October is a always a busy time for me - lots of courses running and, for the last couple of years, preparing for Stoic week in November. In this Newsletter you'll find a recent interview first published on Shona Lockhart's Happiness Experiment blog in which I answer some searching questions about Positive Psychology and my recent book.
I'm enthusiastic about the potential for psychology to help us live well. At the same time I firmly believe practical philosophy has an important role. In an article first published on the Stoicism Today site, I argue that Stoicism can help us be wiser. By conducting empirical research on the impact Stoicism has on us, we can also find out if it can make us happier as well. The initial evidence is certainly encouraging.
There are still a few places left in my Thursday evening Positive Psychology course at City Uni - starting Thursday Oct 2nd - so apply soon if you are interested.
You can read more articles on my Socrates Satisfied blog
, including weekly tips
about how to Achieve your potential using Positive Psychology.
Interview by Shona Lockart from her Happiness Experiment blog
Today’s blog post features an interview with Tim LeBon, whose lectures made me finally put in to practice what I had been reading about the science of positive psychology. As well as being a registered psychotherapist, Tim runs a popular 10 week introductory course to positive psychology at City university, starting in October which I would highly recommend. Tim has recently published a new book on how you can use positive psychology to achieve your potential and although I have read numerous books on the subject this is a welcome addition to my positive psychology library. As Tim has particular interests in CBT and philosophy, his new book includes chapters on these subjects and he addresses how to take a wise approach to the application of positive psychology as well as writing a very clear chapter by chapter explanation, with case studies, on what positive psychology is all about. Enjoy the interview.
1. What prompted you to write your new book Achieve Your Potential with Positive Psychology?
I’ve been teaching Positive Psychology and using it in my work with clients for a number of years now with positive results. I wanted to write a book to sum up all I’ve learnt and make it available to a wider audience.
2. Who is the book aimed at?
Its aimed at the general public – anyone who is interested in discovering what psychology has to teach us about how to live well.
I’ve tried to make the book “as simple as possible, but not simpler”. The tried-and-tested Teach Yourself format is a great help here. The structure ensures there are lots of practical examples and summaries of the main points, yet also room for reflection, for example on areas where Positive Psychology is open to criticism.
3. Positive Psychology is a broad field. What elements does your book focus on in particular?
I define Positive Psychology as “the science of well-being” and what’s in the book follows from that definition. Since well-being involves having less of the negative in life as well more of the positive, I include 2 chapters on resilience – more than is customary in Positive Psychology books One chapter describes CBT, which in a way is my specialty since it what I practice in my NHS work as a psychotherapist, and the other is on third-wave CBT and mindfulness.
Practical Philosophy is another focus. I argue that wisdom is an essential part of well-being. We need to find a wise balance between feeling good, doing good and being good. we need to be wise in how we use our strengths … and so on. For this reason there is a whole chapter devoted to wisdom. A key theme of the book is that whilst the ideas of Positive Psychology as proposed by Seligman can help us be wiser, Positive Psychology can become wiser still when it incorporates ideas from ancient philosophers such as Aristotle and the Stoics and existentialist thinkers such as Frankl.
I should add that the book also covers the areas usually addressed in Positive Psychology primers. Five chapters are structured around Seligman’s PERMA theory of flourishing. There is a chapter on each of Seligman’s 5 elements of well-being – positive emotions, engagement (flow), positive relationships, meaning and purpose and achievement, with tips on how to increase each and case studies illustrating this. There is also a chapter on strengths and on Positive Psychology in Practice.
4. What is your definition of flourishing?
PERMA informed by wisdom.
Read the complete interview at http://thehappinessexperiment.co.uk/achieving-your-potential-with-positive-psychology/
Does Stoicism Work? Stoicism & Positive Psychology
Introduction: Stoicism isn’t just a theory, it is also a set of practices aimed at helping people to lead better lives. A key question is whether Stoic practices work – does practising Stoicism actually help people? Psychology and its scientific methods is the obvious place to turn to help answer this question. In this article, I will describe the work of the Stoicism Today team to use the methods of psychology to begin to answer the “Does Stoicism work?” question and suggest directions for future research. The last fifteen years have seen the growth of positivepsychology, a branch of psychology aimed at providing a scientific understanding of what goes well in life and how to enhance it. I will argue that Positive Psychology can become more complete and wiser if it incorporates ideas from Stoicism.
Since its inception in 1998, Positive Psychology has spawned many experiments, articles, books and conferences. Whilst philosophers and self-help authors have long theorised about what we should do, Positive Psychology now proposes planned activities (“interventions”) and tests them scientifically. One way is to ask people to carry out an intervention, measuring their well-being before and after to see its effect. Positive Psychology has already delivered substantial findings, including the following:
- Happiness and positive emotions such as joy, pride, love and awe don’t just feel good, they also have positive consequences such as improved health and increased longevity, creativity and altruism.
- An important component of well-being is flow, which means being totally absorbed in what you are doing. Flow is distinct from pleasure because when you are absorbed in an activity you don’t really feel anything.
- It is possible to cultivate a number of beneficial positive attitudes. These include hope, optimism, gratitude and a “growth mindset” (i.e. a belief that one’s abilities are not fixed). These attitudes have been shown to lead to improved health, better work and academic performance, better self-esteem and greater resilience.
- A number of beneficial positive behaviours have been identified, including identifying and using your strengths and performing acts of kindness.
- A number of simple interventions have been shown to bring about increases in well-being in both the short term and at six-month follow up. Conversely some plausible interventions have been shown not to bring about lasting positive change.
There is now good evidence that studying Positive Psychology and applying its findings to oneself, to organisations and in education can lead to increased well-being. For a fuller review of Positive Psychology, the interested reader is referred to my new book, Achieve Your Potential with Positive Psychology (Hodder, 2014).
Philosophy and Positive Psychology
Whilst these developments are very much to be welcomed, there are some importantphilosophical questions to ask Positive Psychology, including:
- What precisely is well-being and what is the difference between well-being and related terms such as subjective well-being, flourishing, pleasure, enjoyment and happiness?
- Positive Psychology emphasises feeling good and doing good. What is the place in Positive Psychology for virtue (i.e. being good)?
- Can positive attitudes and behaviours actually cause harm if they are carried out by someone who lacks virtue? For example, would you want a terrorist to use their strengths?
- Is, as many ancients thought, wisdom a particularly important virtue?Isn’t it important not just to be hopeful and optimistic but to use these qualities wisely?
- Can practical ideas proposed by philosophers – such as the Stoics and Epicureans – be tested?
- Could empirically tested philosophical strategies help individuals be virtuous and wiser as well as feeling better and so strengthen Positive Psychology?
The remainder of this article will focus on the last two questions.
Stoicism Today and Putting Stoicism to the Test
Stoicism is a good candidate for inclusion in Positive Psychology both because of its broadly therapeutic intent and the plethora of specific, testable strategies to be found in the writings of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca and, particularly, Epictetus. Under the leadership of Professor Christopher Gill based at the University of Exeter, the Stoicism Today team, including the current author, has made a start at putting Stoicism to the test. In this section, I will briefly summarise our findings. For a more detailed account, see LeBon (2014a)
In the latest 2013 study, participants, recruited from the general public as well as Stoic interest groups, were provided with a free downloadable booklet featuring Stoic readings and exercises, many of which were available as audio recordings. In addition a blog was maintained and participants were encouraged to communicate with each other using social media. Central to the empirical study was the suggested programme of meditations and exercises for “Stoic week”. Each day had a specific Stoic theme, and an early morning and late evening meditation connected the daily theme with more general Stoic ideas.
Amongst the suggested exercises were:
- An early morning meditation, focussing on a Stoic principle such as “focussing only on things under our control”, or “rehearsing dealing with possible challenges in the day ahead in a Stoic way”.
- A late evening meditation, reviewing the day in terms of how well one has dealt with challenges in a Stoic way, learning what one has done well but also cultivating the intention to do better the next day.
- Daily exercises on the following themes: What is in our power?; Stoic self-discipline and simplicity; the Stoic reserve clause; Stoic mindfulness; Emotions and adversity; philanthropy and the View from Above.
- A Stoic monitoring sheet, helping to cultivate an awareness of what is and what is not in our power.
Participants were asked to take various questionnaires assessing well-being and their levels of Stoicism both before and after taking part in Stoic week.
Stoicism Today’s Testing of Stoicism: The Results
2014-15 Workshops and Courses
Read the complete article at http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/stoicismtoday/2014/09/08/does-stoicism-work-stoicism-positive-psychology-by-tim-lebon/
CITY LIT LONDON courses
CITY UNIVERSITY, LONDON courses
10 week course
|Thursday 2 October 2014
||18:30 - 20:30
||10 weekly classes
For full details click here
Psychotherapy, Counselling & Coaching Availability Update
I currently have a few slots avail able for coaching, counselling or psychotherapy in Central London on Thursdays and Fridays or from the comfort of your own living room via Skype.
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
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