Thursday, 13 October 2016

We have power as creatives? What will you do?

Graphic by @MendoncaPen
World Mental Health Day on Monday 10th October was marked by the London and Home Counties branch of the British Psychological Society with an event at the London College of Fashion on Mental Health Issues in the Fashion and Creative Industries.  The evening was chaired by Dr Carolyn Mair, - CPsychol, AFBPsS. Carolyn was wearing both of her ‘hats’ for this event;  one as Subject Director  of Psychology at London College of Fashion and  the other as Chair of the British Psychological Society’s London & Home Counties branch
The diverse panel represented  both fashion, Caryn Franklin - MBE, MSc, Professor of Diversity in Fashion, Kingston University and Rosie Nelson, model and health advocate, and mental health professionals, Dr David O'Flynn - Consultant Psychiatrist at South London & the Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust with a special interest in the Arts and Dr Annmarie Rankin - Clinical Psychologist at Chelsea and Westminster hospital in the field of paediatrics and a former ballerina with, among others, the Royal Ballet Company.

Carolyn began the evening with an introduction to the issues that WMHD is aiming to address in promoting discussion around mental health and what we can do to support mental wellbeing. The extent of the problem specifically in the world of fashion was highlighted by a report in Dazed magazine which cited that whilst one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year that increases by 25 percent if you’re working in creative job.  The panel explored existing mental health issues in the fashion and the arts. The emphasis was on the toll that the demands of the fashion and creative industries can have on the wellbeing of employees and consumers.
The pressures of working the fashion industry with long hours, high expectations to create the next big thing, the stress of balancing the creative drive with the business of making money and the demands of being ultra-thin, were all touched on during the evening.

Four main themes emerged:
  •          Body image and eating disorders, the impact on models and the general population and similar issues in dancers. How can we change this?

“Stigma is all of us. In speaking out I’m standing up for others.”
                                                                               Rosie Nelson
  •          The relationship between mental health and creativity, the negative view of tortured genius. How art can help.

            “Art makes people better” Dr David O'Flynn
  •         What we as consumers of fashion can do, diversity, sustainability, outsider fashion.

           “Trends are Choices”  Dr Annmarie Rankin
  •          The potential for harnessing fashions power to enhance well-being both inside and outside the industry.

“We have enormous power to embolden and make a significant contribution.”                                                                                                    Caryn Franklin

Rosie shared how working in fashion as a model impacted her mental health, the constant pressure to be thinner, to question what was wrong with her body and how widespread the issue is. Many models are still children when they begin their careers, a time when they are forming their identity. Rosie has chosen to speak out about this issue but acknowledges how tough it is to do so. The panel attempted to come up with ways in which the tiny sample size that all models are expected to fit into could be changed. It would take the whole business of fashion to agree and there is no cohesive organisation that would be able to take that decision.
The fashion world’s responsibility for eating disorders and body-shaming was spoken about at length by the panellists. Annemarie commented that the fashion industry doesn’t cause eating disorders; they are more complex than this.  Body image is a fundamental part of our sense of self and our identity, the fashion world needs to recognise the responsibility they have to use this influence in a positive way and become part of the solution, rather than being the problem. Rosie is pushing for new laws in the UK to promote a healthier modelling industry.
Annmarie drew upon her experience as a young dancer to comment on the effects of body image and self-esteem.  Importantly she drew attention to the fact that BMI, and low body weight are not always indicators of poor mental health; it is possible to be a fit, emotionally healthy dancer and be very slim. Annmaire also shared positive stories of dance being utilised to assist well-being. There are many studies which support the role of dance to increase well\-being from both the position of participating in dance practise and as a spectator.
David is  Chair of the Adamson Collection Trust, Patron of Raw Material Music & Media, Co-Founder/Director of Innovations in Investigating Mental Health Population Outcomes (IIMHPO) and Trustee/Company Director of the Bethlem Gallery. He shared his views on the way in which creativity can be a contributing factor in recovering from mental ill-health, echoing Grayson Perry’s statement  that -

Art should not be viewed just as a visual culture but as an essential human process of self exploration and communication”

In order to develop innovative strategies to deal with the issue of mental health in the fashion and creative industries it would seem to make sense to harness our natural assets, to get in touch with our creativity and reassess our own measures of success. These are values that Caryn explained were fundamental to her role as ‘Fashion Agitator’ to reform from within the business of fashion. She advocates that consumers seize their power and shop according to the values that they hold. Perhaps if we squeeze hard enough; apply pressure from the bottom up with which trends we choose to buy into, and target those public figures who have the ability to change from the top down, a balanced diverse version of fashion will reflect the art of caring.  The many high profile fashion insiders who have experienced mental health issues could begin to challenge the stigma by sharing their  stories in a manner which shows that it is possible to recover and maintain a prominent position in the industry (of fashion). We hear of the tales of severe breakdown that has led to the sad deaths of some fashions most creative talents, such as McQueen, but where are the accounts of how it is possible to creatively traverse the inherent stress of the business of fashion?

On balance much of the discussion was around the negative impact of being involved in fashion. There was little dialogue as to how being involved in the arena of fashion can be a force for positive well-being, or how as an industry it is attempting to take care of the well-being of those inside. What can we do to create a culture of positive mental health that could well lead the way to other industries? As creativity is at the heart of what fashion’ is’ how can we apply those same skills to providing innovative imaginative interventions to provide solutions to the problems that working and studying in fashion appears to produce. And how does fashion education prepare its students to enter this ‘unhealthy’ world?
Questions from the audience followed the panel debate. The final question was how can we de-stigmatize mental health?” This gave David the chance to highlight how the way in which HIV treatment is now so effective that the physical impact from the condition can be mitigated where-as the damage done to individuals suffering from HIV, is because of the “fear of the other”; the impact on their mental health. That is shocking fact. We need to create a society where by openness takes away the power of the secrecy of mental illness, where we can talk about our own struggles without being scared of the repercussions. And the fashion and creative industries can influence this. 
This enlightening event highlighted that diversity is alive and kicking in the creative industries, we just need to tap into it in order to create well-being. The event was summed up visually with a creative and colourful graphic representation by Pen Mendonca. I feel that the strongest element in her depiction is “ART AN HELP”. It can and it does. Let’s celebrate that.
Reflecting on the event I recalled a comment made at a previous seminar at LCF, Tim Lomas, positive psychology lecturer at University of East London, issued a statement on the power of fashion to drive change:

“The most damaging thing is to think that a situation can’t be changed or challenged, and we can challenge and change situations through fashion.”

I left LCF on Monday evening with an even stronger desire to bring about change through the vehicle of fashion.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Can You REMAP life with MAPP(CP) at UEL?

Here’s why I believe that studying MAPP(CP)  will REMAP your life and  produce copious amounts of wellbeing:
(Martin Seligman - PERMA)

I am halfway through my  MAPP(CP) journey, I have been  collecting together my reflections on the last six months and thought I’d ask my fellow Mappsters for their thoughts on studying Applied Positive Psychology at UEL.

Positive relationships are at the heart of a life of wellbeing. Partners, friends, family, colleagues, those people you regularly spend time with. The time and energy you invest in cultivating significant relationships will manifest in a life of greater wellbeing. Basically it’s other people who increase our happiness.
I have found the main benefit to my wellbeing from being part of this MAPP tribe has been to do with relationships; I have never meet a more supportive bunch of people whose curiosity, intelligence, kindness and drive enthuses me for the future of PP. I cannot wait to see the results that my colleagues produce with their research and how their ideas will develop into tangible ways to further wellbeing. 

 “You'll meet the best people ever.” Angie

We are also in an enviable position to have great staff who produce exciting research and are enthusiastic about the students’ areas of study; they create a sense of belonging to a discipline that ‘practices what they preach.’

“If you have any concern, email Rona. She is the kindest and the most helpful teacher I have met.”  Lucie 
However, as Andrew pointed out, the structure of the course doesn’t allow for much time on campus to interact. We all have our own ways around this, Andrew suggested we:

“Talk to each other. Use the Facebook group (or another one you create for yourself) to debate or share ideas and articles. Also, consider using something other than Facebook (e.g. Slack) because Facebook is really bad for you!”

I have found setting up a slack group works for my group. We have organised it so that we have threads for events, sharing papers, posting where we are supposed to be when on campus and a gratitude thread. We all know that expressing gratitude is favourable and sharing our thanks with each other is also fun.
We also have a face-to-face meet up group. We initially set it up to co-coach each other but soon realised that it is a great way to support our wider needs. This course is intense, it changes you, at times its stressful; we all need to remind each other that it will be OK.

I would say trust the process. At times you will feel totally overwhelmed with the assignments but that is all part of the process. And don’t forget to rest!!” Sanna Välttilä-Wit 

And Lucie offers support if you need help with SPSS (

“Relax when you attend the statistics lecture. It is not you if you feel you don't understand, even me who had a solid background in stats, they lost me! Just ask your supervisor what kind of test you need to choose and then focus your research on this only test.”

As an on campus student I appreciate the distance learners have their own set of challenges -

“If you are a distance learner, try to connect with others - DL or on campus - it feels very reassuring to be 'together' in spirit at least. I would also recommend trying to get on campus for at least one weekend, ideally more. Face to face is positive, clarifying and you get to meet real people!” Paula

The course has also impacted on my existing relationships, as a full-time student time management is crucial, not everyone in your life will understand your need to put studying before them. I have a large colour -coded wall chart in my kitchen with all my university dates and commitments to independent study mapped out, my family can then request slots with post-it notes where there are gaps and when friends come by they can fill in the spaces with another colour post-it. This may seem a bit OCD but it enables everyone to see that I’m not fobbing them off. And the end goal is marked with a big get together to say thank you for all the support I have received from family and friends.

Tip: relationships on researchgate and are also important.

When your attention is fully focused on a task, hobby, work or person, when you are totally in the present moment, you go into a state of mind called flow. In this state you lose track of time and forget about almost everything else, including your own sense of self. Mindful awareness encourages you to cultivate your ability to focus and you get into this engaged state more often.The more often you are in flow, fully engaged the more likely you are to experience wellbeing.

I haven’t fully engaged with every topic in every module but when something has ‘clicked’ with me I have wanted to know everything there is to know about it. At times I have tipped from engaged to over the top obsession. For me this is most apparent in my dissertation research. I love my research topic. I am living my research topic. I became so attached to it that I had a period of about ten days when I think I may have been suffering from ‘research mania’. It wasn’t pleasant. I had to be pulled back to reality by a close friend who pointed out that there were other things to talk about!
This is a tricky one: research is MEsearch, we all need to be passionate about our topic to sustain the process; it is a long journey. And one in which we need to get lost before we can find the path we need to be on.
So be engaged but listen out for signs of obsessive passion. Losing sense of time is good but remember to re-engage with others to maintain balance.

I was drawn to PP to find a way to apply wellbeing theory to myself but also because I really trust that it is a cause that’s bigger than me; that the science of happiness is working to improve humanity’s lot in some way, whether on a grand scale or small steps we can make a difference.
I think that working out your own niche within PP can be a useful manner in which to look at your own feelings about a meaningful life. I have had to confront my personal biases, certain topics have certainly aroused strong antagonistic emotions…hmm that’s interesting, what’s that about?
Second Wave PP has forced me to observe my responses to negative emotions; really acknowledging my reactions when I have engaged mindfully with this course does not always feel good. There have been tears, anger, and frustration. I have learnt first-hand that there are times when expressing ‘negative’ feelings can have positive outcomes.
(On this note many MAPP(CP) students expressed frustration at UEL administration- but we can all step back and understand that our feedback leads to change. My experience is that the staff are always available to listen to issues and respond to them as best they can.)

Achieving a goal makes you feel great. Being mindful along the way to that end result makes it enjoyable and emphasizes the importance of the journey to the achievement. Clarifying which goals are important to me, focusing on those that are achievable, breaking the goal into tangible steps have saved me from feeling overwhelmed with the responsibility of doing a MSc.

Andrew has some tips on achieving this:
“Download Mendeley if you're not already using a reference manager. Read the first 'core' text that's recommended for each module, but then pick and choose what else you read. Read as much as you can, but don't get bogged down in trying to read everything”

Getting to the end of this course will be a massive achievement that I’m planning on celebrating with a party (see relationships).  I also give myself a pat on the back with each assignment turned in. We encourage each other on our slack group or Facebook when we have ticked off each step towards this accomplishment. We also remind ourselves of the value of what we are doing, not everyone can achieve this goal, and we need to take time to give ourselves credit for embarking on this challenge.

Tip: I have found google scholar just as helpful as more complex search options. 

Positive emotion: 
Joy, hope, curiosity and love, these emotions are important to enjoy in the present moment and are an essential element of wellbeing. You can’t feel happy all the time or pursue pleasure at the expense of meaning, and you won’t when studying MAPP(CP), but there will be ample opportunity for experiencing positive emotions on this course.
Applying positive psychology interventions to yourself, being joyfully playful with your research, feeling constantly curious about what is going on, and loving everything … and everyone that you encounter…sometimes in a blissed out OMG way. (That’s not just me is it?) You may also get a sense of extreme positive emotions when you get your marks back, when you go to the pub and when you finally find the paper that advises the very research study you have designed. Oh yes and mastering how to cite correctly, how to input data into SPSS and why IPA isn’t Real Ale are also moments of joy. Curiosity is aroused every time you search for a room change, it’s not obvious to me, and hope whenever you turn-it in, fingers crossed.
But mostly it’s love; and often its self-love, that you have got this far, made this choice and having a great time building relationships that will be part of your life for a long way ahead.

By applying research-based approaches to wellbeing we acquire the necessary skills to flourish and live a life of promise, purpose and fulfilment. As  MAPP(CP) students we learn how to flourish by combining mindfulness, character strengths and other PPIs by engaging in our work, acknowledging  a higher sense of meaning and purpose, understanding physical and psychological wellbeing, and improving our  relationships. I am very grateful to have had this chance. Thank you UEL.

However last word to Andrew:

“Remember that a lot of what you'll be taught will probably be debunked within 10 years! This is new science, and quite sexy, and a lot of researchers are a bit too quick to get their TED talk about their latest discovery. There's a serious replication issue with a lot of this, so don't take anything you're taught as being 'settled science' - it isn't!”

Actually I will have the last word: You don’t need to be a scientist, settled or otherwise, to have something worthwhile to contribute to PP. I think the future of PP lies in its openness and inclusivity, the way in which as a discipline it is looking to share and collaborate in order to create tangible applications that cross boundaries. This is great for me as I’m just looking to make people happy when they get dressed every day!

Monday, 26 September 2016

Increasing Mental Wealth at City Lit

The Mental Wealth Festival 2016 took place on 13-15 September 2016 at City Lit in Covent Garden. The event highlighted the way mental health issues impact  many features of daily life, and how the arts, politics, culture, faith and the media can support ‘mental wealth’.
I went along to the City Lit with a full list of workshops and presentations to attend. The choice was a diverse range of speakers and subjects covering topics from an academic perspective through to practical skills.

The festival featured 70 events with high profile speakers such as Ruby Wax, Alastair Campbell, Hugh Grant, Paul Dolan and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor rubbing shoulders with lesser known but equally exciting presenters.
As is often the case at these events I feel that attending one session leaves me with the feeling of having missed out; this festival had it all. And I wanted to do it all! I missed the chance to witness three members of the House of Lords take part in lunchtime tai-chi, I didn’t get to any sessions on the links between money and mental health or get a chance to take part in any of the creative workshops.  Therefore this post is skewed as I can only share personal thoughts  of the event. The festival produced a host of ideas for topics, lists of questions, people I want to interview and a general feeling of needing to do more.  The question that I have been left with relates to the importance of how we can all raise awareness and reduce stigma around our mental health?

I shall be expanding my reflections in future posts, but in a nut shell this is what I discovered:

Session: Changing Minds through Neuroscience Inspired Fashion - Sandy Walker 

Sandy Walker, from the Faculty of Health and Sciences at the University of Southampton, shared the work that students from Winchester School of Art have produced by collaborating with the Southampton Neuroscience Group. This project aims to address the stigma and misconceptions surrounding mental health through fashion design. The students have an opportunity to visit the neuroscience department and learn about the brain patterns created in patients with mental health issues such as bi-polar disease, dementia, and Parkinson’s, they then decide which issue they wish to learn more about and are connected to someone with the condition via the Human Library. The final part of the project involves responding to all the have discovered by producing a garment  that reflects the physiological and psychological, the science and the human, in clothes that communicate what it is like to have that condition. The finished garments are a diverse collection. Some students took the images of the brain to create intricate textile designs, others responded with powerful garments that restricted the wearer. The collection was shown as a fashion show and was on show at the city lit during the festival.

Find out more here:

Takeaways: Could the model of this collaboration be used by other fashion education or Art departments to increase awareness of mental health issues?
How did it feel to wear the garments?
Can I interview the models to find out their phenomenological embodied experience of wearing ‘schizophrenia’ or ‘dementia’?
How did the human library participants feel about the finished collection?
What was the lasting impact (if any) on the student who took part?
The resulting garments were strong and emotional; I felt moved by the stories reworked in fabric. I had a visceral response, particular as I imagined myself wearing each outfit and how that would make me feel; trapped, misunderstood, angry, and vulnerable. The tactile nature of clothes, the way they connect with our bodies and our emotions, enclothed cognition, can shape different ways to approach opening up a dialogue about mental health.
Could this idea be extended to a younger group, school age, to create understanding?

Session:  An Artist’s Tale: Michael Nicholson in conversation with Dr Roger Banks

Roger introduced Mike’s work as a graphic artist, his Ensixteen Editions projects and how he came to be an illustrator for Books Beyond Words. The relationship between authors (Roger) and illustrators (Mike), the way in which we translate images into meaning, how we read a blank screen to create a narrative and what does a picture ‘say’, were all explored in words and pictures.
The evolution of an idea into a tangible book charted the collaboration, team work and testing process involved in the process of creating a book beyond words.
Books Beyond Words was formed 1989 by Baroness Sheila Hollins to help people with developmental learning disabilities to understand their emotions, to help people talk about or understand adult feelings and adult experiences. Forty five titles have been published since 1989, and all have been co-produced with people who find pictures easier than words, with family carers, support staff and professionals.

Find out more here:

Books Beyond Words provide a valuable resource for expanding understanding to a population who may not be able to access traditional routes to acquire knowledge. Pictures offer emotions a chance to escape.
How can I use images in my work to bring about change in my clients or to facilitate discussions about emotional issues?
What stories do I tell myself when I see a piece of Art? How do I read an illustration? What about the artists’ intention?
Continuity of character by using the same colours throughout make it easier to form a relationship.

Session: Fiona Wilson – Emotions, Identity and the Self Fulfilling Prophecy

Fiona Wilson, a teacher and lecturer at St Mary's University, Twickenham, led this workshop to explore how our perceptions of self are formed by our emotions and how these in turn inform our patterns of behaviour. Fiona explained how she had moved from Emotional Literacy to Emotional Wisdom, the value of listening, watching and learning form children, how we stack our experiences to skew our understanding of ‘now’ and how ninety seconds is all we have of an experience, then rest being imagination. (The content of this workshop needs 3000 words of its own to do it justice, I will come back to this later)

Find out more here:

We can’t out-think a feeling; we have to out-feel a feeling.
We see what we look for and hear what we listen for.
When our imagination habitually sabotages our minds our brains create pathways that biologically become traits.
Imagination is what keeps an experience going.
How can we harness reframing to become self-authors of the story we want to create?
We need to meet ourselves with forgiveness, kindness and compassion

Session: Alastair Campbell, mental health campaigner and an ambassador for Rethink and Mind in conversation with Mark Malcomson, Principal of City Lit

Drawing on his own experiences, Alastair Campbell discussed his own mental health issues, and how he works to help break down the stigma around mental illness. He was exceptionally open about his breakdown, the impact this had on his family and career and the support he received from colleagues. Tony Blair's response when Alastair introduced his mental health issues, “I’m not bothered, if you’re not bothered “, was a lesson in trust and instincts when making decisions. Alastair explained that he feels experienced mental health problems  better qualifies him  to take on challenging roles;  he has overcome ‘stuff’ in his life, he is more resilient and understanding. How would it be if we could all be this open about our emotional battles? What would a world look and feel like if this were the norm?

Find out more here:

My takeaways:
Football is vital to the mental health of some people. Music too.
Why do we say it’s brave to talk about mental health?
Honesty and openness are the tools for eliminating stigma about mental health issues.
Resilience can be learnt; it’s about managing your life.
Why don’t we send get well cards and flowers when people have had a breakdown?
There is a difference between ‘being humbled’ and ‘being humiliated’.

Session: Professor Paul Dolan, LSE professor and author of bestselling book Happiness by Design in conversation with Mark Malcomson, Principal of City Lit

Paul began by clarifying the confusion around what we mean by happiness. How in order to create the feeling of life being good we need to balance the simple pleasure feelings, the positive emotions, and the purposeful, meaningful sense of fulfilment. He expanded the idea that ‘negative’ emotions can feel ‘good’ that anger can be a driver for change and that it is our everyday life that makes us happy not necessarily the big things that we think should make us happy.

Find out more here:

We all have a choice to make life purposeful; it can be whatever works for you.
The human condition is to seek out meaning.
Reminder: research is MEsearch.
Academics may not be so hot on pleasure but expert on purpose.
Find your own happiness maximiser experiences, they are entirely subjective.
It is healthy to have appropriate responses to situations.
We need light touch interventions around sorrow
The narrative of trauma doesn’t leave room for  those who experience trauma not to experience their life to be devastated.

Session: Reframing the Debate - A Discussion on Press Intrusion
 – Katie Traxton

Katie showed a short trailer of her documentary on press intrusion. The film reflects on the feelings of key players almost four years after the Leveson Inquiry.  Katie Traxton handles the subject with sensitivity; she manages to create a sense of healing by allowing the subjects of the film a platform to share the deep emotions that the media intrusion caused in their lives.  The effects on mental well-being of the victims of press intrusion deserve more investigation. I would love to write more about this but the documentary is yet to be released and the feelings shared in the room at this session were not for public airing

Find out more here:

How can we support victims of press intrusion without furthering the sense that we are consuming their stories for our own pleasure?
What role does education have in changing the manner in which we devour sensational news?
Is it possible to restore ethics in journalism?
What can be done to assist young journalists when entering the ‘business of media’ so they are able to challenge the status-quo without fear of losing commissions?
Can Positive Psychology, and Positive Occupational Psychology enter the spaces in which news is made to change the culture from the top down?

Session: Empathy in Action- Baroness Sheila Hollins

Baroness Hollins shared reflections of her approach to wellbeing within her life and work, with compassion as ‘empathy in action’ central to her approach.  She asked us to question our own assumptions about what constitutes a caring society; why is there a lack of compassion in human services? How could we redress this? How do you avoid burnout in caring roles? Who looks after the carers? What will happen if you don’t look after those who are expected to care? When do those inner resources needed to care for others get a chance to be replenished? Baroness Hollins belief is that Mental Wealth is about relationships, and in those caring relationships what is the difference between caring about and caring for?

Find out more here:

GRACE  is the path  to wellbeing: daily practices of giving, receiving, activity, creating and engagement.
Listening means you are able to find out what someone wants rather than giving them what you think they should want.
We can be taught to be more empathic – training medical students in empathy generates quicker recovery in patients.
Individual compassion needs to be supported with an empathic environment.
How can we create a culture of compassion?


Session: Tools To Live By: How to listen and connect to others - with Ruby Wax

In this culture we’re over-whelmed, over-loaded, over-stimulated, which takes us out of our minds.  Ruby guided the audience through simple mindfulness practices and explained how mindfulness helped her to regain her mental wealth.  She talked about how to de-frazzle; techniques to find your own braking system and highlighted that we can only connect with others when we’re able to think clearly and calmly. 

Find out more here:

Gloria Gaynor was wrong; I am not what I am, I can be other things due to neuroplasticity.
Become a watcher of thoughts rather than a victim to them. Achieve this by cultivating mindfulness.
Notice ‘this are just my thoughts’ and allow a gap between the thinking and the action.
It only takes five minutes of mindfulness a day to build mindful-muscle.
Walk to get into your body and out of your mind.

Session: Rachel Kelly “How to Walk on Sunshine” Workshop

Rachel Kelly asked the audience to stand if they had experienced mental health problems or had close family or friends who did. Not surprisingly at an event on mental health, everyone stood up. She then asked those who felt they had been able to share openly those experiences to remain standing, there were a handful who didn’t sit. Rachel’s journey back from depression and stress related mental health problems involved a variety of strategies relating to both body and mind. During this workshop we were able to experience a taster of some of the things which worked for Rachel and which can easily be incorporated in to daily life. Rachel’s steps are simple, don’t require time or money and can be adapted to make for personal habits that help our Mental Wealth, fostering resilience and making life fun again.

Find out more here:

When you focus on your breathe you can’t worry about the future or stress about the past. You can only breath in the now.
Nutrition research is likely to offer new mental health solutions in the near future.
Gut health changes our moods; an imbalance In the stomach creates stress in the brain.
90% of serotonin produced in the body is made in the stomach.
Happy foods are dark green leafy vegetables, omega3s and real chocolate.

Session: What is #MentalMovement? 

Technically not a session,#MentalMovement  had a stand at the festival but as I spent over an hour talking to the founders, Steph and Emma, I felt as if I had been at a presentation.  I hope they are able to deliver a keynote speech next year because the work they are doing is, in my opinion, fundamental to changing the way we can change views on mental health when we enable creativity, communication, and collaboration to flourish.
 #MentalMovement wants to challenge and re-address the way mental health is dealt with and portrayed.  It is online platform created by writers who have been or are currently, struggling with or have had a personal experience of mental health.
The stories are inspiring, uplifting, funny, engaging and the content is positive in its approach to mental well-being, there is nothing preachy about what they do. #MentalMovement also looks great, the design is fresh and appealing, and the print version should be in every venue where young people gather. If I were a student I wouldn’t feel so alone if I spotted someone else reading #MentalMovement  even if I didn’t quite have the courage to ask how that person felt, I would feel that we are all in this together. There is something powerfully enlightening in #MentalMovement

Find out more here:

Can mental health content be approached in a new way without demeaning the pain of the actual experience?
What do we need to do to reach young people in their own spaces to make it Ok to share?
Being brave can sometimes be overwhelming?
How can I listen in a way that doesn’t feel intrusive?
What is the most effective way to support people when they are in the turmoil of mental confusion?
Which Positive Psychology Interventions, if any, are most suitable to be adapted in order to be relevant to this section of society?
How can we make the way easier in the future to accept that mental health is part of life and that sharing our stories of troubled times decreases the power they have over us?

Final Thoughts

I meet some incredibly inspiring people who were very honest and willing to share their mental health challenges. This event was unique (in my experience) in creating a community of individuals all being given an equal voice to express their opinions on how we create, change and tackle our individual well being, as well as how we manage collective mental wealth. I heard experts share personal stories of battling with depression, anxiety and addiction alongside the views of mental health service ‘users’ who have a treasure trove of  ideas as to improving the manner in which they could be helped towards better well-being. I saw raw emotions expressed with authenticity and received with non-judgement and compassion.  The festival felt like a micro-climate of a caring culture of mental health, a way forward to create a vision of a safe environment in which we are allowed to communicate the full range of humanness. As a positive psychologist others occasionally assume I don’t do ‘negative feelings’, PP however poses questions relating to the way we need the full rich range of emotions in order to flourish; to embrace every aspect of our psychologically make up in order to explore the potential we all have.  The Mental Wealth Festival challenged me to examine my personal beliefs and attitudes towards my own, and others mental well-being.  There is so much we can do to get this message out. Thank you to everyone involved in creating the Mental Wealth Festival. 

Takeaway:  What can I do to help?

As an individual I start with myself; I can share my stories, my hopes, and my strategies for mental wealth. I can lead by example.

As a researcher I can find ways to make my studies relevant and tangible to increase others mental wealth.

As a coach I can be there to listen and support.

I can always lighten the burden by bringing the topic around to the positive impact of shoes on our mental health. (Which I did at the end of Paul Dolan’s talk hence the photo!)

I’m not a social media ‘expert’ (my tee-shirt states ‘I don’t know’) but I do feel that it can be harnessed to get a positive message across - Is there a story you would like to share that could help others? I’d love to help you to share it.

Thank you
Photo credit: Philip Hardman Photography 
Everyone at BooksBeyondWords

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Applying research based lessons to one’s own life

Being a bit of a ‘wannabe’ academic I like attend anything and everything in London which will further my understanding of psychology. This week I went along to the London & Home counties branch of the British Psychology Society to find out more about applying psychology research to my own life. The ‘Applied’ aspect of the MAPPCP I am studying is my favourite feature of the course, given a chance I will experiment on myself all the time. Any new intervention I come across is added to my growing list of ‘How to be Happy’. There is no rationale for this, whatever works for me I apply. I didn’t conduct a baseline test of my SWB before MAPP but I have a  feeling that I have  grown in wellbeing whilst studying at UEL; I’m bouncier , more confident, even cheerier than I previously was. I feel more ME.

The first speaker was Christian Jarrett, sharing tips for using psychology to get people to do what you want. Not in the least unethical apparently. We are allowed as Psychologists to use this knowledge to get our own way. Isn’t that amazing? 
We can legitimately carry out slightly dodgy ‘studies’ to prove that people’s power of persuasion can be replicated. My favourite piece of research that Christian shared related to some male French researchers getting girls phone numbers or asking them to dance by lightly touching them on the arm. Waiters also use this trick to get a bigger tip!
It’s also very useful to know that if you apologise for the rain then ask if you can borrow someone’s phone they are more likely to comply and you if scare someone before asking for a favour they may well agree as fear creates a distraction. Playing happy background music that is familiar to the listener has a similar power and you can ward off possible muggers by utilising the theory of interpersonal complementarity.

Christian Jarrett’s  5 top tips for getting what you want
  •        Utilise interpersonal complementarity 

My takeaway was people are more obedient than you think and you are more persuasive than you think, but at the end of the day manners and saying please when asking for a request really does the trick.
I’m wondering how to incorporate all of the above into getting my own way more often so if I bump into you in the street and pretend I know you, touch your arm as I say sorry for the awful weather whilst humming ‘singing in the rain’  then ask to borrow a fiver please …well you’ve been warned!

The second speaker of the evening was Dr Aneta Tunariu who spoke of her own experiences in learning to become a psychologist and how she applied each aspect of her training to her own life. The phrase that really resonated with me was ‘to develop professionally is to develop personally’. I feel that the process of being in positive psychology education has made me a better person; I am not only more intellectually aware but my emotional intelligence is greater, in applying  PP interventions to my own life I am becoming the version of myself I had  hoped was there all along.  In overcoming my academic limitations I have “strengthened and expanded my resilience as an adaptation to the environment”  which Aneta explains as happening when we are mindful of -

  •          What I am
  •          What I can
  •       What I have
  •          Choice: responsibility to choose and my own choice.
Aneta also talked of the links with positive emotions, wellbeing and personal growth, sharing Barabra Fredricksons research results and how they can be applied. I need to work on getting my positivity ratio up to the magic 3:1! 
iNEAR is Aneta's  recently designed psychological intervention informed by existential philosophy, positive psychology, developmental coaching, social psychology and psychotherapy. It has been successfully piloted at a large school in South East England and is also being tested as a framework for positive psychology coaching. 

My favourite takeaway from her presentation was her parting slide ‘ We first develop habits then habits develop us’. I think one of the ways that I have applied research based lessons to my own personal growth is by acquiring the habit of mindfulness and mindfulness has developed me towards being kinder, more compassionate, more understanding and I have gained greater clarity. Good habits make us happy. If research can inform us how to cultivate habits that make us, and the world around us, better then I will happily try them out and may even try to come up with some new studies to provide supporting evidence.

I would love to hear how you make research work for you? Have you tried any awesome PPIs? Does your own research provide you with new ways of being?
Let me know what works and how?