co.nz
1. From Bobbie: It is being used in studies regarding Generational and Historical Trauma.
2. From Toni: Because it is an expression vs a permanent change in the genetic code, is it a longer term change or can it change?
3. From Toni: is Brene’s sample of analysis based in America? compared with say Europe?
4. From Annick: Is the correlation between life satisfaction and driver violation age dependant?
5. From Christina: What was the reference for the compassion/empathy article please?
6. Many people in the audience are keen to hear more about your story Robert!... So the question is when will that new lecture be?
This blogpost introduces the topic of our upcoming Networking meeting on Thursday 5 May.
The purpose of sharing these materials is to bring everyone on the same page before and during the zoom meeting!
We are thrilled to present this material in collaboration with one of NZAPP members Camelia Petrus, Managing Director, Core Purpose Limited. This is the first collaboration of this kind. We welcome suggestions from all members who would like to share their expertise with our community.
Appreciative Inquiry is often associated with organizational change.
It all began in the 1980s, while David Cooperrider and Frank Barrett were conducting action research into an organisation where discussions of the feedback within the organisation weren’t going too well, and the participants were reacting in a hostile way to their questions.
The developers of Appreciative Inquiry envisioned a new philosophy for how organisations can approach change.
Appreciative inquiry is a strength-based approach to address changing and is considered a constructive alternative to traditional problem-solving. The intention in this process is to seek and leverage the best in people and place the focus more on what we want and less on what is broken.
Inquiring means questioning. AI is a tool for counsellors to:
look for the best in people – in the way they work, they live, and they behave.
inquire about what they appreciate
help their clients take small, concrete positive actions that would make a difference
As a result of this approach, people begin:
talking about successes instead of failures.
sharing positive stories and having positive conversations
building a new sense of confidence and strength
For most of us, it’s second nature to focus on what’s wrong, and then to wish or want what’s wrong to change. We start almost all our change processes from this place of looking at and focusing on what isn’t working. It might be due to our negativity bias.
We tend to use language that supports this focus…
...if this was different, then...
...I’m not happy with this because…
...it would be better if…
...it’s a problem that…
Reframing into positive
What I like about it is…
The best thing about it is….
I am grateful for…
I am confident when it’s about….
The original Appreciative Inquiry framework consisted of four steps—called the 4D Cycle— but some practitioners later recognized a fifth step, leading to the creation of the 5D Cycle. The 5D Cycle references the “five Ds,” or the five terms beginning with the letter D, that describe each step in the Appreciative Inquiry process.
The context for the 5 Ds is the appreciative interview. AI practitioners utilise carefully crafted questions to stimulate dialogue at each stage of the process.
What was the best thing that happened to you today?
What is it that you love the most about your personal life or career?
What is it that fundamentally drives you in life, and persists in your career or personal endeavours?
What talents do you have that you are most grateful for?
How have they helped you get where you are today?
What influences have inspired you throughout your life?
What was the best choice you made about your health today?
What strengths supported you in making that choice? What values did you honour?
NZAPP Members will have the opportunity to design AI questions and experiment with them during our networking session.
AI connects people faster and more authentically.How can we help our members move from isolation to quality connection, more productive conversation, and dialogue?
We think that perhaps effective networking starts with getting to know our community better, finding community strengths and assets, and weaving these in with relationships that support community-led action.
Question to be discussed: What are good questions when your aim is to get to know potential colleagues?
Appreciative Inquiry invites us to recognise and develop the best in ourselves. As we build on our shared strengths and visions for the future, it helps us stimulate engagement, creativity, and commitment for better connection and performance.
What is Appreciative Inquiry? A Brief History & Real-Life Examples
How to Apply Appreciative Inquiry: A Visual Guide
From Question to Connection: Building Bridges with Appreciative Inquiry
See you online Thursday 5 May 7-8:30pm! Register here.
What a great networking event we had on February 10!
With 27 participants from all parts of Aotearoa New Zealand and some from overseas, including Australia, Germany and Singapore we had a fantastic session!
Participants’ average ratings about the networking event (out of 5)
How would you rate the networking event? 4.5
How useful did you find the event? 4.8
How did you enjoy the event? 4.7
What did participants most enjoy?
“The diversity and structure of activities”
“Break out rooms to connect with awesome people around the world”
“Sharing interest in PP and creative thoughts around the application of PP in NZ”
Thank you Aaron Jarden, Associate Professor, Applied Positive Psychology, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, Director of the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology, The University of Melbourne for sharing the article "Following the Science to Generate Well-Being: Using the Highest-Quality Experimental Evidence to Design Interventions”. Open Access Link
Positive Psychology Interventions (PPIs) have been tested for their potential to generate well-being even during a global pandemic. The article describes four exemplar PPIs. The four exemplar PPIs are all Multi-component positive psychology interventions that focus on training around topics of strengths, gratitude, positive relationships, positive emotions, and mindfulness.
These interventions were shown to improve well-being with medium to large effect sizes, and can be feasibly implemented during a global pandemic and beyond. They have been tested with a high-quality RCT, and could be implemented during a global pandemic. The article indicates that future programs can build on this causal evidence and emulate these PPIs to be as effective as possible at generating well-being. However, the four exemplars presented were only tested in WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich, and Democratic) countries and more work should be carried out in other parts of the globe.
Next steps... How about taking the next networking step with a positive action?
Visit our Networking Member forum and send a message to one or two introductions from the people you interacted with… or some new ones! Spark these conversations… you’ll get the most out of networking if you build on your first introductory steps!
If you could not attend our last networking event, please introduce yourself with a post as everyone else… and read/respond to members’ posts!
NZAPP is also taking our next step too. A member kindly suggested including a 10 minute Positive Psychology related activity/exercise which we think is a fabulous idea and we are exploring implementing this suggestion at our next event… so watch your inboxes!
If you attended and did not get a chance to fill in the feedback survey, we would still love to hear your thoughts.
Your valuable feedback helps us refine and improve future events which we greatly appreciate!
NZAPP The Events Committee
Annick Janson, Mel Weir and Annalise Roache
On Tuesday 1ST June, NZAPP held it’s first virtual event of 2021. The subject of this free interactive session was ‘Wellbeing Success Stories’, featuring past and present members from the NZAPP Executive Committee. The one hour session was jammed packed, four Panellists bringing their unique perspective and real world experience of implementing Positive Psychology interventions (PPIs). These ranged from individual coaching to global organisational settings, clinical environments, and wider community initiatives.
Current President Paul Tupou-Vea kicked the session off with an introduction and update of recent NZAPP news. This included launching a fresh new NZAPP website and a brand new ‘members only’ area.
Following our President’s address, one of the Committee’s newer members Melanie Weir (Positive H.R. Manager & Senior Consultant at The Langley Group) gave the first presentation, ‘Global Wellbeing initiatives and metrics used’, citing practical applications of Positive Psychology within organisations. In her presentation Melanie cited the work undertaken at ‘Schneider Electric’ to develop Leadership and Wellbeing. Initiatives included ‘Flourishing Managers’, ‘Flourishing Employees’, and Positive Leadership Residential retreats for Scheider’s Executive Team. The result of these initiatives was a significant improvement in employee engagement scores, increasing from 46% to 94% within the Pacific Region. Another organisation briefly mentioned by Melanie was the great work undertaken at St John Ambulance, on developing Psychological Capital and Positive Leadership. Would have loved to hear more Melanie, but time wasn’t a friend.
I was next up ….Ruth Elliott (Leadership Coach), another newbie member of the Executive Committee and also a new arrival to New Zealand. I gave my experience of implementing Mindfulness within an Individual Leadership Coaching environment. With only 8 minutes allocated per Speaker, it was only possible to scratch the surface of my case study, which focused on using Mindfulness as a PPI in conjunction with Coaching Psychology. My coachee presented with unhelpful behaviours that were in fact jeopardising their job, in addition to experiencing low levels of Wellbeing and satisfaction with life. Our coaching relationship began at the same time as New Zealand was thrown into COVID lockdown, which in turn exacerbated an already tenuous situation. Ensuring my coachee’s wellbeing became the immediate focus of our sessions. Some coaching goals included stress reduction, increasing emotional regulation and increasing positive emotions. Mindfulness interventions included a two minute Mindful S.T.O.P exercise used regularly throughout the day, in addition to daily use of the HEADSPACE Mindfulness course ‘Take 10’. Following several months of regular mindfulness practice, my coachee reported that they felt noticeably calmer, less stressed and less emotionally reactive, in addition to experiencing improved working relationships and significantly improved job performance. An increase in Mindful Awareness was also noted using the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (M.A.A.S).
Rajna Bogdanovic (Clinical Psychologist) presented next, on using PPIs within Clinical settings with First responders, as part of Wellbeing training undertaken by ‘First Response Health’ within ‘Fire and Emergency New Zealand’ (FENZ). Interventions covered in the Wellbeing training arose in response to issues raised within sessions. These included, Savouring, Gratitude and Kindness & Empathy, Learned Hopefulness & Character Strengths, Meaning and Purpose, Post Traumatic Growth. The organisation reported a 19.8% increase in usage of ‘First Response Health’ service by FENZ. Other outcomes included anecdotal reporting of increases in savouring, gratitude, accounts of Post Traumatic Growth, understanding and awareness of others within team, in addition to a reduction in reported helplessness. Rajna mentioned that a significant advantage of using Positive Psychology within the context of First Responders, was that it provided a non-threatening way to discuss mental health issues. Rajna also expressed a desire to do more assessment and baselining prior to undertaking future training. What inspiring and important work you do Rajna!
Finally, ex NZAPP President and founder Aaron Jarden (now Associate Professor at the Centre of Wellbeing Science at the University of Melbourne) spoke on novel and less known Wellbeing strategies. In his presentation, Aaron mentioned that there can be multiple pathways to building Wellbeing, and rather than one single thing, Wellbeing is often built using several actions collectively. The first initiative presented by Aaron, was the Wellbeing Adventure Race, which for those who attended the IPPA Congress in 2019 you may have participated in. The race provides a fun and informal way to expose people to Wellbeing strategies within a competition, allowing participants to tap into their curiosity, savouring and sense of awe. It’s also a great team building experience!
Aaron then presented a Wellbeing initiative undertaken by a large organisation consciously encouraging prosocial behaviours within the workplace. Executive team members were asked to identify who was going ‘above and beyond’ in their job by helping others within the organisation. On a weekly basis, the Managing Director would choose someone from this group, and then go and meet them to give a personal thankyou. This relatively simple action from a single Leader helped instill more trust and encouraged prosocial behaviours. Which in turn, increased a sense of being cared for within the organisation and increased Employee Wellbeing. Other successful Wellbeing interventions mentioned by Aaron were;
Maximizing and Satisficing Based on Barry Schwartz ‘The Paradox of Choice’ (https://www.wisebrain.org/media/Papers/maximizing.pdf) and ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ exercise based on Nick Mark’s work multiple pathways to Wellbeing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYM0GSM33ws ).
According to Aaron, one of the most effective Wellbeing strategies he’s experienced, is The Geelong Three Breaths Exercise developed by Justin Robinson, from Geelong Grammar School. Take one Deep Breath – notice your physical body, as you breath out consciously relax your body. Take a second Deep breath – as you breath out think about what you are grateful for now. Take a third breath – as you breath out think of the intentional state you would like to be in right now. ‘My intention right now is to be…’. Personally, I love the simplicity of this technique, and how it elegantly incorporates mindful breathing, gratitude, positive intention and hope.
Aaron then identified what he believed made Wellbeing strategies successful, and represented these by the LOST FACT acronym
Invaluable advice for anyone wanting to design or implement Wellbeing initiatives within any domain.
Following the four presentations, a lively interactive Q&A session took place, where Panellists answered questions from the audience. One of the great questions posed to all the panellists was What do you think is the most important consideration when applying Wellbeing within the workplace?
Panellists answers included the following;
A heartfelt thanks goes out to all those who appeared on the panel, and our moderators Paul Tupou-Vea and Annalise Roache, and Technical Assistant Vicky Lewis, who all ensured that the session ran seamlessly and to time. Thanks also to everyone who attended the event. We hope that you’ll join us for future events , the next one being on 27th July. ‘Wellbeing for Parents of Children with Disabilities'. In this Panel discussion, find out about how Positive Psychology interventions can impact parents raising children with disabilities.
Books recommended by the Panellists include the following;
Positive Psychology at Work: How Positive Leadership and Appreciative Inquiry Create Inspiring Organisations by Sarah Lewis
Focus by Daniel Goldman
The Positivity Prescription Dr Suzy Green
The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook by Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer
Grit – The Power and Passion of Perseverance byAngela Duckworth
Positive Psychology Coaching in Practice Dr Suzy Green
The Educator’s Guide to Whole-School Wellbeing – by Denise Quinlan and Lucy Hone
A Primer in Positive Psychology – Christopher Peterson
Positive Psychology; Theory, Research and Applications by Iiona Boniwell and Aneta Tunariu
Creating the World we want to live in; How Positive Psychology can build a brighter future by Bridget Grenville-Cleeve et al.
Positive Psychology; The Basics by Rona Hart
On a beautiful autumnal Saturday in late May, the Executive Committee of the NZAPP met to connect, strategize and start the exciting process of mapping the organization’s next chapter. Seasoned Committee members including current and former Presidents were joined by new recruits, in the first face to face meeting of this particular iteration of the Leadership team. Everyone came baring yummy delights to feed both the soul and the stomach.
Somewhat fittingly, the day was Positive Psychology in action. Starting with a review of what each member brought, and how each’s strengths could contribute to the team. Next, we moved onto what values or guiding principles were most (and least) important to us as a team. There was much alignment between how we wanted to operate as a team….what a relief!
Some preliminary work was done on clarifying the Association’s purpose statement. However more work definitely needs to be done here.
Following a sumptuous lunch (thankyou Paul’s wife Asha), we endeavoured to start to map some BHAGS (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) for what the Association might look like in the next 5 and 10 years. Speaking personally, this envisioning was a heady mixture of exciting, inspiring and a little terrifying. To imagine what the future might be, and the kind of impact the Association could have…wow!
Then we got down to the nitty gritty, where did we want to be in a year’s time and how might we get there? Luckily, we have some very pragmatic minds on the team, which kept us focused on our priorities in the short to medium term.
What was the outcome of our Saturday spent together? As a team we now have more insight and understanding of each other, and how we want to function as a team. In addition, we are focusing our efforts on four pillars (i) a thriving executive committee (ii) a thriving membership (iii) thriving partnerships and (iv) excellent Communication.
This is just the start of the NZAPP’s new chapter, a point from which we can jump off from and get some forward momentum… these are exciting times indeed…watch this space….
NZAPP copyright. All rights reserved.
The New Zealand Association of Positive Psychology is a not-for-profit organisation. 24 Banks Rd, Aongatete, Katikati, 3181.