Monday, May 05, 2008

Positive Psychology and Death

Anyone who thinks that Positive Psychology is just about smiley faces and being over-optimistic, read no further, unless you want to be disillusioned.
If you really want to find out more about positive psychology, I recommend subscribing to the Friends of Positive Psychology listserver which you can do by e-mailing
One of the things that has suprised me most since joining this mailing list is the number of posts on the subject of death.
Number one post on death in the positive psychology world concerns the free on-line lectures given by dying and wise 47-year-old professor Randy Pausch, especially his "Last Lecture", which you can view in long or short versions. He's just published a book called The Last Lecture.

In another vein, the poem variously called "If I had my life over" and "I would pick my daisies" and attributed to either Nadine Stair, aged 85 or Erma Bombeck after she found out she had a fatal illness ,has also been cited as an inspiration to live more authentically.
One version of it goes like this.

I'd dare to make more mistakes next time.
I'd relax. I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been this trip.
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances.
I would take more trips.
I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.

I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I'd
have fewer imaginary ones.

You see, I'm one of those people who live sensibly
and sanely hour after hour, day after day.

Oh, I've had my moments and if I had it to do over
again, I'd have more of them. In fact,
I'd try to have nothing else. Just moments.

One after another, instead of living so many
years ahead of each day.

I've been one of those people who never go anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat
and a parachute.

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot
earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall.

If I had it to do again, I would travel lighter next time.
I would go to more dances.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds.
I would pick more daisies.

In positive psychology jargon, thinking about death connects with "counting your blessings" as well as living more authentically. Eric Weiner in his Geography of Bliss also comments on stumbling on the importance of death in the search for happiness. I suspect that as positive psychology gets more and more mature, it will increasingly engage with death and its importance to life.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Happiness and its Causes, London Conference report

This was a great conference for three reasons.

First, it brought together some leading thinkers on happiness. Second, it was eclectic and inclusive and had a light touch - happy in spirit as well as subject matter. Thirdly, it was inspiring - I went away thinking and feeling that this was a vibrant area, and that this was only the first step.

Make no mistake, there were some serious thinkers on show here, including authors of three recent books on happiness.

But this conference was a meeting of East and west, for we also had several Buddhist monks and nuns, which was very fitting since science is beginning to show a link between meditation and both happiness and improved health. As positive psychology expert Felicia Huppert wrote in her paper in the conference proceedings (Learning about Happiness)

By bringing together the Eastern spiritual enlightenment and the Western intellectual enlightenment I believe we can do much to increase our individual and collective happiness

It brought together science and religion, academics and monks, as well as those involved in developing happiness programmes in organisations in one large, well-organised two-day conference in London.

I won't attempt to give a full report here - just some personal highlights and some thoughts about the next steps that might follow from such an inspirational event.

  • Walking in to see actress Goldie Hawn eulogising about how a few minutes mindfulness each day lights up childrens brains in the programme she has founded
  • Hearing the different perspectives of psychologist Daniel Nettle and philosopher Richard Schoch on happiness
  • Hearing the Venerable Sangye Khadro , author of How to Meditate (as Kathleen McDonald) talk about Buddhism
  • Hearing the group from Wellington school talk about their well-being classes
  • Some contributions from the floor, including an impassioned rendering of Amazing Grace

I'm not sure what impression the above list gives - probably sounds like a cross between an academic conference and Woodstock. Which is probably not so far off the mark. Except the drug being consumed was happiness and the variety particularly Buddhism.

The conference felt like it was the start of something more - perhaps even a new movement, bigger than positive psychology, different from Buddhism, aimed at the development of happiness and well-being -a multi-disciplinary movement with real impact. I hope it is.

(Happiness and its Causes took place on 13-14 October, 2007, at Savoy Place, London, UK).

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

New Personal Development Posts

There's a lot of new posts on the main Personal Development through Philosophy and Psychology website. Here are a few recent highlights ..

Beyond Authentic Happiness - 10 reasons to doubt Seligman

Are you researching positive psychology or looking for a review of Martin Seligman's Authentic Happiness? Are you looking for a critique of Authentic Happiness? Have you read Authentic Happiness and are wondering if you are along in having some unanswered questions for Seligman? If so, read on ...

Counselling and Psychotherapy Training
Tim LeBon's top 7 tips on finding the right psychotherapy or counselling course for you
Your choice of counselling or psychotherapy course is crucial - it could be the difference between making the satisfying career change or want and being disillusioned and frusrated. I now teach some courses and also offer advice to trainee counsellors seeking the right course. If you want to book a consultation on this topic, e-mail me. Here for free are my top 7 tips on finding the right course for you.

Read more about counselling and psychotherapy training

Kierkegaard and Existentialism Page

Soren KierkegaardSoren Kierkegaard (1813-55) - The first existentialist philosopher?

Major works: Either/Or (1843), Fear and Trembling (1843), Concluding Unscientific Postscript (1846)

Learn about Kierkegaard . Recommended novel about Kierkegaard's ideas; Read Kierkegaard Quotes

Best Kierkegaard and existentialism links

Read more about Kierkegaard

Why not google the Personal Development site to find your favourite page?

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