Authors: Tim Lomas, Kate Hefferon and Itai Ivtzan
First Published: September 2014
ISBN: 978-1-4462-9863-3 (pbk)
Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd
Dr Tim Lomas, Dr Kate Hefferon and Dr Itai Ivtzan are lecturers at the University of East London (UEL) on the MSc course in Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP). They are active researches at the forefront of the rapidly advancing Positive Psychology (PP). They have previously published numerous papers, books and book chapters on various aspect of PP.
PP is a young and rapidly evolving branch of psychology that has captured lots of interest, attention and (not surprisingly) criticism. The authors were encouraged by the interest shown by the public and professionals and decided to clarify some of the grey areas of PP that have been the source of some of the previous criticisms or confusions. First they defined PP as “the science and practice of improving well-being”. So, the book is designed to provide a comprehensive array of tools that can be used to promote well-being.
The Content by Chapter
Before diving into the aspects of the book that I like and those that I wish were different, let’s explore the content of the book. Applied Positive Psychology is arranged into eight chapters that makes it straightforward to use. It’s indeed a very informative and interesting book for people who are keen to know about PP. It goes much deeper and further than many other books that just discuss the issue of happiness or well-being in a somewhat abridged format.
The book starts with an introduction to the authors’ multidimensional approach to well-being. Here, they have used Ken Wilber’s Integral Framework and Bronfenbrenner’s experimental ecology to develop a new multidimensional model called ‘LIFE’. The LIFE model is used as a conceptual map for their discussion throughout the book. I particularly like the motto that they proposed for PP; ‘to make life better’. They expanded this moto and presented PP as a form of praxis or applied discipline, applicable to the mind and the body but also as a way of life for individuals as well as for organisations and communities. Therefore, the following chapters are each dedicated to one of these areas.
Chapter two explains the differences between consciousness, awareness and attention. It describes a range of meditation-based practices and interventions that are centred on cognitive restructuring and designed to create meaning. Chapter three sketches the multidimensional LIFE model and explores the neural correlates of well-being including the use of neuro-feedback. This chapter also discusses the importance of the health of our nervous system and the value of exercise. Intriguingly, they introduce artistic ways (e.g. dance and music) of using our bodies to enhance well-being.
A critical account of the importance of the socio-cultural dimensions of the PP is the main theme of the chapter four. This chapter also includes thorough descriptions of the levels of the ‘LIFE’ model and offers exciting new ideas for Positive Psychology Interventions (PPIs) that are applicable to each level or area of the model.
A lifespan chronosystem approach to positive development forms the next chapter that runs through topics such as pregnancy, birth and early infancy, in connection to well-being. Authors reviewed the role of parents and the importance of secure attachment for future adjustment and well-being. Here, they also talk about positive education and offer suggestions for interventions that help positive youth development. They continued the chronological approach throughout the lifespan and finally introduced the idea of positive aging that is one of my favourite topics in PP.
The focus of the next chapter is on positive organisations, where they used ‘Job Demands-Resources’ (J D-R) model to explore psychological drivers of engagement, work stressors and the issue of control. They have taken the topic of workplace well-being to a broader socio-political and economical domain and discussed the importance of leadership. They also introduced the notion of authentizotic organisations (workplaces with positive climate) in creating organisational values that support well-being of their employees.
Religion and spirituality are covered in chapter seven, where they discussed the relevance of such beliefs to well-being and for that matter to PP. They explored the Buddhist roots of meditation in order to maintain important but overlooked aspects of its philosophy that can lead to new PPI. The same approach is also applied to exploring the Hindu roots of Yoga. They also briefly discussed the potential contributions of all other religious or spiritual traditions to PP.
The final chapter is dedicated to values, morals and ethics relevant to PP. They discussed the importance of an ethical framework as exits in other professional disciplines and explored what positive psychology practitioners can learn from the fields of counselling and psychotherapy. An interesting question in this chapter is if or should PP practitioners call themselves ‘positive psychologists’. This leads to the issue of supervisory, reflexivity and personal development within the profession and I believe it’s an important step towards formal professional accreditation and licensing that I hope to see it happen as soon as possible.
You can now see the comprehensive scope and depth of vision that is employed in writing this book. It’s an accumulation of the best ideas in various relevant disciplines that are modified to form a practical and colourful landscape for PP. What I most like about the book, is the integrative concept that presents PP as a practical tool for making lives better. This in fact is a historical landmark in the development of PP. It gives PP the scope and the substance that the discipline needed to show its true potential in making lives better both at the level of individuals and at the level of wider arenas of family, workplace and communities.
I also like the format of the book that is designed as a textbook. This makes it particularly useful for MAPP students like me and other researchers and academics that wish to use the book as a reference for the latest developments in PP. However, this format is also what I believe is a limiting factor for the book. A textbook is not very useful for the general public and the fact that this book is painting the most complete and practical picture of PP makes it crucial for public to have access to its contents in a more useable format. I hope the authors can find enough time to publish a revised version for the public too.
The other potential improvement, I believe could apply to chapter seven where the authors briefly discussed the potential contributions of other religious to well-being. This book is published and is being used in an environment where there are many more followers of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and other significant minority-religions. Hence, I wish if the authors could have included more details of the potential contributions to well-being by those other more widely practised religions in our society. I know this is a huge undertaking and I hope other researchers can soon fill the gap.
Overall, I believe this is an excellent book that makes a great contribution to the field of PP and will remain as one of the important steps in the developmental history of positive psychology. Enjoy reading and using it.