Here’s why I believe that studying MAPP(CP) will REMAP your life and produce copious amounts of wellbeing:
(Martin Seligman - PERMA)
(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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
“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.
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.
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!