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Wellbeing Success Stories – a great way to kick off our events for 2021!

June 21, 2021 1:07 PM | Ruth Elliott
  • 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’ ( and ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ exercise based on Nick Mark’s work multiple pathways to Wellbeing ( ).

    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

  • -       Life, not just focused on the work domain
  • -       Obtainable,  simple and not complex to learn
  • -       Swift & quick to complete, not taking too much time
  • -       Transportable across multiple situations
  • -       Fun
  • -       Affordable
  • -       Collaborative
  • -       Tap into multiple synergistic pathways to Wellbeing

    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;


  • That it be applied, practical, and that it allows employees to select from a variety of different options available. That it can be done everyday, in micro moments.
  • Ensure interventions are evidence-based and that the link between the intervention and the science is easily understood, without bombarding people with too much detail.
  • Use ‘Wellbeing Ambassadors’ within the organisation to help to embed any Wellbeing initiatives
  • Focus on embedding Wellbeing within organisations over the long term, rather than just short-term initiatives, by creating a Culture of Wellbeing
  • Take an Ethical approach (using the IPPA Ethical guidelines ), including do no harm, responsible caring
  • Ensure proper evaluation, to help show what is working and why it’s working to help support ongoing action.

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.

Additional Resources:

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–+Dr+Suzy+Green&i=stripbooks-intl-ship&ref=nb_sb_noss

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






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