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