positive psychology

Always look on the bright side of life!

Anyone who is older than, say, 40 years old, should be whistling right now…

For some time now I’ve been interested in how people who cope well with pain go about their daily lives. What makes this group of people different from the ones we more often see? While I know from my own research that there’s a process to get to where living life outweighs putting all the emphasis on finding a cure (note: this doesn’t mean giving up on a cure, it just means it’s a different priority), there is some research showing that how we view a situation (either as a challenge – or not) plays a role in how well we deal with it (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984).

The theory goes something like this: resilience people view pain as a challenge and believe that they have the resources to cope with it, and as a result they experience less disability and distress.

There has been a reasonable interest in resilience in coping with persistent pain since Karoly and Ruehlman (2006) found that a small but reasonable-sized group of people report moderate to severe levels of pain intensity, but don’t report high levels of interference or emotional burden. It’s thought that instead of avoiding movements or activities that are painful, this group of people may feel fear – but go on to “confront” or at least willingly experience pain as part of their recovery. What hasn’t been as well-understood is whether resilience is associated with perceiving pain as a challenge, and therefore people are more likely to do things that may hurt, or whether people believe they can face the demands of experiencing pain (ie they have self efficacy for managing pain) and this is the path by which they get on with life.

This study was carried out in mainland China, and is for this reason alone, is an interesting study (most of our understanding about pain comes from the US, Canada, Australia and the UK). China also faces an enormous burden from people being disabled by chronic pain, so this is a good step forward to understanding what might support living well with pain in this highly populated country.

The study is by Shuanghong Chen and Todd Jackson, and published last year in the journal Rehabilitation Psychology. The authors recruited 307 Chinese adults with chronic back pain (189 women, 118 men), and asked them to complete a batch of questionnaires: Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale (Chinese); Pain Appraisal Inventory (Short-form) Challenge; Pain Self-Efficacy Questionnaire; The catastrophising subscale of the Coping Strategies Questionnaire, the Chronic Pain Grade; The Multidimensional Pain Inventory-Screening (Affective Distress) subscale; and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. Participants were recruited from large residential settings close to the university and two local hospitals, and participants needed to be at least 18 years old with back pain of at least 3 months duration. All the questionnaires were translated into Mandarin using back-translation. This was a cross-sectional design, so all the measures were taken at one time, and analysis performed across the group. It’s not possible, therefore, to determine causal relations, and all the calculations were carried out using structural equation modeling, therefore correlational relationships only.

What did they find out?

High resilience levels were related to elevations in primary appraisals of pain as a challenge, and in turn, higher resilience and challenge appraisal scores were each related to higher scores on the secondary appraisal measure of pain self-efficacy beliefs. Those with high scores on resilience and pain self-efficacy tended to score lower on the secondary appraisal measure of pain catastrophising. When analysing the path it was found that challenge appraisals didn’t reach significance with catastrophising or pain-related disability (such as scores on Chronic Pain Grade, Affective Distress, or Depression). Higher scores on resilience and pain self-efficacy as well as reductions in pain catastrophising were associated with lower overall dysfunction scores (Chronic Pain Grade, Affective Distress, and Depression).

Interestingly, the authors tested to see whether pain self-efficacy and pain catastrophising had a bidirectional relationship with one another – they found that yes, this did have a good fit with the data but the resilience-catastrophising path was strong than the path in the original model, while the bidirectional self-efficacy-catastrophising path was slightly less strongly associated compare with the other model.

What does all this mean for us?

Well it seems that while we attend to negative features of a person’s presentation, from this study it looks like the relationship between positive aspects (such as not thinking of pain as an incredibly negative thing (catastrophising) and believing that yes I do have resources sufficient to cope with pain) is more predictive of outcomes than simply looking at catastrophising alone. However – pain self-efficacy and pain catastrophising and poorer coping have been found significant, while general resilience (appraising pain itself as a challenge, or not) and appraising pain itself as a challenge is less strongly associated. What this suggests is that increasing a person’s beliefs that they have the capability to cope (ie self-efficacy) despite pain needs to be a priority in pain rehabilitation.

To me this is an important finding. When we as therapists attribute change in function to either less pain, or to our efforts (or the treatments, eg injections, pills, special exercises, super-duper techniques that we use), we fail to foster or support self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is a slippery concept: the measure indicates confidence to engage in activities despite pain. If our treatments focus on reducing pain intensity and don’t support the person being able to do things despite their pain, we’re likely not helping them become more confident, especially in the future.

This doesn’t mean we should tell people to “suck it up, Buttercup”. It does mean we should help people identify the strategies they have (or can develop) to be able to continue with activity in the face of pain fluctuations. Of course this means we need to be comfortable with the idea that it’s OK to do things despite pain! If we still hold a sneaky suspicion that it’s not OK to be sore and do things, we’re likely to inadvertently (or perhaps overtly) encourage people to ease up, back off, or generally stop when they’re sore. Asking people how sore they are at each treatment is likely not to increase confidence that it’s OK to move. Commiserating over how painful it is and how tough it is may be unhelpful!

What can we do instead?

I think we can draw a lot from motivational interviewing. No, not the stages of change, but the part where we acknowledge that despite it being difficult, the person did something that moved them towards a more positive choice. What this might look like is “Hey you had a tough week, but it’s fantastic that you made it here today so we can look at what you carried on with”. It might include “While it’s been a flare-up week for you, you were still aware of your goals and had a go”. Or “Look at how you stayed the course despite the bumps in the road”.

Sticking with the idea that actions, or habits count more than results can be useful, because we’re helping people build long-term lifestyle changes that will sustain them over time. Yes, results are really cool and we want to see them (so don’t stop recording wins!), but at the same time, it’s vital we celebrate the daily choices a person makes to keep going and doing.

I think we can also help build self-efficacy by drawing on pain heroes. People who have maintained a good lifestyle despite their pain. Celebrating those who are grinding through, even though they have tough times. Perhaps other people in the clinic who are also managing pain. From self-efficacy research we know that vicarious learning (watching how others perform in the same situation) is one of the ways we boost our confidence to succeed. Group-work may be a useful approach for encouraging people to know they’re not alone, they can make progress, and that they’re doing OK.

So…. looking on the bright side of life doesn’t mean ignoring challenges, but it does mean viewing them as challenges rather than insurmountable obstacles. Our approach to pain – is it something to get rid of, or is it something to learn from and something we can manage – may give people encouragement to persist, or it may undermine coping. What’s your view?

Chen, S., & Jackson, T. (2018). Pain Beliefs Mediate Relations Between General Resilience and Dysfunction From Chronic Back Pain. Rehabilitation Psychology, 63(4), 604–611.

Karoly, P., & Ruehlman, L. S. (2006). Psychological “resilience” and its correlates in chronic pain: Findings from a national community sample. Pain, 123, 90–97. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pain.2006.02.014

Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York, NY: Springer.

Gratitude when you’re in pain? You’ve got to be kidding!

ResearchBlogging.orgOr – introducing the “parent of all virtues” (Wood, Joseph & Linley, 2007).

For some time now I’ve been exploring the contribution of positive psychology on wellbeing in people with chronic pain.  Positive psychology is the ” scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive”. (Seligman, ND). It strikes me that in chronic pain management, we’ve responded to the issues raised by people who don’t “live well” with their pain, leaving the group of people who do cope well largely ignored. We have much to learn, I believe, from those who have faced their situation and either been stoic – or in a surprising number, grown from their experiences.  Some excellent resources in the field of positive psychology in general can be found at The Positive Psychology Center and Authentic Happiness, and for Kiwi’s, the New Zealand Association of Positive Psychology.

Gratitude is an emotion that most people feel frequently and strongly (McCullough et al., 2002).  Most people say that feeling grateful makes them feel happy. And oddly enough, gratitude seems to emerge despite difficult circumstances – with some research suggesting that it is in times of intense personal challenge that gratitude is most prominent (Peterson & Seligman, 2003). Immediately after the earthquakes in Christchurch nearly a year ago, people frequently expressed gratitude for one another, for the workers who kept the city running, and for the simple things in life like water, shelter and social support.

The question then arises – is experiencing gratitude empirically related to psychological wellbeing? And the answer is, not unexpectedly, yes! One study showed that gratitude was associated with wellbeing more than the “big five” personality model (Wood, Joseph and Maltby, 2009). It appears that gratitude influences wellbeing in two ways: “directly, as a causal agent of well-being; and indirectly, as a means of buffering against negative states and emotions.” (Nelson, 2009).

The next question is – can we influence wellbeing by increasing gratitude? And so far, research seems to support it.  For instance, in Catherine Nelson’s 2009 review of gratitude interventions, she cites studies in which one group of participants were asked to write down five things they were grateful for each week over 10 weeks, while two other groups were asked to carry this out daily either for two weeks or three weeks. At the completion of the study, it was found that positive affect was increased, and that there appeared to be a dose-response effect. In other words, the more often gratitude was expressed, and the longer this was carried out, the more positively people felt (Emmons & McCullough,

Interestingly, although we think of gratitude as having an effect on emotion, expressing gratitude can have a direct influence on “physiological coherence”.  This is “increased synchronization between the two branches of the ANS, a shift in autonomic balance toward increased parasympathetic activity, increased heart-brain synchronization, increased vascular resonance, and entrainment between diverse physiological oscillatory systems. The coherent mode is reflected by a smooth, sine wave-like pattern in the heart rhythms (heart rhythm coherence) and a narrow-band, high-amplitude peak in the low frequency range of the HRV power spectrum, at a frequency of about 0.1 hertz.”(McCraty & Atkinson, 2003). What this means is that by expressing gratitude, we may be improving our physiological response to life events.

How do we introduce the idea of expressing gratitude when life is difficult? – for this part of my post today, I’m using my approach, because I haven’t yet found research that identifies “the best way” to do it!

My way is to begin with some mindfulness. Sitting with the person and asking them to be present with what is happening right now. This can be done through focusing the mind on breathing, really experiencing the sensations that occur while breathing – the rise and fall of the abdomen, the cool air in the nostrils when breathing in, the warmer air when breathing out, the heart beat, the weight of the body pressing against the surface of the chair or support, the warmth of hands on lap.

I then ask the person to think of something that they appreciate right then and there. I might say “What comes to mind when you think of something you’re grateful for right now.” If they seem stumped, I might suggest that they express appreciation for being able to breathe; or being able to hear – and I might guide them to sounds of nature; or having a chair to sit on – and I might guide them to experience the sensation of being supported by the chair.

I try to guide the person to identify at least four or five things they appreciate then and there, so they can experience what it feels like to mindfully notice the good that is around them, and to notice the emotions that arise from doing so.

Ongoing practice I then give people is to write down three things they appreciate or are grateful for at the end of each day just before going to sleep.  Research has shown that doing this can influence sleep quality (Wood, Joseph, Lloyd & Atkins, 2009).

So, here’s a thought: what about trying this strategy out for yourself? It’s easy, quick and has some surprising results. Let me know how it works for you.

Emmons, R.A. & McCullough, M.E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377–389.

McCraty, R. & Atkinson, M. (2003). Psychophysiological coherence. Boulder Creek, CA: HeartMath Research Center, Institude of HeartMath, Publication No. 03-016.

Nelson, C. (2009). Appreciating gratitude: Can gratitude be used as a psychological intervention to improve individual well-being? Counselling Psychology Review, 24(3-4), 38-50.

Wood, A., Joseph, S., & Linley, A. (2007). Gratitude – Parent of all virtues. The Psychologist, 20(1), 18-21.

Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., Lloyd, J., & Atkins, S. (2009). Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66(1), 43-48.

Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., & Maltby, J. (2009). Gratitude predicts psychological well-being above the Big Five facets. Personality and Individual Differences, 46(4), 443-447.
A Wood,, S Joseph, & A. Linley (2007). Gratitude – Parent of all virtues The Psychologist, 20 (1), 18-21

Meaning-focused coping – looking for the good things in dark times

I’ve been reading about ways to increase resilience and help people develop strengths to cope with pain, and came across this blog post on Positive Psychology News where Kathryn Britton reviews several papers by Susan Folkman and others who look at ways of coping.  I’ve posted before on the Lazarus and Folkman model of coping here and here.

Their original model described a path from Appraisal –> Coping –> Outcome –> Emotion, with two outcomes after a harmful or threatening event. The first outcome was simply to favorable resolution and positive emotion. The second outcome, led to an unfavorable resolution and distress, with a loop back to the appraisal process labeled negative emotion.  This model has been updated by Susan Folkman to include the impacts of positive emotion as people deal with unfavorable outcomes.  This is what can be called ‘meaning-focused coping’, which is defined in Britton’s post as

…appraisal-based coping in which the person draws on his or her beliefs (e.g., religious, spiritual, or beliefs about justice), values (e.g., ‘‘mattering’’), and existential goals (e.g., purpose in life or guiding principles) to motivate and sustain coping and well-being during a difficult time. Folkman, 2008

In other words, if people can draw on their values and beliefs to look for the positive or a meaning behind the difficult experience, they can persist with some degree of positivity even when things don’t look good.

Britton describes five processes that Folkman identified from research papers – and I want to explore how these might fit with people experiencing chronic pain.

Benefit finding, involves seeking the benefits that come out of misfortune, whether they be growth in wisdom, patience, and competence, greater appreciation for life, better sense of what really matters, or stronger social relationships.

We can ask people with chronic pain to reflect on the things they’ve gained by needing to take longer to do things, by becoming sensitive to stressors, by having to develop problem-solving skills, and for those who need to review their careers – on the way they can reflect on what really works for them in employment, what they enjoy and the strengths they can use.

Benefit reminding involves making an intentional effort to recall previously found benefits.

This is especially challenging during a flare-up, or when sleep or mood is disrupted – as clinicians we can remind people of the strong and resourceful way they have dealt with these challenges, and maybe writing down some of the new things they’ve learned from going through their experience of change.  Tough times are simply another period of change.

Adaptive goal processes involve reappraising goals in the light of changed circumstances, giving up goals that no longer work, and substituting new goals that are valuable to the individual.

Yesterday a participant in the pain management programme asked me whether it was OK to reconsider goals when they don’t apply any more.  I struggled for a moment to answer, and then I thought about the difference between outcome goals and actions – outcome goals depend on external factors like who else is running in a race if I want to be first, while actions are the things I am responsible for like going out to train for a race (heaven forbid I would ever do such a thing! This girl ain’t built for running).  When we set goals we’re really embodying our values – maybe we can find different ways to express our values through different actions, and in this way our goals may adapt so they fit with changing circumstances like being unable to sit as long as we’d like, or needing more sleep.

Reordering priorities is a value-based process where aspects of life move up or down the priority ladder. Sometimes priority reordering involves careful thought, but sometimes it just happens. Reordering priorities can be very stressful, but it can also lead to a renewed sense of purpose. Often it contributes to coping by narrowing focus to those factors that matter most, allowing people to let go of things that are no longer consequential.

This is a process that people with chronic pain (and other health situations) often struggle with – chronic pain challenges much of an individual’s beliefs about their strengths – and people with chronic pain often need to review whether they can persist with activities that other people expect from them.  This is part of the process of acceptance,  which seems to require learning that chronic pain is permanent.

Infusing ordinary events with positive meaning in order to experience positive emotion.

One exercise I’ve used often with people who are having a tough time is ‘pleasant events scheduling’.  There are times when people simply cannot think of something they enjoy, so we take the time to look at some feathers, a few pieces of paua, the clean lines of a classic motorbike, the taste of coffee, remembering the feel of fresh clean sheets on the bed.  Simple daily experiences and objects that we can appreciate. These small ordinary things make up our lives and, taken together with appreciation, fill life with positive emotions.

Britton summarises the findings from Folkman’s research by saying ‘Folkman’s message is that positive emotions play a strongly adaptive role in times that we think are dominated by negative emotions. Positive emotions lead people to make more positive appraisals of events, maintain energy for coping, and find meaning in stress and suffering.’

Head over to her blog for more reflections on positive psychology or go here to read the story of Peter who finds meaning in life despite advancing age, blindness and Parkinson’s disease.  While you’re there, take a look around some of the other posts in the Positive Psychology News site.  It’ll make your day.

Accentuate the positive

How often do we spend most of our assessment time looking at people’s problems, deficits, functional difficulties? I know that much of my time in assessment involves looking across a range of domains and experiences – and whooops! by the time we come to an end I’ve hardly looked at what this person has continued doing despite their pain and distress. After reading this 2005 paper by Tedeshi and Kilmer I’m ready to re-orient myself and review the structure of my assessment interview to see how I can integrate the resources and strengths that a person brings into the situation.

There are three main areas that Tedeshci and Kilmer identify as useful to explore when looking at the positives of an individual:

Strengths – ‘the measurement of thos eemotional and behavioural skills, competencies and characteristics that create a sense of personal accomplishment; contribute to satisfying relationships with family members … enhance ones ability to deal with adversity and stress; and promote one’s personal, social and academic development’ (Epstien and Sharma (1998).

Resilience‘attributes or characteristics that might include positive temperament,  self efficacy, positive self worth; problem solving skills; internal locus of control’ along with ‘a warm family environment, sound relationships’ and ‘good supports within the community, connections to school and work’ (Tedeschi and Kilmer, 2005).  In other words, things that help people ‘bounce back’ under adversity.

Growth – this area refers to ‘positive changes in individuals that occur as the result of attempts to cope in the aftermath of traumatic life events…become transformed by their struggles with adversity’ (Tedeschi and Kilmer, 2005).

Something I have emphasised in my work with people living wih chronic pain is that everything they have ever done to cope with or manage their situation has both positive and not so positive aspects to it.  We need to remember that people don’t deliberately set out to fail or have negative consequences. Typically the short-term consequences, if not helpful or positive, at least avoid the immediate negative emotional impact of a situation.  It’s the longer-term consequences that often cause the problems!  Something I can readily appreciate is how a person can choose a course of action believing that it is the ‘right’ path, such as resting or over-using medication or avoiding certain movements – it does stop pain! But of course, we know what happens over time…

So in looking at strengths, perhaps some of what we might view as a negative – for example, the ‘boom and bust’ pattern of activity – could in fact be a strength.  The person who does this may well be very good at task persistence, sticking to a quite difficult activity until it’s done, perhaps even have very high standards and values, but simply be misapplying this to the activity, and failing to manage the long term consequences.

I’m sure we can all appreciate how recognising and affirming strengths might help develop rapport, increase the person’s sense of personal competence, and improve ‘motivation’.  It may help move us from trying to ‘fix’ a problem to building a solution or enhancing a characteristic that already exists.

A couple of questions that might help us assess strengths (and I’ve modified these from Tedeschi and Kilmer):

  1. Let’s talk for a while about what you’ve managed to keep doing despite your pain.
  2. Tell me what you’re good at and what makes you proud
  3. How do you keep doing important things when your pain is bad?

Resilience can act as a protective factor when people are exposed to stress, it’s often described in terms of flexibility, and can reflect the interaction between the individual, the family and the community.  Tedeschi and Kilmer suggest that ‘rather than viewing a goal of evaluation as assessing resilience per se, it may be more appropraitely framed as seeking to assess factors associated with positive adjustment, competence in core domains, and healthy outcomes under adversity.’ (Tedeschi and Kilmer, 2005).

In pain management, we’re most often looking at self efficacy for managing pain – something like Mike Nicholas’ Pain Self Efficacy Questionnaire can be helpful to establish ‘what can you still do despite your pain’.  Some other questions based on those suggested in this paper are:

  1. How do you go about doing things when times are challenging?
  2. What do you do to figure out something by yourself?
  3. What do you do when you’re faced with a problem or stressful situation? How do you handle it?
  4. What is getting you through this tough situation?

These questions might highlight areas to draw upon when extending the person’s coping framework – do they have certain people or agencies that help? Do they have a core set of problem solving strategies that could be extended to deal with chronic pain? Do they already have skills they use in a helpful way?

Growth – it’s not often that we hear about how chronic pain can help a person grow and develop. I know I’ve heard about the positives from having depression, and I know I’ve experienced this myself, but I can’t say I’ve heard many people talk about the good things they have experienced or the way they have been transformed by their pain.  However, if we take a good hard look at what can happen as a result of facing tough times, I think it’s clear there are some good things – like knowing you do have strength, like valuing time out and family, like recognising vulnerability and appreciating the ‘little things’ in life.  Some people have told me that by stopping work they’ve lost their sense of self identity as a worker – but gained a sense of being a person within a community or family.

Tedeschi and Kilmer note that people who report positive growth after adversity ‘may not be able to leave all of their distress behind.’  They go on to say ‘many indicate that they are still suffering from the aftermath of trauma.’  There are, however, five domains of possible growth after trauma that can be assessed – improved relationships, new possibilities for one’s life, a greater appreciation for life, a greater sense of personal strength, and spiritual development.  And yes, some of these are areas that people I’ve worked with have said they now appreciate more deeply – and don’t take for granted any more.

I hope this brief tour through areas of positive psychology might tantalise – perhaps we’ll stroll through the sunny side of the street this week.  Let’s accentuate the positive today!

Tedeschi, R., & Kilmer, R. (2005). Assessing Strengths, Resilience, and Growth to Guide Clinical Interventions. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 36 (3), 230-237 DOI: 10.1037/0735-7028.36.3.230

Continuing professional education: videos online

It’s been a while since I put up some links to good free online video material, so today’s the day!

University of Maryland has a range of medical videos on manytopics.  There is a heavy bias towards medical and surgical options, and little on ‘allied health’.  The information on spine disorders and ‘oh my aching back’ is focused on surgical and peripheral disorders, and little attention is paid to the limited relationship between ‘ruptured discs’ and pain.  No matter, there are some nice podcasts on ‘forgiveness’, ‘medical crisis counselling’, and ‘depression’, and the series under ‘preventive medicine’ has a nice one on ‘walking for wellness’. (more…)

Meeting needs and making meaning: The pursuit of goals


Goals: setting them, working towards them, achieving them – they’re part of being human or so Brian Griffith and Catherine Graham say. In this article, they explore the Adlerian interpretation of goals as embodying the meaning of human life saying ‘goals reflect core values, reinforce an image of the ideal self, compensate for inferiority feelings, guard against pain, provide meaning in the present, and promote hope for the future.’(Griffith & Graham, 2004).

I was searching for some of the theoretical background to goal setting and came across this paper, which although is really a philosophical exploration of some of the models that occupational therapists drew on early in the development of the profession, also contains some references to more empirical and modern work.

A wee while ago I blogged about the ‘myth of occupational therapy’ in which I quoted a paper by Kelly & McFarlane (2007) as saying that the ‘grand myth’ of occupational therapy being that ‘occupation is essential for health’ and ‘purposeful activity’ may be used to reduce dysfunction and improve individual performance. Kelly and McFarlane state ‘Truth in occupational therapy [ie the place of activity – in my words ‘doing’] is not, therefore, based on scientific facts, but on tenaciously held beliefs.’

I wasn’t entirely surprised by this statement – but I’m happy to say that goals and goal-directed behaviour, which was an early premise of occupational therapy – is not only a philosophical belief, but also has some evidential support.  Whew! (more…)

Self management: Helping a person become their own healthcare expert

and how we can help

Health care in many places hasn’t moved an awful lot from a ‘patch ’em up and send ’em out’ mentality.  This is a great approach if you’re basically healthy, have acute appendicitis, and a quick recovery.  It’s not so good if you have chronic pain, are having to learn to live with it, and find your general coping is compromised.

Most of our health care training, however, is designed to follow the medical model (despite arguments that occupational therapists, for example, are trained in a biopsychosocial model – just watch what happens when a referral for therapy is received without a diagnosis!).  There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the medical model when it’s being used in the right place – it’s simply inadequate when the health problem can’t be ‘fixed’.  And the problem with our health care training is that it’s focused primarily on ‘diagnosing’ deficits, patching them up (or compensating for them) and hoping the person will get on with it. (more…)

Self regulation readings

Self regulation is a concept we often use in pain management and in other areas of therapy where setting and achieving goals is a key aspect.

This post by Dale Schunk provides an excellent overview of some of the main areas in the approach, and includes a definition I particularly like Self-regulation, or systematic efforts to direct thoughts, feelings, and actions, toward the attainment of one’s goals (Zimmerman, 2000)

Albert Bandura is a well-known Canadian scholar who researches self efficacy and social cognitive theory. His theory of self efficacy and motivation is drawn on as a contributor to the self regulation construct. For more on his life, go to this site , and if you’re interested in Self efficacy in more detail, that site also has a good number of resources. I particularly liked this post on Ability vs Capability.

Self determination theory is a macro-theory of human motivation concerned with the development and functioning of personality within social contexts. The theory focuses on the degree to which human behaviors are volitional or self-determined – that is, the degree to which people endorse their actions at the highest level of reflection and engage in the actions with a full sense of choice.
Once you get past some of the psychobabble, this site has some great resources including validated questionnaires on self-regulation for healthcare, academic and exercise that have been developed for research.

When we develop new habits, we need to use self-regulation to become aware of how we are currently functioning, what we want to do that is new, and then monitor what we do and how close we get to our new behaviour. Senia Maymin’s post provides a good review of some of Baumeister’s theory, and encourages us to recognise that by developing self regulation and mastery in one area, we strengthen our ability to self regulate in all areas! So setting goals and achieving them in one area makes it easier to apply that same discipline elsewhere in life. Good to know!

Finally for today, Hall and Fong’s paper Temporal self-regulation theory: A model for individual health behavior from Health Psychology Review Volume 1, Issue 1 March 2007 , pages 6 – 52, provides a description of a model that frames behaviours depending upon the timescale being considered at the moment of choice – this, it is argued, can explain why so many people ‘know what to do’ that is best for health in the long term, but actually do things that are self-defeating, and have a short-term positive payoff.

I hope you enjoy this quick swing through some brief readings in self-regulation. There will be more as time goes on, so don’t forget to come on back and check in again to see what I’ve included in this roundup. If you haven’t already, remember you can subscribe to my blog using the RSS reader at the top of the page, or you can bookmark. And don’t forget to comment – I am always happy to read that someone’s reading this blog!!

Announcing! The International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA)

I just got this through the email today, from Positive Psychology!

We are delighted to announce the founding of a new organization: The International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA). The purpose of this organization is to promote the science and practice of positive psychology and to facilitate communication and collaboration among researchers and practitioners around the world who are interested in this new field.

This is a brand new organization, and we would like to extend a cordial invitation to you to be among the very first to join. We have been hard at work developing the infrastructure for what will without question be a major international organization. Here are some highlights we wanted to share with you:

-We have set up a website where you can find out more about IPPA and where you can join today. Please visit www.ippanetwork.org to sign up as a Charter Member, Charter Associate, or Charter Affiliate.

-IPPA is run by a Board of Directors comprised of leading positive psychologists from around the world. Visit the website for a full list of the members of the Board, which includes such founding figures as Martin E. P. Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

-On the website, you will see the categories of membership developed by the IPPA Board of Directors. We’re excited that there is a category available for everyone, whether you are a researcher, a practitioner, a student, or someone who just wants to keep abreast of the latest developments in positive psychology.

-You will also see the various membership benefits, including journals, an IPPA Newsletter, and quarterly conference calls with leading figures in positive psychology.

-The First World Congress of Positive Psychology has been scheduled for June 18-21, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. IPPA members will receive a discount on their Congress registration.

-In the coming days, we will be adding more content to the website, so be sure to check back often.

If you have any questions about IPPA or your membership, please send them to info@ippanetwork.org.

Please help us spread the word about IPPA by forwarding this email to any groups or individuals you think might have an interest in joining this exciting new association.

We look forward to having you join IPPA and to welcoming you into this global positive psychology community.

Very best wishes,

Ed Diener, President
International Positive Psychology Association

James Pawelski, Executive Director
International Positive Psychology Association

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Happy Happy, Joy Joy – there is a science to this!

For yet another thoughtful post on the science of positive psychology, you can’t go far wrong with taking a look at Jeremy’s PsyBlog for great summaries on this area of research.

I’m keen to find out more about positive psychology for use with people who experience persistent pain – it makes sense to me that we help people use existing resources that are well-rehearsed, already valued and almost ‘automatic’ rather than trying to get people to develop new skills that need all that spade-work before they become useful.
BUT, and it’s a big but, this ‘sense’ is what can get us all into trouble – common sense is not all that common, and therapists really need to *know* that what they’re using has a good evidence-base, or we run the risk of experimenting on people who are already vulnerable.

In looking to write this post, I stumbled upon a bunch of ‘Happy happy, Joy joy’ sites that promise all sorts of good things – like “I researched for two years to find the cure for my pain and now I’m ready to share it with you” (for a fee…); and “how to build confidence through [insert your favourite remedy and pay, pay, pay]” – sorry about the skepticism.

So Jeremy’s post is a great exploration of the potential of positive psychology science – both for shams to jump on the bandwagon, and for true research to be adopted as mainstream.
Keep an eye out for things that look too real to be true – they probably are – but also keep an eye out for further research in this area of psychology, it could just hold some gems that we can all use.