Paper publications by date
The Western-centricity of psychology means it has inherited some of the key ontological categories and distinctions at the heart of Western cultures. This paper identifies four such distinctions that have been particularly influential in psychology: mind-body; subjective-objective; self-other; and inner-outer. Together, these have created a pervasive view that the mind-and the person more broadly-is metaphorically like a "container." However, this paper proposes that a better conceptualization, or at least a complementary one, may be a "field," whereby people's being extends outwards, beyond the apparent boundary of their skin, into the world. Such perspectives have been especially prominent in other cultures and traditions (such as Buddhism), but have pedigree in the West too. The paper thus draws on various cultural sources, and numerous disciplines both within psychology and beyond. It is hoped the discussion may help psychology reflect on and re-evaluate the ontological assumptions at its core, and to engage with field-based perspectives that may be provide a useful alternative or complement to the standard container metaphor.
Lomas, T., & Case, B. (2023). A history of psychogeography and psychocosmology: Humankind's evolving orientation on earth and in space. Current Research in Ecological and Social Psychology, 4, 100090.
Although psychology has tended to focus on the individual, paradigms have emerged looking at people in context, such as social psychology. More recently, these have included fields attending to humans’ ecological context, such as ecopsychology. However, little has been conducted on spatial orientation, on how humankind has understood itself in relation to the Earth (“psychogeography”) or the universe (“psychocosmology”). To address this lacuna, this paper presents a historical narrative of psychogeography and psychocosmology, identifying four main perspectives that emerged over time. First, stretching into pre-history, belief in a flat Earth and a layered cosmos. Second, beginning around the 6th Century BCE, a spherical Earth and a geocentric cosmos. Third, from the 15th Century onwards, an expanded Earth and a heliocentric cosmos. Finally, in the 20th Century, an unstable Earth and an acentric cosmos. The paper illuminates the evolving way humans have understood their world and place in the wider universe, and highlights the psychological impact of these developments.
Throughout history, people have observed aerial events that appeared extraordinary and anomalous. In earlier eras, these were often interpreted through a lens that invoked special classes of divine beings, such as angels (who, compared with gods, are regarded as more likely to interact with humans). Today, in our ostensibly secular scientific age, there is a tendency to assume such observers were mistaken, and that with the benefit of modern knowledge, these events can be “debunked” and attributed to conventional naturalistic explanations. However, recent years have seen a burgeoning interest and even concern over the issue of unidentified aerial phenomena. Through the lens of our “space age,” these are sometimes interpreted using notions such as extraterrestrial agents. Ultimately though, this article suggests that both categories of explanation, from angels to aliens, may be the perennial human quest to render comprehensible, through the prism of prevailing beliefs and traditions, an ongoing encounter with celestial phenomena that remain genuinely unknown but deeply significant.
Lomas, T., Diego-Rosell, P., Shiba, K., Standridge, P., Lee, M. T., Case, B., Lai, A. Y., & VanderWeele, T. J. (2023). Complexifying individualism versus collectivism and West versus East: Exploring global diversity in perspectives on self and other in the Gallup World Poll. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 54(1), 61-89.
A wealth of research has suggested the West tends toward individualism and the East toward collectivism. We explored this topic on an unprecedented scale through two new items in the 2020 Gallup World Poll, involving 121,207 participants in 116 countries. The first tapped into orientations toward self-care versus other-care (“Do you think people should focus more on taking care of themselves or on taking care of others?”). The second enquired into self-orientation versus other-orientation (“Which of the following is closest to your main purpose in life? Being good at what you do in your daily life, Caring for family and close friends, or Helping other people who need help?”). We anticipated that self-care and self-orientation would index individualism (hence be higher in the West), while other-care and other-orientation would index collectivism (hence be higher in the East). However, contrary to expectation, there was greater self-care in the East (45.82%) than in the West (41.58%). As predicted though, there was greater self-orientation in the West (30.20%) than in the East (23.08.%). Greater self-care in the East invites one of two interpretations. Either these items: (a) index individualism and collectivism as anticipated, so in some ways the East is more individualistic and the West less individualistic than assumed; or (b) do not index individualism and collectivism as anticipated, so the concepts are more complex than often realized (e.g., collectivism may involve prioritizing self-care over other-care). Either way, the findings help complexify these concepts, challenging common cross-cultural generalizations in this area.
Lomas, T., & VanderWeele, T. J. (2023). The mental illness‐health matrix and the mental state space matrix: Complementary meta‐conceptual frameworks for evaluating psychological states. Journal of Clinical Psychology. doi: 10.1002/jclp.23512
Objective: It is increasingly appreciated that mental health may not just involve a relative absence of mental illness, but the active presence of positive psychological desiderata. However, research attention on mental illness and health has tended to remain siloed and disconnected-proceeding along parallel tracks-with their potential relationship underexplored and undertheorized. As such, we sought to develop theoretical models to help us better understand the interaction of these two domains of experience. Methods: Through extensive engagement with relevant literature, we created two complementary meta-conceptual frameworks to represent and evaluate states of mental illness and health. Results: The Mental Illness-Health Matrix allows different forms of mental illness and health to be situated and assessed within a common framework. The Mental State Space Matrix further enables these various forms to be conceptualized and appraised in terms of numerous common parameters (e.g., valence and arousal). Conclusion: It is hoped that these frameworks will stimulate and support further research on the inter-relational dynamics of illness and health. Indeed, the matrices themselves are provisional works-in-progress, with their articulation here intended as a foundation for their further development as understanding of these topics evolves and improves.
Lomas, T., & VanderWeele, T. J. (2023). Toward an expanded taxonomy of happiness: A conceptual analysis of 16 distinct forms of mental wellbeing. Journal of Humanistic Psychology. doi: 10.1177/00221678231155512
Recent decades have seen a surge of scientific interest in happiness. However, its theoretical conceptualization is a work in progress. Much of the literature focuses on two main forms: hedonic (encompassing life satisfaction and positive affect) and eudaimonic (encompassing phenomena such as character development and meaning in life). However, this binary has been critiqued as being incomplete, in part because it reflects a Western-centric perspective that overlooks forms emphasized in non-Western cultures. As a result, scholars have begun to highlight other forms besides hedonia and eudaimonia. This article surveys the literature to identify 16 potential forms in total, classified according to whether they primarily pertain to feelings (hedonic, contented, mature, chaironic, and vital), thought (evaluative, meaningful, intellective, aesthetic, and absorbed) or action (eudaimonic, masterful, accomplished, harmonic, nirvanic, and relational). This article thus offers a more expansive, albeit still just provisional, taxonomy of this vital and still-evolving topic.
Lambert, L., Joshanloo, M., Warren, M. A., Christiani, K., Lomas, T., Cody, B., Al Sabah, I., El Chalabi, A., & Kruchlik, G. (2023). Promoting kindness through the positive theatrical arts: Assessing Kuwait’s Boomerang programme. Psychological Studies, 1-13.
As the field of positive psychology aims to build and strengthen the well-being of individuals, its repertoire of empirically validated strategies designed to do so is growing. Kuwait’s “Boomerang” anti-bullying theatre programme designed to increase social kindness in schools is an example. The tools of applied theatre were taught to facilitators, who in turn trained seven to ten students who were real-life bullies, victims, and bystanders across seven Kuwaiti schools to become actors in each institution’s culminating theatre play. Participating acting students and audience members were assessed to determine the effects of the programme. Results showed that their perceptions of social cohesion and trust, a positive school climate, and life satisfaction improved. Implications for student well-being are discussed, alongside the broader use of the positive arts, an emerging area of positive psychology.
Gudka, M., Gardiner, K. L. K., & Lomas, T. (2023). Towards a framework for flourishing through social media: A systematic review of 118 research studies. Journal of Positive Psychology, 18(1), 86-105.
Background: Over 50% of the world uses social media. There has been significant academic and public discourse around its negative mental health impacts. There has not, however, been a broad systematic review in the field of Positive Psychology exploring the relationship between social media and wellbeing, to inform healthy social media use, and to identify if, and how, social media can support human flourishing. Objectives: To investigate the conditions and activities associated with flourishing through social media use, which might be described as ‘Flourishing through Social Media’. Method and Results: A systematic search of peer reviewed studies, identifying flourishing outcomes from usage, was conducted, resulting in 118 final studies across 7 social media platforms, 50,000+ participants, and 26 countries. Conclusions: The interaction between social media usage and flourishing is bi-directional and nuanced. Analysis through our proposed conceptual framework suggests potential for a virtuous spiral between self-determination, identity, social media usage, and flourishing.
Art and aesthetics have long been understood as central to human well-being and flourishing. However, the academic study of these phenomena has been critiqued for its Western-centricity and general lack of cross-cultural engagement. As such, this article aims to broaden our appreciation of the contours of aesthetics by engaging with relevant “untranslatable” words (i.e., without an exact equivalent in English), thereby enriching our conceptual map of this arena. Over 300 relevant terms from 24 languages were located and analyzed using grounded theory. Four main meta-themes were identified, each with several themes: stimuli (spanning the sensory modalities of sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, and the mind), qualities (harmony, naturalness, simplicity, prettiness, and shock), dynamics (appreciation, understanding, and inspiration), and modes (modalities, movements, and techniques). The article therefore adds to our understanding of this vital arena of human well-being and flourishing, though, as ever, further work is needed.
The past 150 years have seen remarkable advances in the study of wellbeing. To appreciate the value and significance of these developments, this paper offers a historical perspective on their dynamics, arguing that we have seen four great waves of wellbeing scholarship in the modern West. I begin by exploring the wave metaphor itself, and then propose that these waves have been unfurling in a Western cultural ‘ocean.’ As such, I then explore key historical currents that have shaped this ocean, including Greek philosophy, Christianity, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment. From there, the narrative considers the emergence of the first wave (psychiatry and psychotherapy), second wave (humanistic psychology), and third wave (positive psychology). The paper concludes by suggesting we are seeing an emerging fourth wave of ‘global wellbeing scholarship,’ in which these Western waters are beginning to intermingle with other regional oceans (which have likewise progressed through their own developmental currents and waves), creating a more globally inclusive picture of wellbeing.
Lomas, T. (2022). Stranger than we can imagine: The possibility and potential significance of non-human forms of consciousness and wellbeing. Journal of Positive Psychology. doi: 10.1080/17439760.2022.2131608
Recent decades have seen an intensification of scholarship on wellbeing. Looking ahead, the next frontier may be engaging with the possibility of non-human forms of wellbeing. This paper reviews the main candidates for what these forms may be, limiting its considerations to entities that are living and capable of conscious experience. However, what makes this topic so complex and fascinating is that what exactly constitutes life or conscious experience is not self-evident. Thus, this paper considers various potential life forms, which vary in the extent to which they challenge standard conceptions of life, including organic life forms on earth, matter, AI, and extra-terrestrial life. Some possibilities are unlikelier and more speculative than others, but all have at least a non-zero probability, so merit at least some consideration and attention. Moreover, the paper articulates why these possibilities have considerable relevance for human wellbeing, and so warrant the attention of wellbeing scholars.
Happiness is an increasingly prominent topic of interest across academia. However, relatively little attention has been paid to how it is created, especially not in a multidimensional sense. By ‘created’ we do not mean its influencing factors, for which there is extensive research, but how it actually forms in the person. The work that has been done in this arena tends to focus on physiological dynamics, which are certainly part of the puzzle. But they are not the whole picture, with psychological, phenomenological, and socio cultural processes also playing their part. As a result, this paper offers a multidimensional overview of scholarship on the ‘architecture’ of happiness, providing a stimulus for further work into this important topic.
Lomas, T., Ishikawa, Y., Diego-Rosell, P., Daly, J., English, C., Harter, J., … Lai, A. Y. (2022). Balance and harmony in the Gallup World Poll: The development of the Global Wellbeing Initiative module. International Journal of Wellbeing, 12(4), 1-19.
Over recent decades, scholarship on wellbeing has flourished. However, this has been critiqued as Western-centric, firstly in terms of the location of research participants and scholars, and moreover in terms of the very ideas and values through which wellbeing is understood. In response to such issues, the Global Wellbeing Initiative-a partnership between Gallup and the Wellbeing for Planet Earth foundation-was created to look at wellbeing from a more global perspective. The centrepiece of this initiative is a survey module in the Gallup World Poll. This paper charts the evolution of this module to date, from its initial incarnation in the 2020 poll (featuring items on various aspects of wellbeing) to a finalized 2022 iteration (which focuses specifically on balance and harmony). With the 2022 version now intended to stay consistent longitudinally, this paper establishes a valuable baseline for this important project which will contribute to a more inclusive and comprehensive understanding of wellbeing.
Vitality has been underappreciated and underexplored by academia at large. This oversight is potentially explained by the Western-centric nature of most fields, with vitality having been comparatively neglected in the West relative to elsewhere. One explanation for this lacuna is that vitality is not easily pigeonholed within the ontological categories dominant in the West, such as mind and body. This paper therefore aims to learn from cultures that have cultivated a greater understanding of vitality, doing so by engaging with relevant 'untranslatable' words (i.e., those without exact equivalent in English), thus enriching our conceptual map of this topic. Over 200 relevant terms were located and analyzed using an adapted form of grounded theory. Three themes were identified, each with four subthemes: spirit (life force, channels, soul, and transcendence); energy (fortitude, channeling, willpower, and recharging); and heart (desire, passion, affection, and satisfaction). The paper thus refines our understanding of this important topic and provides a foundation for future research.
Lomas, T., & VanderWeele, T. J. (2022). The garden and the orchestra: Generative metaphors for conceptualizing the complexities of well-being. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(21), 14544.
Our understanding of well-being, and related concepts such as health and flourishing, is shaped by the metaphors through which we think about such ideas. Current dominant metaphors—including a pyramid, ladder, and continuum—all have various issues. As such, this paper offers two other metaphors which can better do justice to the nuanced complexities of these notions, namely, a garden and an orchestra. Through these metaphors, this paper articulates a comprehensive framework for conceptualizing and appreciating the nature of well-being (and associated concepts), which it is hoped will generate further insights and research into these valued and sought-after phenomena.
This research continues the advances in applied positive psychology by measuring and exploring the factors which contribute to the happiness among people living in Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada. This research provides a province-wide account of subjective well-being (SWB), which is defined as a person’s cognitive and affective evaluation of his or her life, by answering the questions: What is the measurable level of well-being of individuals in PEI? What are the relationships between community factors and components of well-being in PEI? Which quality of life factors most influence individual’s emotions and life satisfaction in PEI? Participation was voluntary, anonymous, and included just over 1% of the adult population of residents (n = 1381). Data was collected online between October and November 2020. Demographic variables were collected and analyzed using variance of mean scores from three self-reported well-being measures, Satisfaction with Life Scale, Positive and Negative Effect Schedule, and the World Health Organization’s (brief) Quality of Life Scale. Regression analysis was used to investigate contributions to well-being. Findings uncovered inequity in well-being among minority populations including, LGBT, gender diverse, Indigenous, disabled, and those living under the poverty line. This study provides a deeper understanding that Islanders view psychological health and healthy environment as important aspects of quality of life influencing their well-being. Results build on existing theories on the influence of income, age, and education have on well-being. Finally, the research provides a starting point and methodology for the continuous measurement and tracking of both the affective and cognitive accounts of well-being on PEI, or in other communities, provinces, or islands. This research provides insight into happiness as an indicator of how our society is performing and adds momentum towards the adoption of sustainable development goals, such as national happiness.
Okuzono, S. S., Shiba, K., Kim, E. S., Shirai, K., Kondo, N., Fujiwara, T., Kondo, K., Lomas, T., Trudel-Fitzgerald, C., Kawachi, I., & VanderWeele, T. J. (2022). Ikigai and subsequent health and wellbeing among Japanese older adults: Longitudinal outcome-wide analysis. The Lancet Regional Health - Western Pacific, 21, 100391.
Background: Having a purpose in life has been linked to improved health and wellbeing; however, it remains unknown whether having "Ikigai"-a related but broader concept in Japan-is also beneficial for various physical and psychosocial outcomes. Methods: Using data from a nationwide longitudinal study of Japanese older adults aged ≥65 years, we examined the associations between having Ikigai in 2013 and a wide range of subsequent outcomes assessed in 2016 across two databases (n = 6,441 and n = 8,041), including dimensions of physical health, health behavior, psychological distress, social wellbeing, subjective wellbeing, and pro-social/altruistic behaviors. We adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics and the outcome values (whenever data were available) in the prior wave (2010). Findings: Having Ikigai (vs. not having Ikigai) was associated with a 31% lower risk of developing functional disability [95% confidence interval (CI) for risk ratio: 0.58, 0.82] and 36% lower risk of developing dementia [95% CI for risk ratio: 0.48, 0.86] during the three-year follow-up. Having Ikigai was associated with decreased depressive symptoms and hopelessness as well as higher happiness, life satisfaction, instrumental activity of daily living, and certain social outcomes (e.g., more frequent participation in hobby clubs). Some of these associations were stronger for men than women, and among individuals with high socioeconomic status (p-values for effect measure modification < 001). Interpretation: Having Ikigai may promote health and wellbeing outcomes among Japanese older adults, but particularly men and individuals with high socioeconomic status.
Shiba, K., Cowden, R. G., Gonzalez, N., Lee, M. T., Lomas, T., Lai, A. Y., & VanderWeele, T. J. (2022). Global Trends of Mean and Inequality in Multidimensional Wellbeing: Analysis of 1.2 Million Individuals From 162 Countries, 2009–2019. Frontiers in Public Health, 10.
Introduction: Human flourishing is a multidimensional concept characterized by a state of complete wellbeing. However, much of the prior research on wellbeing has principally focused on population averages assessed using a single item of wellbeing. This study examined trends in population averages and inequalities for a multidimensional index of wellbeing and compared emergent patterns with those found for Cantril's ladder, a measure of life satisfaction commonly used as a unidimensional index of wellbeing. Methods: Data were from the Gallup World Poll from the years 2009 to 2019, a repeated cross-sectional survey of nationally representative samples comprising ~1.2 million individuals from 162 countries. We assessed five domains of flourishing: (1) happiness, (2) health, (3) purpose, (4) character, and (5) social relationships. We used the Gini Index to estimate inequalities in wellbeing within populations. We examined and compared country ranking, global and region-specific trajectories of mean and inequality, and relationships with age for flourishing and Cantril's ladder. Results: Although all trends were highly correlated across the two metrics of wellbeing, we identified distinct patterns in flourishing concerning geography, time, and age relationships that were not observed for Cantril's ladder. Temporal trends and age relationships were different across domains of flourishing. Evidence of changing inequalities in wellbeing was also found, even when population averages were high or stable over time. Conclusion: Comprehensive measures of wellbeing are needed to capture the complex and changing patterns of wellbeing both within and across populations.
In this commentary, we offer some remarks concerning distinctions that might be drawn between psychological well-being, emotional well-being, well-being more generally, and flourishing. We put forward a flexible map of flourishing to help understand the relative place of these and other terms, and their respective nestings. We discuss some of the challenges concerning terminology related to the use of ordinary language, as well as practices of branding ordinary language expressions that potentially threaten understanding, and we offer some suggestions as to how to navigate some of these terminological challenges in the well-being literature.
We discuss certain critiques of the research literature on flourishing. We fully agree with calls for greater attention to qualitative work, to cultural differences, and to questions of power and justice concerning flourishing. We argue, however, that in spite of notable differences in understandings of flourishing across cultures, there is also a great deal that is held in common, including on topics considered by some as more controversial, such as character and virtue. We also argue that while qualitative research and understanding is important, it is likewise important not to be dismissive of rigorous quantitative research even if certain groups find its results to be unappealing. We further propose that the best way to navigate diverse understandings of flourishing in pluralistic contexts is to identify those aspects of flourishing which are in fact held in common, and to promote these together, but then to acknowledge that certain understandings of flourishing will vary by culture or religious tradition, and to allow and enable each community to exposit, study, and promote flourishing, as it understands it, in critical dialogue with others.
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.
The West is usually portrayed as relatively individualistic. It is further argued that this tendency has influenced academia, leading to an underappreciation of the importance of prosociality. In the interest of exploring this topic, an enquiry was conducted into conceptualisations of prosociality across the world’s cultures. This enquiry focused on so-called untranslatable words, i.e., which lack an exact translation into another language (in this case, English). Through a quasi-systematic search of academic and grey literature, together with additional data collection, over 200 relevant terms were located. An adapted form of grounded theory identified five dimensions: socialising/congregating; morals/ethics; compassion/kindness; interaction/communication; and communality. The analysis sheds light on the dynamics of prosociality, as understood by cultures across the globe. Moreover, the roster of terms featured have the potential to enrich the nomological network in psychology, allowing for a richer conceptualisation of the social dimensions of human functioning.
Positive psychology has been critiqued as Western-centric, influenced by the mostly Western contexts in which it has developed. English is its dominant mode of discourse, for example, which has shaped its understanding of its subject matter. To generate a more comprehensive cross-cultural 'map' of wellbeing, the author is creating a lexicography of relevant 'untranslatable' words (without exact translation in English). An initial analysis of 216 words, published in the Journal of Positive Psychology in 2016, identified six main categories: positive feelings, ambivalent feelings, love, prosociality, character, and spirituality. Subsequently, over 1,400 more words have been added to the lexicography to date. As a result, analyses have been published of each category separately, revealing their internal structure. In addition, six further categories have been identified: cognition, embodiment, aesthetics, eco-connection, competence, and understanding. This paper summarises these analyses, and outlines their significance in terms of augmenting the conceptual map in positive psychology.
Happiness is an increasingly prominent topic of interest across numerous academic fields. However, the literature can sometimes imply it is predominantly a modern concern. Relatedly, critics have argued that contemporary scholarship on happiness is Western-centric, yet in so doing can appear to suggest that happiness is mainly a Western preoccupation. However, taking an expansive view of happiness-defining it broadly as a desirable mental experience-one can appreciate that versions of this phenomenon have been of interest to humans across cultures and throughout history. To articulate this perspective, this paper offers a brief overview of 14 different eras, spanning a range of global regions, in each case highlighting concepts and concerns that bear some close resemblance to happiness. In so doing, the paper encourages a deeper and more inclusive understanding of this vital topic.
Lomas, T., Cowden, R., & VanderWeele, T. J. (2021). Befriending the butterfly: A multidimensional review of strategies to facilitate happiness and wellbeing. The European Journal of Applied Positive Psychology.
Happiness has been compared to a butterfly that ever eludes one’s deliberate efforts to grasp it. However, recent decades have seen a wealth of research which suggests it may indeed be possible to facilitate happiness – and wellbeing more broadly – or at least invite its appearance. This paper offers a narrative review of this literature, taking an expansive multidimensional approach to allow the broadest possible view of what such facilitation may involve or permit. This means not only looking at individualised strategies and activities (e.g., meditation), as reviews in this arena tend to limit themselves too, but also efforts to make people’s sociocultural contexts more conductive to happiness and wellbeing. While remaining cognizant of the limitations of the existing literature, this paper provides evidence for practical strategies that may facilitate happiness and wellbeing in sustainable ways.
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.
Happiness is an increasingly prominent topic across academia, with a burgeoning array of research into its different aspects. Among the most dynamic and interdisciplinary work in this arena are studies exploring the myriad factors that influence it. These span multiple topics and fields of enquiry, from physiology and identity to politics and economics, covering analyses at both individual and national levels. This paper offers a comprehensive overview of such work, identifying seven overarching ‘conditions’ (in themselves multifaceted) that contribute towards the complex creation of happiness: temperament; health; demographics; relationships and communities; culture; economics and equality; and governance. Theoretically, these are conceived as constituting the ‘multidimensional conditionality’ of happiness (i.e. conditions that contribute to its arising, which interact in complex ways). The paper also highlights issues with current scholarship, providing a stimulus for further work on this important topic.
Brassington, K., & Lomas, T. (2021). Can resilience training improve well-being for people in high-risk occupations?
A systematic review through a multidimensional lens. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 16(5), 573-592.
Psychological resilience may be central to Positive Psychology as one way to face the dark side of life. But is resilience training universally effective? This paper initiates a systematic review of primary research on resilience training in high-risk occupations. Methods: Examined resilience training outcomes and conducted analysis from a multidimensional perspective. Results: 33 papers totalling 10,741 participants, 12 occupations, and eight countries. Although 81% (n=118) of Principal Outcomes reaching statistical significance showed improved well-being, resilience training was less effective in populations with prior trauma exposure or already experiencing the negative sequelae of trauma. Conclusion: Given the moral imperative to adequately prepare people in high-risk occupations for exposure to adverse stressors, further research is recommended into improving the effectiveness of resilience training for those already with primary or vicarious trauma exposure; and whether such training should also be offered to close family and co-workers of people in high-risk occupations.
Choaibi, R. & Lomas, T. (2021). Coaching vulnerable youths for positive change: A coaching relationship model for promoting adolescent interpersonal relationships with trusted adults. International Coaching Psychology Review, 16(2).
Objective: Despite the growing research in Coaching Psychology, there is little literature on the psychology of coaching adolescents within community settings. This study aimed to explore youth work practitioner experiences to gain insights into how vulnerable adolescents are supported in their emotional wellbeing within the domain of Coaching Psychology. Methods: The study explored, through semi-structured interviews with 13 qualified youth practitioners how emotional wellbeing may be promoted in adolescents within existing positive development and Coaching Psychology theoretical frameworks. Results: The findings, using Grounded Theory methods presents a Holding-Containing-Attunement Coaching Model that conceptualises the coaching relationship processes for promoting an authentic, communicative environment to enhance adolescent interpersonal relationships with trusted adults. The emotions-focused model informs a coaching relationship framework based on the environment provided by participants (holding), their way of being (containing) and perceived emotions-related outcomes (attunement). Discussion: The Model forms the basis of a framework for promoting emotional wellbeing in adolescents and an emerging Emotional Attunement theory on the coaching relationship that can be further researched and used to coach positive adolescent development. Conclusions: The findings of this study go some way to addressing the gap in current adolescent coaching research, and provides valuable insights into the understudied area of Coaching Psychology within community settings. The Holding-Containing-Attunement Model and Emotional Attunement theory makes a significant contribution to the discussion on the need for a dedicated theory on the coaching relationship.
Manuel-Morgan, A., & Lomas, T. (2021). How atheists interpret self-transcendent experiences: An interpretative phenomenological analysis with three atheist men. The International Journal of Existential Psychology and Psychotherapy, 10(1).
Self-transcendent experiences have mystical connotations. While there is a growing body of research on the well-being benefits of different self-transcendent experiences, little has been done to understand the differences between theistic and non-theistic interpretations of this phenomena. Using interpretative phenomenological analysis, semi-structured interviews were conducted with three atheist men, each having had different types of intense self-transcendent experiences. Three interrelated master themes centring around the transformational benefits of STEs were identified: 1) embracing their STEs as a sublime encounter, 2) viewing the phenomena as rationally explainable and, 3) choosing to secularly articulate the experience and incorporate its benefits into their lives. The findings of this exploratory study support the conclusion that atheists interpret, apply and benefit from STEs differently to theists. They further suggest that through a new language for spirituality, the phenomena of STEs may be liberated from its supernatural associations to be better assimilated within the secular domain of mainstream society.
Waters, L., Cameron, K., Nelson-Coffey, K., Crone, D. L., Kern, M. L., Lomas, T., Oades, L., Owens, R. L., Pawelski, J. O., Rashid, T., Warren, M. A., White, M. A., & Williams, P. (2021). Collective wellbeing and posttraumatic growth during COVID-19: how positive psychology can help families, schools, workplaces and marginalized communities. The Journal of Positive Psychology, doi: 10.1080/17439760.2021.1940251
Positive psychology approaches have been shown to play a vital role in protecting mental health in times of challenge and are, therefore, important to include when studying the psychological outcomes of COVID-19. While existing research has focused on individual psychological health, this paper focuses on collective wellbeing and collective posttraumatic growth, with the aim of more clearly identifying the positive experiences and potential for positive growth for key institutions in our society during the pandemic. A range of positive psychology interventions for families, schools, workplaces, and clinical psychology are presented. The paper then considers how three broad-reaching phenomena existing in our wider society (i.e., arts and culture, eco-connection, and wellbeing literacy) can be used to boost collective wellbeing. A positive systems approach to understand civilian responses to the pandemic together with an examination of the role that positive psychology can play in supporting marginalized groups are also discussed.
Wong, P. T., Arslan, G., Bowers, V. L., Peacock, E. J., Kjell, O. N. E., Ivtzan, I., & Lomas, T. (2021). Self-transcendence as a buffer against COVID-19 suffering: The development and validation of the self-transcendence measure-B. Frontiers in Psychology, 4229.
The age of COVID-19 calls for a different approach toward global well-being and flourishing through the transcendence suffering as advocated by existential positive psychology. In the present study, we primarily explained what self-transcendence is and why it represents the most promising path for human beings to flourish through the transformation of suffering in a difficult and uncertain world. After reviewing the literature on self-transcendence experiences, we concluded that the model of self-transcendence presented by Frankl is able to integrate both of the characteristics associated with self-transcendence. Afterward, we discussed how the self-transcendence paradigm proposed by Wong, an extension of the model by Frankl, may help awaken our innate capacity for connections with the true self, with others, and with God or something larger than oneself. We presented self-transcendence as a less-traveled but more promising route to achieve personal growth and mental health in troubled times. Finally, we presented the history of the development and psychometrics of the Self-Transcendence Measure-Brief (STM-B) and reported the empirical evidence that self-transcendence served as a buffer against COVID-19 suffering. The presented data in the current study suggested that the best way to overcome pandemic suffering and mental health crises is to cultivate self-transcendence.
This study seeks to understand the role that courage plays in the development and practice of coaches. Courage is mentioned frequently in the coaching literature, but this research is the first study to investigate its significance. Within the precepts of constructivist grounded theory, which is appropriate for the investigation of under-represented topics, the perspectives of 12 coaches of varying levels of experience revealed that courage is required throughout a coaching career. It was found that courage enables coaches to deliver their best work and is integral to an ongoing cycle of increasing self-awareness and professional development.
Positive psychology has fruitfully interacted with numerous other disciplines, creating new hybrid paradigms. One such instance involves coaching and coaching psychology, which share the field's focus on enhancing wellbeing and performance across life domains. As a result, there is an emergent interest in exploring their interaction with positive psychology, and developing frameworks for their integration. To shed further light on their relationship, this paper explores four perspectives on the intersections between these emerging fields, including (a) the fields as essentially coterminous; (b) positive psychology encompassing coaching psychology; (c) coaching psychology encompassing positive psychology; and (d) the fields as overlapping but not coterminous (the author's preferred perspective). More generally, the paper offers suggestions for how positive psychology can integrate with the various kinship fields in these processes of hybridisation.
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.
The environment is widely recognised to be in peril, with clear signs of a climate crisis. This situation has many dimensions and factors, but key among them are the often-destructive ways in which humans interact with the natural world. Numerous cultures—particularly more industrialised and/or Western ones—have developed predatory and disconnected modes of interaction. In such modes, nature tends to be constructed as a resource to be exploited (rather than, say, a commonwealth to be protected). However, many people—especially, but not only, in less ‘developed’ nations—have cultivated less destructive modes of relationship. These bonds may be broadly encompassed under the rubric of ‘eco-connection’. In the interests of exploring these latter modes, an enquiry was conducted into adaptive forms of engagement with nature across the world’s cultures. The enquiry focused on untranslatable words, i.e., which lack an exact translation in another language (in this case, English). Through a quasi-systematic search of academic and grey literature, together with additional data collection, over 150 relevant terms were located. An adapted form of grounded theory identified three main dimensions of eco-connection: sacrality, bonding, and appreciation. Such analyses have the potential to promote greater wellbeing literacy with respect to our relationship with nature, both within academia and beyond in the wider culture. This includes enriching the nomological network in psychology, and more broadly building a nature-related vocabulary that is more sustainable and harmonious. In doing so, there may also be benefits to public health, in that developing such literacy could possibly influence people’s engagement with nature itself, leading to more adaptive forms of relationship.
Mainstream psychology can be considered relatively Western-centric, as reflected in the fact that its discourse and theorising is mainly in English, influencing how it conceptualises its subject matter. However, English itself is a complex product of multiple cultural influences, including the widespread borrowing of words from other languages. To shed light on this issue, this paper conducted an etymological analysis of a sample of words in psychology-focusing as a case study on a seminal article in positive psychology. The analysis identified 1333 lexemes, of which more than 60% can be regarded as loanwords (i.e., borrowed from other languages). The analysis shows the great cultural influences that have combined to form English, and hence psychology, yet also the extent to which this influence has been limited to certain cultures. The paper thus illustrates how psychology has benefitted from insights forged in other languages, but moreover how it might continue to do so through more systematic and comprehensive forms of cross-cultural engagement.
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.
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.
Anger is common problem for which counselling/psychotherapy clients seek help, and is typically regarded as an invidious negative emotion to be ameliorated. However, it may be possible to reframe anger as a moral emotion, arising in response to perceived transgressions, thereby endowing it with meaning. In that respect, the current paper offers a ‘bird’s eye’ systematic review of empirical research on anger as a moral emotion (i.e., one focusing broadly on the terrain as a whole, rather than on specific areas). Three databases were reviewed from the start of their records to January 2019. Eligibility criteria included empirical research, published in English in peer-reviewed journals, on anger specifically as a moral emotion. 175 papers met the criteria, and fell into four broad classes of study: survey-based; experimental; physiological; and qualitative. In reviewing the articles, this paper pays particular attention to: how/whether anger can be differentiated from other moral emotions; antecedent causes and triggers; contextual factors that influence or mitigate anger; and outcomes arising from moral anger. Together, the paper offers a comprehensive overview of current knowledge into this prominent and problematic emotion. The results may be of use to counsellors and psychotherapists helping to address anger issues in their clients.
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.
Gourov, D., & Lomas, T. (2019). ‘It’s about wholeness. I love my awesomeness and I love my flawesomeness’: An IPA analysis of coaching with the shadow in mind. The Coaching Psychologist, 15(2), 10-20.
Difficult emotions and cognitive states are recognised in second wave positive psychology as being a gold mine for personal growth. The growing body of knowledge in positive psychology gives coaching psychologists a perimeter to work with, whilst archetypal shadow analysis, rooted in Jung’s teachings, gives depth and insight. While definitions of coaching vary considerably, it can be argued to function as shining a light onto things that are hidden for the client, thereby bringing wholeness and clarity. Interpretive phenomenological analysis was used to analyse coaching with the shadow in mind, where this work became defined as looking at parts that are hidden, suppressed, unowned and unacknowledged by us and others. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with four professional coaches. Three higher order themes were identified: the coach’s personal journey through the shadow, what a shadow coach does and the client’s journey into the shadow. These themes may generate insight into this paradigm of coaching for the first time and is an important step in the ongoing integration of second wave positive psychology and coaching psychology.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Merino, D., Velázquez, M., & Lomas, T. (2019). An exploration of the Spanish cultural term rasmia: A combination of eagerness, strength, activeness, courage, tenacity and gracefulness. Journal of Happiness Studies. doi: 10.1007/s10902-019-00104-y
Since much of the empirical work within Positive Psychology has taken place in English-speaking Western countries, there is concern that the resulting concepts and theories of well-being reflect a bias towards Western (and more specifically English influenced) ways of thinking. However, efforts are underway in the field to enhance its intercultural sensitivity, including in relation to studying cross-cultural diversity in emotional experience and understanding. In that respect, the current article focuses on the notion of rasmia, a Spanish term denoting drive and tenacity in achieving a goal. The research aims to explore the beliefs and conceptions that Spanish people have regarding rasmia. An on-line survey of Spanish residents revealed that rasmia was defined as incorporating eagerness, strength, activeness, courage, tenacity and gracefulness. A second study, conducted in order to determine the degree of agreement with this definition, showed an 80% of agreement. The results highlight the value of engaging with non-English concepts like rasmia.
Mainstream psychology can be regarded as largely Western-centric, with its concepts and priorities biased towards Western ways of thinking and understanding. Consequently, the field would benefit from greater cross-cultural awareness and engagement. To that end, this article offers one means of engagement, the study of “untranslatable” words (i.e., terms without an exact equivalent in another language, in our case English). A key function of language is that it offers a “map” that allows us to understand and navigate the world. In that respect, such words point to cultural variation in the maps we use, and even to variation in the actual territory mapped. The paper concludes with suggestions for why and how psychology could benefit from engaging with such words.
The notion of spirituality is increasingly prominent in academic and cultural discourse alike. However, it remains a nebulous concept, capable of diverse interpretations, particularly cross-culturally. In the interest of exploring this diversity, yet also with the aim of identifying common themes, an enquiry was conducted into conceptualizations of spirituality across cultures. Specifically, the enquiry focused on so-called untranslatable words, i.e., which lack an exact equivalent in another language (in this case, English). Through a quasi-systematic search, together with conceptual snowballing, over 200 relevant terms were located. A grounded theory analysis identified three key dimensions: the sacred, contemplative practice, and self-transcendence. Based on these, a conceptualization of spirituality was formulated that may be valid cross-culturally, namely: engagement with the sacred, usually through contemplative practice, with the ultimate aim of self-transcendence.
Linguists have often remarked upon the polysemous nature of love, whereby the term encompasses a wide diversity of emotional relationships. Several typologies have been constructed to account for this diversity. However, these tend to be restricted in scope, and fail to fully represent the range of experiences signified by the term ‘love’ in discourse. In the interest of generating an expanded typology of love, encompassing its varied forms, an enquiry was conducted into relevant concepts found across the world's cultures, focusing on so-called untranslatable words. Through a quasi-systematic search of published and internet sources, 609 relevant words were identified. These were organised through a version of grounded theory into 14 categories, representing 14 different forms or ‘flavours’ of love. The result is an expanded theoretical treatment of love, allowing us to better appreciate the nuances of this most cherished and yet polysemous of concepts.
Lomas, T. (2018). The quiet virtues of sadness: A selective theoretical and interpretative appreciation of its potential contribution to wellbeing. New Ideas in Psychology, 49(18-26). doi: 10.1016/j.newideapsych.2018.01.002
Critical emotion theorists have raised concerns that ‘normal’ human emotions like sadness are increasingly being pathologised as disorders. Counter efforts have thus been made to normalise such emotions, such as by highlighting their ubiquity and appropriacy. This paper goes slightly further by suggesting that sadness is not merely normal, but may have inherent value, and indeed be an integral component of a flourishing life. It offers a meta-theoretical review of literature on the potential ‘virtues’ of sadness. Three overarching themes are identified, each comprising four subthemes: (a) sadness as a mode of protection (including as a warning, as prompting disengagement, as a mode of conservation, and as enhanced accuracy); (b) sadness as an expression of care (including as a manifestation of love, of longing, of compassion, and eliciting care); and (c) sadness as a vehicle for flourishing (including as a moral sensibility, as engendering psychological development, as an aesthetic sensibility, and as integral to fulfilment). It is thus hoped that the paper can contribute to a more ‘positive’ cultural discourse around sadness, suggesting that, for the majority of people, experiences of sadness may serve an important and even desirable function in their lives.
Although the notion of virtue is increasingly prominent in psychology, the way it has been studied and conceptualised has been relatively Western-centric, and does not fully account for variations in how it has been understood cross-culturally. As such, an enquiry was conducted into ideas relating to virtue found across the world’s cultures, focusing specifically on so-called untranslatable words. Through a quasi-systematic search of academic and grey literature, together with conceptual snowballing and crowd-sourced suggestions, over 200 relevant terms were located. An adapted grounded theory analysis identified five themes which together provide an insight into the “roots” of virtue (i.e., the main sources from which it appears to spring): virtue itself (the concept of it); considerateness (caring about it); wisdom (knowing what it consists of); agency (managing to be/do it); and skill (mastery of the preceding elements). The results help shed further light on the potential dynamics of this important phenomenon.
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.
Although wellbeing tends to be associated with positive affect, theorists have suggested it might also involve more ambivalent emotions. Scholars have further argued that although such emotions are somewhat overlooked in Western societies, other cultures are more attuned to them. In the interest of exploring the value of ambivalent emotions, an enquiry was conducted into relevant concepts found across the world’s cultures, focusing specifically on so-called untranslatable words. Through a quasi-systematic search of academic and grey literature, together with conceptual snowballing, 30 relevant terms were located. A process of grounded theory analysis identified five main themes: hope, longing, pathos, appreciation of imperfection, and sensitivity to mystery. The analysis highlights the need for a more expansive conception of wellbeing, going beyond an exclusive identification with positively valenced emotions to incorporate more complex and ambivalent processes.
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., Garraway, E., Stanton, C., & Ivtzan, I. (2018). Masculinity in the midst of mindfulness: Exploring the gendered experiences of at-risk adolescent boys. Men and Masculinities. doi: 10.1177/1097184X18756709
Teenage boys are a source of considerable concern in society, with generally poorer health, educational, and social outcomes than their female counterparts. Of particular concern are “at-risk” adolescents, who by definition are liable to poorer outcomes than peers not deemed at-risk. However, there are indications that activities such as mindfulness may offer opportunities for such adolescents to negotiate more positive constructions of masculinity. This study piloted a new four-week mindfulness-based intervention, created specifically for a group of eight at-risk adolescent boys at a school in London. In-depth, semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with participants before and after the intervention and analyzed using grounded theory. The data revealed an overarching theme of “pressure control.” Participants depicted themselves as facing multiple pressures, many of which related to making the difficult transition from childhood to adulthood. However, the context of the intervention enabled them to generate a masculine construction in which they were able to reclaim agency and self-control. Notably, such control was often exercised in the direction of facilitating emotional connection and agility, thus subverting traditional masculine expectations. The results show that at-risk adolescent boys are capable of more nuanced and skilled emotional competencies than they are often given credit for.
Lomas, T., Medina, J. C., Ivtzan, I., Rupprecht, S., & Eiroa-Orosa, F. J. (2018). A systematic review and meta-analysis of the impact of mindfulness-based interventions on the wellbeing of healthcare professionals. Mindfulness. doi: 10.1007/s12671-018-1062-5
Efforts to improve the well-being of healthcare professionals include mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs). To understand the value of such initiatives, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of empirical studies pertaining to the use of MBIs with healthcare professionals. Databases were reviewed from the start of records to January 2016 (PROSPERO registration number: CRD42016032899). Eligibility criteria included empirical analyses of well-being outcomes acquired in relation to MBIs. Forty-one papers met the eligibility criteria, consisting of a total of 2101 participants. Studies were examined for two broad classes of well-being outcomes: (a) “negative” mental health measures such as anxiety, depression, and stress; (b) “positive” indices of well-being, such as life satisfaction, together with outcomes associated with well-being, such as emotional intelligence. MBIs were generally associated with positive outcomes in relation to most measures (albeit with moderate effect sizes), and mindfulness does appear to improve the well-being of healthcare professionals. However, the quality of the studies was inconsistent, so further research is needed, particularly high-quality randomised control trials.
Lomas, T., Medina, J. C., Ivtzan, I., Rupprecht, S., & Eiroa-Orosa, F. J. (2018). A systematic review of the impact of mindfulness on the wellbeing of healthcare professionals. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 7(3), 319–355. doi: 10.1002/jclp.22515
Objective: Among efforts to improve the well-being of healthcare professionals are initiatives based around mindfulness meditation. To understand the value of such initiatives, we conducted a systematic review of empirical studies pertaining to mindfulness in healthcare professionals. Method: Databases were reviewed from the start of records to January 2016. Eligibility criteria included empirical analyses of mindfulness and well-being outcomes acquired in relation to practice. 81 papers met the eligibility criteria, comprising a total of 3,805 participants. Studies were principally examined for outcomes such as burnout, distress, anxiety, depression, and stress. Results: Mindfulness was generally associated with positive outcomes in relation to most measures (although results were more equivocal with respect to some outcomes, most notably burnout). Conclusion: Overall, mindfulness does appear to improve the well-being of healthcare professionals. However, the quality of the studies was inconsistent, so further research is needed, particularly high-quality randomized controlled trials.
Lomas, T., Medina, J. C., Ivtzan, I., Rupprecht, S., & Eiroa-Orosa, F. J. (2018). Mindfulness-based interventions in the workplace: An inclusive systematic review and meta-analysis of their impact upon wellbeing. Journal of Positive Psychology. doi: 10.1080/17439760.2018.1519588
Given the demanding nature of many professions, efforts are ongoing to develop initiatives to improve occupational wellbeing, including mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs). To assess the efficacy of MBIs, meta-analytic procedures were conducted on 35 randomized controlled trials derived from an earlier inclusive systematic literature search (covering all occupations, MBIs, and wellbeing-related outcomes). Mindfulness had significant moderate effects on deficit-based outcomes such as stress (SMD = −0.57), anxiety (SMD = −0.57), distress (SMD = −0.56), depression (SMD = −0.48), and burnout (SMD = −0.36), and significant moderate to small effects on asset-based outcomes like health (SMD = 0.63), job performance (SMD = 0.43), compassion and empathy (SMD = 0.42), mindfulness (SMD = 0.39), and positive wellbeing (SMD = 0.36), while no significant effects were observed for depression or emotional regulation. However, the quality of the studies was inconsistent, suggesting more high-quality randomised controlled trials are needed.
Schimschal, S. E., & Lomas, T. (2018). Gritty leaders: The impact of grit on positive leadership capacity. Psychological Reports. doi: 10.1177/0033294118785547
The concepts of grit and positive leadership are central to extraordinary performance. However, to date there has been little empirical analysis of the relationship between a leader’s level of grit and their capacity to implement positive leadership strategies and practices. This correlational study explores these linkages, taking grit subfactors into consideration as well as three dimensions of positive leadership. Convenience sampling was used to survey 100 leaders across a range of industries. Respondents completed the Grit Scale and 18 questions from the Positive Leadership Practices Self-Assessment. Results indicated that grit positively correlated with positive leadership, and perseverance exhibited a stronger relationship than passion. Further, grit accounted for variance in positive leadership. These findings provide a solid evidence base for giving leaders access to development opportunities that can accelerate the growth of grit and positive leadership.
Lomas, T. (2017). The spectrum of positive affect: A cross-cultural lexical analysis. International Journal of Wellbeing, 7(3), 1-18. doi: 10.5502/ijw.v7i3.608
Although wellbeing tends to be associated with positive affect, the phenomenological terrain in this regard is often poorly differentiated. In the interest of bringing further granularity to this area, an enquiry was conducted into relevant concepts found across the world’s cultures, focusing specifically on so-called untranslatable words. Through a quasi-systematic search of academic and grey literature, together with conceptual snowballing, 134 relevant terms have been located so far (with the process of enquiry ongoing). Through a process of grounded theory analysis, seven main themes were identified: peace/calm; contentment/satisfaction; cosiness/homeliness; savouring/appreciation; revelry/fun; joy/euphoria; and bliss nirvāṇa. The analysis highlights the need for a more expansive and granular conceptualisation of positive affect, one that recognises the depth and breadth of the subjective terrain that it covers.
Lomas, T. (2017). A re-appraisal of boredom: A case study in second wave positive psychology. In N. J. L. Brown, T. Lomas & F. Eiroa-Orosa (Eds.), The Routledge International Handbook of Critical Positive Psychology (pp. 213-226). New York: Routledge.
Positive psychology has become increasingly amenable and open to critical perspectives, including with respect to the very notions of “positive” and “negative.” This problematizing of the “positive” has been referred to as “second wave” positive psychology (Lomas & Ivtzan, 2015; (Ivtzan, Lomas, Hefferon, & Worth, 2015)—and previously as positive psychology “2.0” (Wong, 2011)—as elucidated in the introduction to this section. The rationale for these labels is that the initial “first wave” of the field was essentially founded on a binary positive–negative construction: Certain phenomena were viewed as positive, and hence desirable, with others therefore being negative, and hence undesirable. However, it is increasingly clear that such categorical appraisals are far from straightforward: ostensibly positive phenomena can be detrimental to wellbeing, while seemingly negative phenomena may be conducive to it. To some extent, this critical appreciation was implicit within the field from the beginning (e.g., Seligman, 1990). However, this more nuanced appreciation tended to be missing from the overarching “message” of the field. Now, though, there is a growing recognition of the complex “dialectics” of flourishing, involving an intricate interplay between seemingly negative and positive phenomena (e.g., Kashdan & Biswas-Diener, 2014). This chapter provides an illustration of this second wave approach in the form of a case study on an emotion that is generally regarded as negative and undesirable, namely boredom.
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.
Could the practice of mindfulness help at-risk adolescent boys manage the challenges in their lives, do better at school, and generally increase their well-being? Mindfulness is a practice that is thought to develop people’s attention and awareness skills. It has been found to have positive effects in diverse populations, from pregnant mothers to military personnel, and in relation to varied problems, from depression to eating disorders. In this research, I aimed to test whether mindfulness might be of benefit to at-risk adolescent boys, whose characteristics make them more likely to suffer issues with well-being.
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., Etcoff, N., Gordon, W. V., & Shonin, E. (2017). Zen and the art of living mindfully: The health-enhancing potential of Zen aesthetics. Journal of Religion and Health. doi: 10.1007/s10943-017-0446-5
Amidst the burgeoning enthusiasm for mindfulness in the West, there is a concern that the largely secular ‘de-contextualized’ way in which it is being harnessed is denuding it of its potential to improve health and wellbeing. As such, efforts are underway to ‘re-contextualize’ mindfulness, explicitly drawing on the wider framework of Buddhist ideas and practices in which it was initially developed. This paper aims to contribute to this, doing so by focusing on Zen Buddhism, and in particular on Zen aesthetic principles. It concentrates on the seven principles identified by Shin’ichi Hisamatsu (1971) in his classic text Zen and the Fine Arts: kanso (simplicity); fukinsei (asymmetry); koko (austere sublimity); shizen (naturalness); daisuzoku (freedom from routine); sei-jaku (tranquillity); and yūgen (profound grace). The presence of these principles in works of art is seen as reflecting and communicating insights that are central to Buddhism, such as non-attachment. Moreover, these principles do not only apply to the creation and appreciation of art, but have clear applications for treating health-related disorders, and improving quality of life more generally. This paper makes the case that embodying these principles in their lives can help people enhance their levels of psychosomatic wellbeing, and come to a truer understanding of the essence of mindful living.
Lomas, T., Medina, J. C., Ivtzan, I., Rupprecht, S., Hart, R., & Eiroa-Orosa, F. J. (2017). The impact of mindfulness on wellbeing and performance in the workplace: An inclusive systematic review of the empirical literature. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology. doi: 10.1080/1359432X.2017.1308924
Work can be demanding, imposing challenges that can be detrimental to the physical and mental health of workers. Efforts are therefore underway to develop practices and initiatives that may improve occupational well-being. These include interventions based on mindfulness meditation. This paper offers a systematic review of empirical studies featuring analyses of mindfulness in occupational contexts. Databases were reviewed from the start of records to January 2016. Eligibility criteria included experimental and correlative studies of mindfulness conducted in work settings, with a variety of well-being and performance measures. A total of 153 papers met the eligibility criteria and were included in the systematic review, comprising 12,571 participants. Mindfulness was generally associated with positive outcomes in relation to most measures. However, the quality of the studies was inconsistent, so further research is needed, particularly involving high-quality randomized control trials.
Lomas, T., Medina, J. C., Ivtzan, I., Rupprecht, S., & Eiroa-Orosa, F. J. (2017). The impact of mindfulness on the wellbeing and performance of educators: A systematic review of the empirical literature. Teaching and Teacher Education, 61, 132-141. doi: 10.1016/j.tate.2016.10.008
Given the potentially demanding nature of teaching, efforts are underway to develop practices that can improve the wellbeing of educators, including interventions based on mindfulness meditation. We performed a systematic review of empirical studies featuring analyses of mindfulness in teaching contexts. Databases were reviewed from the start of records to January 2016. Eligibility criteria included empirical analyses of mindfulness, mental health, wellbeing, and performance outcomes acquired in relation to practice. A total of 19 papers met the eligibility criteria and were included in the systematic review, consisting of a total 1981 participants. Studies were principally examined for outcomes such as burnout, anxiety, depression and stress, as well as more positive wellbeing measures (e.g., life satisfaction). The systematic review revealed that mindfulness was generally associated with positive outcomes in relation to most measures. However, the quality of the studies was inconsistent, and so further research is needed, particularly involving high-quality randomised control trials.
Dolan, A., Lomas, T., Ghobara, T., & Hartshorne, G. (2017). “It's like taking a bit of masculinity away from you”: Towards a theoretical understanding of men’s experiences of infertility. Sociology of Health & Illness. doi: 10.1111/1467-9566.12548
In the UK, nearly half of all cases of infertility involve a ‘male-factor’. Yet, little empirical work has explored how men as men negotiate this terrain. Three interrelated concepts; ‘hegemonic masculinity’, ‘embodied masculinity’ and the linkages between ‘masculinities’ and male help-seeking, provide the theoretical framework that guided a qualitative study conducted with 22 men experiencing infertility. The paper explores men's propensity to delay their help-seeking in relation to infertility despite their desire for children. It also demonstrates how, in the context of infertility, the male body can be defined as both a failed entity in itself (unable to father a child) and a subordinated social entity (unable to measure up to hegemonic ideals) that characterises men's masculine identities. The paper also illustrates how men appear willing to accept responsibility for their infertility and adopt aspects of hitherto subordinate masculine practice. This does not, however, constitute the total unravelling of well understood and accepted expressions of masculinity. Finally, the paper demonstrates how infertility is perceived as having the potential to fracture current and even future relationships. Moreover, regardless of how well men measured up to other hegemonic ideals, ultimately they can do little to counteract the threat of other (fertile) men.
Ivtzan, I., Young, T., Lee, H. C., Lomas, T., & Kjell, O. (2017). Mindfulness based flourishing program: A cross-cultural study of Hong Kong Chinese and British participants. Journal of Happiness Studies. doi: 10.1007/s10902-017-9919-1
The Mindfulness Based Flourishing Program (MBFP) is an online 8-week intervention developed for enhancing wellbeing with the use of mindfulness practices, through targeting a range of positive variables. The efficacy of the MBFP has been demonstrated in a randomized controlled trial, and in order to further establish it as an intervention with widespread application, cross-cultural validation is warranted. The current study was conducted with the primary aim of testing the validity of the MBFP with a Hong Kong Chinese population, as well as verifying its positive effects. A randomized wait-list controlled design was adopted with 115 participants (92 females, mean age = 31.50). Intervention outcomes were compared between Hong Kong Chinese and British participants. Five positive variables were examined (self-compassion, meaning in life, positive and negative emotions, gratitude, and mindfulness), and measures were taken pre- and post-intervention. Significant gains in wellbeing measures were observed in both the Hong Kong Chinese and the British experimental groups. Levels of wellbeing post-intervention were also higher for the two experimental groups as compared to their control counterparts. The current study provides preliminary evidence for the MBFP’s cross-cultural validity, and strengthens previous claims for its efficacy as a new, accessible alternative for enhancing wellbeing.
Perridge, D., Hefferon, K., Lomas, T., & Ivtzan, I. (2017). “I feel I can live every minute if I choose to”: Participants’ experience of a mindfulness based flourishing programme. Qualitative Research in Psychology. doi: 10.1080/14780887.2017.1359709
Both separately and in conjunction, mindfulness and positive psychological interventions have been found to increase wellbeing against a number of measures. Research has been primarily based upon the application of self-report scales, and little has yet been done to examine the lived experience of participants. The aim of this study therefore was to apply an interpretative phenomenological approach to the experience of participants in a Mindfulness Based Flourishing (MBF) programme which combines positive psychological interventions with mindfulness, in order to more fully understand the scope and depth of the impact their experience had on them. Three participants from a completed MBF each had a one-off semi-structured interview, the results of which were transcribed verbatim. The resulting texts were analysed, with five themes emerging which demonstrated the impact the programme had had on participants’ sense of self and on the nature of their connections with others. While all participants identified benefits accruing from the course, it also presented challenges emotionally as well as in terms of the embedding of knowledge and skills. Future research should look to examine the impact of such programmes in wider cultural and temporal frameworks, and additionally should explore the application of Grounded Theory to identify more theoretical level explanations of phenomenon.
Lomas, T. (2016). The art of second wave positive psychology: Harnessing Zen aesthetics to explore the dialectics of flourishing. International Journal of Wellbeing, 6(2), 14-29. doi: 10.5502/ijw.v6i2.2
In recent years, a ‘second wave’ of positive psychology has been emerging, characterised above all by an awareness and appreciation of the ‘dialectical’ nature of flourishing. This paper offers a philosophical foundation for this second wave, based on Eastern philosophy, and in particular, Zen aesthetics. Part one introduces Zen, including its key philosophical ideas and practices, as well as two antecedent traditions that helped to form it, namely Buddhism and Taoism. Part two then elucidates three aesthetic principles that are integral to Zen: mono no aware (the pathos of life), wabi-sabi (desolate beauty), and yūgen (profound grace). The paper discusses how these principles could be of value to positive psychology in fostering dialectical understanding and appreciation, thus highlighting future directions for the field.
Frisson. What a strange word. It evokes that peculiar intermingling of excitement and fear that can attend momentous events. The spark of electricity when you lock eyes with someone who is yet unknown to you, but who might just be ‘the one.’ The queasy sensation of anxious adrenaline when a big news story breaks. The fearful joy as you plunge downhill on a vertiginous rollercoaster. The word ‘thrill’ perhaps comes close. But not quite. As such, realising that all near-equivalents in English are imperfect, we gladly alight upon the French loanword. And as we do, our existence feels just a little richer and more nuanced...
Boredom is almost universally regarded as a dysphoric mental state, characterised by features such as disengagement and low arousal. However, in certain quarters (e.g., Zen Buddhism), boredom is seen as potentially having great value and even importance. The current study sought to explore boredom through a case study involving introspective phenomenology. The author created conditions in which he would experience boredom for an hour, and recorded his experience in real-time using a variant of the Experiencing Sampling Method. The data were analysed using an adaptation of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. The results indicated that the state of boredom contained three main sources of value: (a) altered perception of time; (b) awakened curiosity about the environment; and (c) exploration of self. Consequently, the paper offers a re-appraisal of boredom, suggesting that rather than necessarily being a negative state, if engaged with, boredom has the potential to be a positive and rewarding experience.
It is nearly twenty years since Martin Seligman used his 1998 American Psychological Association presidential address to inaugurate the notion of ‘positive psychology.’ The rationale for its creation was Seligman’s contention that psychology had hitherto tended to focus mainly on what is wrong with people, on dysfunction, disorder and distress. There were of course pockets of scholarship that held a candle for human potential and excellence, like humanistic psychology. Nevertheless, on the whole, he argued that concepts such as happiness did not attract much attention or credibility in mainstream psychology. Emerging to redress this lacuna, positive psychology soon became a fertile new paradigm, encompassing research into a panoply of processes and qualities that could be deemed ‘positive,’ from overarching constructs such as flourishing, to more specific concepts like hope. Of course, none of this was radically new: many of these topics had been studied empirically for years by scholars in disparate fields, and indeed had been debated for centuries, millennia even. However, part of the appeal of the new field was that it created a conceptual space where these diverse topics – all of which shared the ‘family resemblance’ (à la Wittgenstein) of pertaining to wellbeing – could be brought together and considered collectively. Thus, as a novel branch of scholarship focused specifically and entirely on ‘the science and practice of improving wellbeing’ (Lomas, Hefferon, & Ivtzan, 2015, p.1347), it was a welcome new addition to the broader church of psychology. However, it was not without its critics...
Positive psychology, an emergent branch of scholarship concerned with wellbeing and flourishing, initially defined itself by a focus on ‘positive’ emotions and qualities. However, critics soon pointed out that this binary logic – classifying phenomena as either positive or negative, and valorising the former while disparaging the latter – could be problematic. For example, apparently positive qualities can be harmful to wellbeing in certain circumstances, while ostensibly dysphoric emotional states may on occasion promote flourishing. Responding to these criticisms, over recent years a more nuanced ‘second wave’ of positive psychology has been developing, in which wellbeing is recognised as involving a dialectical balance of light and dark aspects of life. This commentary introduces this emergent second wave, arguing that it is characterised by four dialectical principles. Firstly, the principle of appraisal states that it is difficult to categorially identify phenomena as either positive or negative, since such appraisals are fundamentally contextually-dependent. Secondly, the principle of co-valence holds that many states and qualities at the heart of flourishing, such as love, are actually a complex blend of light and dark elements. Thirdly, the principle of complementarity posits that not only are such phenomena co-valenced, but that their dichotomous elements are in fact co-creating, two intertwined sides of the same coin. Finally, the principle of evolution allows us to understand second wave positive psychology as itself being an example of a dialectical process.
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.
Although mindfulness has been embraced by the West, this has mostly been a secular “decontextualized” form of mindfulness, disembedded from its original Buddhist nexus of beliefs/practices. This has arguably deprived the practice of its potential to effect more radical psychospiritual development. This article therefore argues for the “recontextualization” of mindfulness, drawing explicitly on Buddhist teachings to enhance our appreciation of it, and offers a contribution to such recontextualization. It presents a novel (in the context of Western psychology) theoretical model of mindfulness, drawing on concepts in Theravada Buddhist literature. In particular, it suggests that Buddhism identifies 3 main “forms” of mindfulness: sati (awareness of the present moment), appamada (awareness suffused with ethical care), and sampajañña (awareness suffused with a sense of spiritual development). Although, currently, only sati has been recognized in the West, we have much to gain from also recognizing the potential ethical and spiritual dimensions of mindfulness.
Lomas, T. (2016). Towards a positive cross-cultural lexicography: Enriching our emotional landscape through 216 ‘untranslatable’ words pertaining to wellbeing. The Journal of Positive Psychology. doi: 10.1080/17439760.2015.1127993
Although much attention has been paid to culture-specific psychopathologies, there have been no comparable attempts to chart positive mental states that may be particular to certain cultures. This paper outlines the beginnings of a positive cross-cultural lexicography of ‘untranslatable’ words pertaining to well-being, culled from across the world’s languages. A quasi-systematic search uncovered 216 such terms. Using grounded theory, these words were organised into three categories: feelings (comprising positive and complex feelings); relationships (comprising intimacy and pro-sociality) and character (comprising personal resources and spirituality). The paper has two main aims. First, it aims to provide a window onto cultural differences in constructions of well-being, thereby enriching our understanding of well-being. Second, a more ambitious aim is that this lexicon may help expand the emotional vocabulary of English speakers (and indeed speakers of all languages), and consequently enrich their experiences of well-being. The paper concludes by setting out a research agenda to pursue these aims further.
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.
Although positive psychology (PP) was initially conceived as more a shift in perspective (towards the “positive”) than a new field per se, in pragmatic terms, it is arguably beginning to function as a distinct discipline, with people self-identifying as “positive psychologists.” Thus, we contend it is time for the field to start developing a system of professional (e.g., ethical) guidelines to inform the practice of PP. To this end, we outline one such possible system, drawing on guidelines in counselling and psychotherapy. Moreover, we argue for the creation of two tiers of professional identity within PP. Firstly, people with a master’s qualification in PP might label themselves “positive psychology practitioners.” Secondly, we raise the possibility of creating a professional doctorate in PP which would enable graduates to assume the title of “positive psychologist.” We hope that this paper will contribute towards a dialogue within the field around these issues, helping PP to develop further over the years ahead.
Lomas, T., Ivtzan, I., & Yong, C.-Y. (2016). Mindful Living in Older Age: A pilot study of a brief, community-based, ‘positive aging’ intervention. Mindfulness, 7(3), 630-641. doi: 10.1007/s12671-016-0498-8
Although mindfulness-based interventions have been successfully used with older adults, there have been few interventions that (a) are created specifically for older adults, (b) are delivered in the community, and (c) aim to promote successful aging (rather than treating dysfunction/disorder). To this end, the current study piloted a brief ‘positive aging’ intervention, comprising two 150-minute sessions, with six female older adults living in the community. Data were gathered through focus groups that were interwoven throughout the intervention. Using thematic analysis, four main themes were identified: (a) aging as a mixed blessing, (b) understanding mindfulness, (c) the challenges of mindfulness, and (d) the benefits of mindfulness. Overall, the intervention was successful in introducing participants to mindfulness and potentially forming the basis of a longer-term practice. However, the study also highlighted important points regarding the challenges of practising mindfulness, in relation to which the paper makes recommendations pertaining to the teaching of mindfulness with older adults.
Lomas, T. (2016). Nourishment from the roots: Engaging with the Buddhist foundations of mindfulness. In I. Ivtzan & T. Lomas (Eds.), Mindfulness in Positive Psychology: The Science of Meditation and Wellbeing. London: Routledge.
Abstract: Mindfulness has had a profound and dramatic impact upon academic psychology, and indeed upon Western Society more generally, being adopted and adapted in a multitude of contexts. However, while this interest is to be greatly welcomed, it is worth noting that mindfulness has tended to be conceptualised and taught in a secular way, decontextualized from the Buddhist nexus of theory and practice in which it was originally developed. This has meant that the practice has been denuded of some of its power and significance, and its potential as a means for psychospiritual growth has been curtailed. As such, this chapter argues that it is worth now aiming to ‘re-contextualise’ mindfulness, exploring the way in which we might benefit from also engaging with the wider framework of Buddhist teachings in which mindfulness was originally situated. In particular, the chapter suggests that Buddhism actually identifies three different ‘forms’ or ‘levels’ of mindfulness, captured by various Pali words: sati (awareness suffused with spirit of recollection); appamada (awareness suffused with an ethos of ethical care); and sampajañña (awareness suffused with a sense of spiritual development). So far, only the first of these (sati) has really been explored by contemporary psychology; however, the chapter makes the case that we have much to gain from also engaging with the potential ethical and spiritual dimensions of mindfulness.
Lomas, T., & Ivtzan, I. (2016). Beyond deficit reduction: Exploring the positive potentials of mindfulness. In E. Shonin, W. van Gordon & M. Griffiths (Eds.), Mindfulness and Buddhist-Derived Approaches in Mental Health (pp. 277-295). London: Springer.
Abstract: The past few decades have seen an extraordinary explosion of interest in mindfulness, both in academia and in Western society more broadly. Central to this burgeoning enthusiasm has been the development of mindfulness-based interventions, which have had great success in treating physical and psychological health issues across diverse patient groups. However, for all their merits, these interventions have mostly been formulated in the context of clinical practice, and as such have tended to endorse a ‘deficit’ model of the person (which conceptualises humans as inherently dysfunctional or deficient, and views the role of therapeutic disciplines as being limited to the correction of such defects). Thus, nearly all mindfulness-based interventions are concerned with treating dysfunction or illness, from stress and depression to pain and discomfort. As necessary as such interventions are, this has meant that mindfulness has been largely de-contextualised from its original purpose within Buddhism as a means for radical personal transformation. However, in recent years, the emergent field of positive psychology has been at the forefront of efforts to create mindfulness-based interventions that capture more of the missing spirit of the original Buddhist teachings. These new interventions will hopefully augment existing interventions, helping us to collectively further explore and appreciate the exciting promise of mindfulness.
The aim of the present study was to make an idiographic investigation about the difficulties that are encountered by people who self-identify as having difficulties with self-compassion. Although a growing number of studies have been carried out concerning the concept of self-compassion, most research designs were quantitative. Based on this gap, the current study expanded the scope to include a qualitative dimension of the recent literature on self-compassion and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was adopted as methodological preference, which particularly monitors the lived experience of participants. In consequence of four in-depth semi-structured interviews, four super-ordinate themes emerged; the doubleedged-sword: perfectionism, the flaws of compassion, the effects of a third person, and the advantages of self-criticism. In line with pre-existing research, these findings explored the reasons behind self-undermining behaviours and misconstructions about self-compassion, which are a barrier to gentle self-talk. Furthermore, unfavourable effects of the social environment prime participants to maladaptive perfectionism and excessive self-criticism, which are considered a success formula by the participants. This study's purpose is to present a detailed roadmap about the self-destructive journey of the people with low self-compassion. It will help researchers and clinicians to develop future interventions in order to cultivate kind and encouraging attitudes in self-critical people.
Ivtzan, I., Young, T., Martman, J., Jeffrey, A., Lomas, T., Hart, R., & Eiroa-Orosa, F. (2016). Integrating mindfulness into positive psychology: A randomised controlled trial of an online positive mindfulness program. Mindfulness. doi: 10.1007/s12671-016-0581-1
The purpose of the present study was to test the efficacy of an 8-week online intervention-based Positive Mindfulness Program (PMP) that integrated mindfulness with a series of positive psychology variables, with a view to improving well-being scores measured in these variables. The positive mindfulness cycle, based on positive intentions and savouring, provides the theoretical foundation for the PMP. The study was based on a randomised wait-list controlled trial, and 168 participants (128 females, mean age = 40.82) completed the intervention which included daily videos, meditations and activities. The variables tested included well-being measures, such as gratitude, self-compassion, self-efficacy, meaning and autonomy. Pre- and post-intervention data, including 1 month after the end of the intervention, were collected from both experimental and control groups. The posttest measurements of the experimental participants showed a significant improvement in all the dependent variables compared with the pre-test ones and were also significantly higher than those of the control group. One month after the intervention, the experimental group participants retained their improvement in 10 out of the 11 measurements. These positive results indicate that PMP may be effective in enhancing wellbeing and other positive variables in adult, non-clinical populations.
O'Brien, K., & Lomas, T. (2016). Developing a Growth Mindset through outdoor personal development: can an intervention underpinned by psychology increase the impact of an outdoor learning course for young people? Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning. doi: 10.1080/14729679.2016.1232199
This study considers the impact of using a series of Mindset interventions during a five-day outdoor personal development (OPD) course. Self-efficacy, resilience and Mindset were measured pre course, post course and one month post course. It was hypothesised that both experimental and control groups would increase their self-efficacy and resilience, and that the Mindset (experimental) group would significantly increase beyond the levels of the control group, who took part in the standard OPD course. It was also predicted that the Mindset group would move towards a Growth Mindset, whereas the control group would not show any change in Mindset. Hypotheses were tested using a randomised, quasi-experimental method. Separate mixed analyses of variance were carried out for each dependent variable, followed by planned comparisons and post-hoc tests using a Bonferroni correction. Results showed that both groups increased self-efficacy over time; however, there was no further significance for the experimental group. Resilience only increased significantly in the experimental group while the control group made no significant gain, and students in the experimental group moved significantly towards a Growth Mindset while the control group did not.
Van Gordon, W., Shonin, E., Lomas, T., & Griffiths, M. D. (2016). Corporate use of mindfulness and authentic spiritual transmission: Competing or compatible ideals? . Mindfulness and Compassion. doi: 10.1016/j.mincom.2016.10.005
There is consensus amongst both the scientific and Buddhist community that mindfulness – when correctly taught and practised – leads to a range of beneficial outcomes. However, there has been little evaluation of what happens when mindfulness is incorrectly taught, or is practised with a selfish rather than selfless intention. Nowhere is the importance of this issue more pertinent than the recent and growing assimilation of mindfulness for employees by large corporations. The current paper introduces the principle of ‘authentic spiritual transmission’ and examines how it can inform the integration of mindfulness into the corporate workplace. Three questions are explored: (i) what spiritual infrastructure is required to operationalize mindfulness that is effective in the corporate setting? (ii) to what extent can ‘inner change’ induced by mindfulness substitute the need for corporations to foster healthy ‘external’ working conditions? and (iii) is mindfulness corruptible or does it have a natural defence mechanism? The paper addresses these questions by synthesizing relevant Buddhist discourses, evaluating recent theoretical and empirical findings concerning the use of mindfulness in corporate settings, and examining how second-generation mindfulness-based interventions can inform this topical area of scholarly debate.