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Cross-Cultural Wellbeing

Lomas, T. (2021). Life balance and harmony: Wellbeing’s golden thread. International Journal of Wellbeing, 11(1), 18-35.

The relevance of balance and harmony to wellbeing has been under-appreciated in psychology. Even though these concepts have received considerable attention across different contexts (e.g., work-life balance), this literature is fragmented and scattered. There have been few attempts to bring these disparate threads together, or to centre these concepts as foundational and important across all aspects of human functioning. This paper remedies this lacuna by offering a narrative review of these diverse works. Relevant literature is organised into four emergent categories: affect, cognition, behaviour, and self-other relations. Throughout these, balance and harmony can be appreciated as not merely relevant to wellbeing, but arguably a defining principle, a 'golden thread' running through its myriad dimensions (though this thread is itself multifaceted, comprising a cluster of interlinked concepts). Based on this analysis, an overarching definition of wellbeing is offered: the dynamic attainment of optimal balance and harmony in any-and ideally all-aspects of life. This paper provides a foundation and stimulus for further work on these important topics.

Lomas, T., Waters, L., Williams, P., Oades, L.G., & Kern, M. L. (2020). Third wave positive psychology: Broadening towards complexity. The Journal of Positive Psychology. doi: 10.1080/17439760.2020.1805501

The development of academic fields is often described through the metaphor of ‘waves.’ Following the instantiation of positive psychology (the first wave), scholarship emerged looking critically at the notions of positive and negative, becoming known as its second wave. More recently, we discern an equally significant shift, namely scholarship that in various ways goes beyond the individual and embraces greater complexity. This includes going beyond the individual person as the primary focus of enquiry to look more deeply at the groups and systems in which people are embedded. It also involves becoming more interdisciplinary and multicultural, and embracing a wider range of methodologies. We submit that these interrelated ripples constitute a form of epistemological ‘broadening’ that merit the label of an incoming ‘third wave.’ This paper identifies the key dynamics of this wave, allowing appreciation not only of the field’s leading edge, but also its developmental potential into the future.

Lambert, L., Lomas, T., van de Weijer, M. P., Passmore, H. A., Joshanloo, M., Harter, J., Ishikawa, Y., Lai, A., Kitagawa, T., Chen, D., Kawakami, T., Miyata, H., & Diener, E. (2020). Towards a greater global understanding of wellbeing: A proposal for a more inclusive measure. International Journal of Wellbeing, 10(2), 1-18. doi:10.5502/ijw.v10i2.1037


The science of wellbeing has come a long way from the early days of measuring wellbeing via a nation’s GDP, and wellbeing measures and concepts continue to proliferate to capture its various elements. Yet, much of this activity has reflected concepts from Western cultures, despite the emphasis placed on wellbeing in all corners of the globe. To meet the challenges and opportunities arising from cross-disciplinary research worldwide, the Well-Being for Planet Earth Foundation and the Gallup World Poll have joined forces to add more culturallyrelevant constructs and questions to existing Gallup modules. In this white paper, we review the discussion from the international well-being summit in Kyoto, Japan (August 2019), where nine such additions were proposed and highlight why a more global view of wellbeing is needed. Overall, the new items reflect a richer view of wellbeing than life satisfaction alone and include hedonic and eudaimonic facets of wellbeing, social wellbeing, the role of culture, community, nature, and governance. These additions allow for the measurement of a broader conceptualization of wellbeing, more refined and nuanced cross-cultural comparisons, and facilitate a better examination of the causes of variation in global wellbeing. The new Gallup World Poll additions will be trialled in 2020, with additional inclusions from this summit to be made in 2021.

Lomas, T. (2019). Positive work: A multidimensional overview and analysis of work-related drivers of wellbeing International Journal of Applied Positive Psychology. doi: 10.1007/s41042-019-00016-5

Scholars are beginning to appreciate the work-related 'drivers' of wellbeing, i.e., the ways work may promote or hinder employees' wellbeing. This paper brings a multidimensional perspective to bear on this topic by providing: (a) a multidimensional overview of these drivers; and (b) a multidimensional analysis of how they actually 'drive' wellbeing. The paper is in two parts. Part 1 briefly summarises the drivers, highlighting key theories and interventions. Part 2 then brings a multidimensional analysis to bear on the drivers, doing so by focusing on one driver in particular ('managing emotions') as a case study. This driver is analysed through the prism of a multidimensional model of the person, the 'Layered Integrated Framework Example' model. It is hoped that, in future, similar analyses can consequently be undertaken for the other drivers. The paper thus offers a generative research agenda for exploring how to enable people to flourish at work.

Lomas, T. (2019). Positive semiotics. Review of General Psychology. doi: 10.1177/1089268019832849​

Although semiotics has historically been a focus of interest in psychology, its impact over recent decades has been fairly muted. Moreover, no systematic efforts have been made to study and understand it from a positive perspective, i.e., the way sign-systems are or can be “positive.” As such, this paper introduces the notion of “positive semiotics,” a label for the disparate research and theorising that is already underway across academia relating to this topic. The paper draws on the work of C. S. Peirce, particularly in terms of his triadic view of sign-systems as comprising a sign, an object, and an interpretant. The idea of positivity is then elucidated using the criterion of desirability, drawing on the work of James Pawelski. Attempts are also made to ascertain the nature of desirability, including normative forms (clarified here using the conceptual triad of goodness, truth, and beauty) and non-normative forms (understood as personal wants). The paper then considers four key semiotic channels – discursive language, body language, symbols, and art – looking at selective examples of how positive semiotics might pertain to that channel. It is hoped the paper will stimulate further interest in, and work on, a phenomenon that is of considerable importance to psychology and beyond.

Lomas, T., Roache, A., Rashid, T., & Jarden, A. (2019). Developing ethical guidelines for positive psychology practice: An on-going, iterative, collaborative endeavour. Journal of Positive Psychology. doi: 10.1080/17439760.2019.1651892

As positive psychology has developed as a field, questions have arisen around how to ensure best practice, including with respect to ethics. This issue is particularly pertinent vis-à-vis its applied dimensions, such as positive psychology interventions by students and graduates of MAPP programmes. However, the field has hitherto lacked clear ethical guidelines to assist practitioners. Aiming to address this gap, the authors have devised a set of guidelines, in collaboration with key stakeholders across the positive psychology community, published in the International Journal of Wellbeing. The current article briefly summarises the importance, development, content, and future directions of these guidelines, thus providing a concise overview of this important project. It is hoped that this article, together with the guidelines themselves, will not only highlight the importance of ethical practice, but offer practical suggestions for guiding practitioners in the field.

Jarden, A., Rashid, T., Roache, A., & Lomas, T. (2019). Ethical guidelines for positive psychology practice. International Journal of Wellbeing, 9(2), 1-30. doi: 10.5502/ijw.v9i2.XXX

These guidelines are the result of a collaborative and independent working group led by Aaron Jarden, Tayyab Rashid, Annalise Roache and Tim Lomas. The guidelines are independent of any organisation or association; however, numerous parties have been involved in the development and refinement of this first iteration. It is the authors’ intention to update the guidelines on a bi-annual cycle to further strengthen their depth and breadth of functionality, and we welcome feedback from the community to

Lomas, T. (2018). The spatial contours of wellbeing: A content analysis of metaphor in academic discourse. Journal of Positive Psychology. doi: 10.1080/17439760.2018.1450437

In thinking and talking about wellbeing, people often deploy spatial metaphors, such as identifying positive and negative affect with “up” and “down” respectively. However, there has not yet been a systematic investigation of how wellbeing is represented through metaphor. To shed light on this topic, a content analysis was conducted of spatial metaphors in academic discourse on wellbeing, focusing on recent editions of two leading journals, the Journal of Positive Psychology, and the British Journal of Clinical Psychology. Across 28 papers, 54 spatial metaphors were identified, grouped into four main categories: verticality; horizontality; configuration; and dynamism. Above all, wellbeing is associated with interior expansiveness, with positive valence usually attaching to vertical metaphors of height and depth, horizontal metaphors of width and breadth, and configuration metaphors of size and growth. The analysis thus offers valuable insights into the subjective dynamics of wellbeing.

Lomas, T., & Lomas, C. (2018). An art history of happiness: Western approaches to the good life through the last 1000 years, as illustrated in art. Journal of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing, 1-24. 

A prominent criticism of positive psychology is that it has been shaped by its Western context, and yet that this ‘situatedness’ often remains unacknowledged. Consequently, this paper offers an archaeological analysis of conceptualisations of happiness in the West. More specifically, the paper explores the emergence of significant ideas relating to the good life through the innovative device of studying artworks, on the premise that being featured in art is an effective signifier of when a given idea rose to prominence. Taking a time span of 1,000 years, one artwork per century has been selected to illustrate the emergence of a particular stream of thought during that centennial period. The paper elucidates the roots of current ideas around happiness in fields like positive psychology, and in the West more generally. It is hoped this type of ‘consciousness-raising’ activity may help such fields acknowledge and overcome any limitations arising from their cultural situatedness.

Lomas, T. (2017). Applied positive psychology: Facilitating multidimensional flourishing. In D. Dunn (Ed.), Positive Psychology: Established and Emerging Issues (pp. 317-338). New York: Routledge.

As positive psychology has matured as a field, among its most prominent successes has been the emergence of a strong applied dimension, known as applied positive psychology. This burgeoning arena of praxis has involved the development of interventions and activities designed to promote well-being. This chapter offers an overview of these efforts, which are organized here according to a multidimensional meta-theoretical framework known as the LIFE (Layered Integrated Framework Example) model. This framework features the four main ontological “dimensions” of the person (mind, body, culture, and society), each of which is stratified into five levels. The model provides a comprehensive map of the person, and of their well-being, allowing us to situate and appreciate the range of interventions and strategies that have been developed within APP.

Lomas, T. (2017). Positive politics: Exploring the wellbeing implications of left-wing versus right-wing political agendas. In N. J. L. Brown, T. Lomas & F. Eiroa-Orosa (Eds.), The Routledge International Handbook of Critical Positive Psychology (pp. 351-367). Routledge: New York.

The impact of politics on wellbeing has perennially been a topic of some debate in society, and has more recently been a focus of concern in academia too. The current chapter considers this academic literature, drawing it together under the proposed rubric of ‘positive politics,’ defined as the study of the impact of political policies and processes upon wellbeing. The aim of this chapter, and of positive politics generally, is to encourage the use of wellbeing research to inform: (a) politicians and policy makers (with regard to policy making); and (b) citizens (with regard to democratic choices). To do this, the chapter offers a set of orienting analyses concerning the differences between left-wing and right-wing political perspectives. Rather than presenting left versus right as a unidimensional spectrum, the chapter suggests that the left–right polarity plays out across multiple spectra. Twelve different spectra are identified, three of which are constructed as overarching, with the remainder positioned as subsidiary to these: attributions (encompassing justness and equality), locus of concern (encompassing taxation, welfare, and institutional balance), and directionality (encompassing religion, freedom, statehood, and immigration). The chapter explores the implications that different perspectives on these twelve spectra have for wellbeing, thereby setting out an agenda for further research into the impact of politics upon wellbeing.

Lomas, T. (2016). Positive art: Artistic expression and appreciation as an exemplary vehicle for flourishing. Review of General Psychology. doi: 10.1037/gpr0000073


The relevance of the arts to wellbeing has been recognised within clinical fields, as reflected in therapeutic forms based on various art modalities, from music to drama therapy. However, there has hitherto been little appreciation in fields such as positive psychology of the broader potential of the arts as a vehicle for flourishing and fulfilment. As such, this paper proposes the creation of ‘positive art’ as a field encompassing theory and research concerning the wellbeing value of art. To show the scope and possibilities of this proposed field, the paper provides an indicative summary of literature pertaining to four major art forms: visual art, music, literature and drama. Moreover, the paper identifies five main positive outcomes that are consistently found in the literature across all these forms: sense-making, enriching experience, aesthetic appreciation, entertainment, and bonding. The paper aims to encourage a greater focus on the arts in fields like positive psychology, enabling science to more fully understand and appreciate the positive power of the arts.


Lomas, T., Hefferon, K., & Ivtzan, I. (2016). Positive developmental psychology: A review of literature concerning well-being throughout the lifespan. The Journal of Happiness & Well-Being, 4(2), 143-164. ​

As positive psychology has matured as a discipline, sub-fields have emerged focusing on particular areas, including a number concentrating on specific life stages. These include positive parenting, positive education, positive youth development, and positive aging. However, until now, there has not been a systematic appreciation of these various developmental paradigms, nor an attempt to consider them as a whole. As such, the current paper introduces the overarching notion of positive developmental psychology, an umbrella term encompassing these intersecting developmental disciplines. The paper offers a narrative review of selected literature within these areas – highlighting key theoretical concepts, empirical studies and applied interventions – doing so through the prism of a multidimensional framework. Thus the paper provides a synthesis of the wealth of theory and research within positive developmental psychology, offering a much-needed overview of this burgeoning new field, and setting out a comprehensive research agenda for the years ahead.

Lomas, T. (2015). Positive social psychology: A multilevel inquiry into socio-cultural wellbeing initiatives. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 21(3), 338-347.  


Abstract: Although the field of positive psychology has made great strides in developing interventions for wellbeing, many of these are aimed at individuals, designed to engender adaptive psychological qualities and skills. As such, relatively little attention has been paid within the field to the socio-cultural factors that influence health and wellbeing. However, there is an emergent body of work that does focus on these factors, as summarised in this paper. Using Urie Bronfenbrenner’s (1977) multileveled ecological systems theory as a framework, the paper provides an overview of socio-cultural wellbeing interventions and research at multiple levels of scale (microsystems, mesosystems, exosystems, macrosystems, and ecosystems). In doing so, the paper has two main aims: (a) to show how positive change in wellbeing can be affected by the strategic manipulation of socio-cultural contextual factors; and (b) to suggest ways in which the adoption of such a contextual approach can inform policy making.


Lomas, T. (2015). Positive cross-cultural psychology: Exploring similarity and difference in constructions and experiences of wellbeing. International Journal of Wellbeing, 5(4), 60-77.


Abstract: Critical theorists have accused positive psychology of paying insufficient attention to cultural variation in the way wellbeing is constructed and experienced. While there may be some merit to this claim, the field has developed a more nuanced appreciation of culture than its critics suggest. However, it could also be argued that positive psychology has not sufficiently appreciated or absorbed the wealth of literature within cross-cultural psychology pertaining to wellbeing. This paper aims to forge a bridge between positive psychology and cross-cultural psychology by introducing the idea of ‘positive cross-cultural psychology,’ an interdisciplinary conceptual space for existing and future cross-cultural research on wellbeing. Moreover, the paper offers a meta-theoretical perspective on trends within this literature. It is suggested that cross-cultural research is underpinned by two broad orienting perspectives: a ‘universalising’ perspective, which holds that, despite apparent cultural differences, people share a common human nature; and a ‘relativising’ perspective, which argues that people are strongly shaped by their cultural context. However, the paper finally argues that most research can actually be seen as offering a synthesising perspective – labelled here as ‘universal relativism’ – which recognises universals in the ways wellbeing is sought, constructed and experienced, but allows for extensive variation in the ways these universals are shaped by culture.


Lomas, T., Hefferon, K., & Ivtzan, I. (2015). The LIFE model: A meta-theoretical conceptual map for applied positive psychology. Journal of Happiness Studies, 16(5), 1347-1364.  


Abstract: Since its emergence in 1998, positive psychology has flourished. Among its successes is the burgeoning field of applied positive psychology (APP), involving interventions to promote wellbeing. However, the remit of APP is currently unclear. As such, we offer a conceptual map delineating the terrain that APP might conceivably cover, namely, the LIFE (Layered Integrated Framework Example) model. The model is based on Wilber’s (1997) Integral Framework, which features the four main ontological ‘dimensions’ of the person. We then stratify these dimensions to produce a comprehensive conceptual map of the person, and of the potential areas of application for APP. For example, we deconstruct the collective dimensions of Wilber’s framework using the levels of Bronfenbrenner’s (1977) experimental ecology. The result is a detailed multidimensional framework which facilitates a comprehensive approach to promoting wellbeing, and which charts a way forward for APP.    


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