Edited By Dr Piers Worth
Positive Psychology Across The Lifespan
An Existential Perspective
Positive Psychology Across the Lifespan An Existential Perspective Edited by Piers Worth, chartered psychologist, accredited psychotherapist and visiting Professor of Positive Psychology at Bucks New University.
Positive Psychology Across the Life Span provides an insight into how we are affected by the different stages of adult development and gives us the opportunity to change through choice rather than leaving change to chance.
The book will be essential reading for students and practitioners of positive psychology, as well as other mental health professionals and individuals interested in exploring the subject for reasons of personal development.
Dr Piers Worth
Piers is Visiting Professor in Psychology at Buckinghamshire New University, a Chartered Psychologist and Accredited Psychotherapist. Piers’ PhD research focused on how creativity changes as we age, and how it may support positive ageing. His research and writing focus are on subjects and applications that may broaden the base of positive psychology.
Dr Andrew Machon
Andrew is an experienced Coaching Supervisor, International Coach Trainer, Psychotherapist and Master Coach (ICF Certified) with three decades of experience working as a Change Specialist in Global Businesses. And a Visiting Teaching Fellow on the MSC in Applied Positive Psychology at Buckinghamshire New University.
Diane is a part-time doctoral researcher at the Centre for Positive Psychology, Buckinghamshire New University and a graduate of BNU’s MSc Applied Positive Psychology. Her research focuses on the experience of being creative at work and how leaders might facilitate creativity. Diane is a non-executive director and coach.
Lee is a MAPP graduate, transformational coach, and psychology lecturer at Buckinghamshire New University where he is developing a new master’s programme in ecology, spirituality, and psychology. Lee cares deeply about our wild and sacred spaces as an eco-mindfulness practitioner and ‘earth protector’.
Lesley is a MAPP graduate, positive psychology practitioner, trainer, author, and clinical hypnotherapist. Her focus is helping to create positive change through the application of science-based processes. She is an enthusiast of the power of positive emotions to facilitate physical and emotional healing and has run a free community laughter group for the last ten years.
The Inspiration For The Book
The book cover features an image of the Aurora Borealis taken by Andrew Machon.
Visionaries and leading researchers in areas of ‘Existential Positive Psychology’
In these brief summaries we want to familiarise you with leading ‘thinkers’ in the fields found within or overlapping with Existential Positive Psychology and offer you internet links to their work. The descriptions below are deliberately simple to leave you to explore and find out what you are drawn to. Their sites offer you a mix of freely available writing, and others where you might need to seek access, e.g. via requesting an inter-library loan of the journal article, or purchase it.
George Valliant and Other Influencers
Influencers behind the book
One of the things that has always fascinated me about the history of psychology is it cannot just be seen as a ‘science’. It emerges in a historical, social, and personal context of the figures who have shaped the discipline as a whole. There is a story as well as a theory. An interaction between many things that we could reflect on and learn from. So this is intended to be a series of podcasts that will grow over time, reflecting on some of the major figures behind existential positive psychology.
I feel we don’t just learn from the theory or research someone publishes, we also learn from the story behind the research and the person. It gives us a choice to incorporate not just the theory, but also the qualities of the person that created it. These stories fascinate me and I want to share some of them with you.
In Chapter 4 of the book, we explore the symbolic nature of the life journey. Using Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ as a template for this symbolic journey, it was possible to map the psychospiritual transformation of Dante against the stages of the ‘Hero’s Journey’ revealing more of the interior quality to the process of Self-actualisation. Existential Positive Psychology offers a broader more encompassing perspective to understanding human nature that includes important sources such as philosophical, mythological, spiritual and artistic wisdom.
We offer as a first step, the insight of exploring timeless artwork for symbolic meaning pertaining to existence.
In chapter 9 of the book, we introduced the concept of existential positive psychology interventions (EPPIs) as a method to promote positive outcomes such as developing a sense of ‘being’, exploring and discovering personal meaning in life and opening us up to new information and behaviour. Based on established Positive Psychology, Existential or Humanistic Psychology, the intention would also be to promote positive outcomes whether they are experienced during, immediately following, or sometime after participation. Importantly, there would be a consideration for how EPPIs might be adjusted to serve different age groups.
We offer this as a ‘first step’ to be explored and added to by other writers and researchers.
Nature Based Existential Positive Psychology Interventions
One aspect of existentialism concerns having a relationship with something bigger than oneself. For some this may be manifested in religious beliefs and practices yet there are other ways to experience this kind of connection. For instance, being in nature offers limitless opportunities to explore and appreciate the world around us. The natural world is ever changing and evolving but can often be ignored and overlooked in our busy lives. From the vastness of the sky and the ocean to the minute details of a flower or insect, all have the potential of evoking positive emotions such as awe, gratitude, interest, joy, and or serenity.
Research has shown many therapeutic benefits of being in nature. For example, the traditional practice of forest bathing (shinrin-yoku), which involves being amongst trees and breathing deeply has been found to have a significant influence on cortisol levels and reduce stress (Antonelli et al., 2019). Walking in nature has been found to be beneficial to clients undergoing psychotherapy by assisting individuals in exploring their own inner world and relating it to nature in a supportive environment (Lumber et al., 2017). Results from a large scale nature campaign to improve wellbeing (Richardson et al., 2016) found that those who participated sustained an increase to their happiness, health, and a connection to nature and pro-nature behaviour.
There are many ways to engage with nature that do not require access to parkland or areas of outstanding beauty. Feeding the birds, gardening, rambling and simply being outside have all been found to be beneficial to health and wellbeing (Maller, 2006)
Antonelli M, Barbieri G, Donelli D. Effects of forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) on levels of cortisol as a stress biomarker: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Biometeorol. 2019 Aug;63(8):1117-1134. doi: 10.1007/s00484-019-01717-x. Epub 2019 Apr 18. PMID: 31001682
Lumber R, Richardson M, Sheffield D (2017) Beyond knowing nature: Contact, emotion, compassion, meaning, and beauty are pathways to nature connection. PLoS ONE 12(5): e0177186
Cecily Maller, Mardie Townsend, Anita Pryor, Peter Brown, Lawrence St Leger, Healthy nature healthy people: ‘contact with nature’ as an upstream health promotion intervention for populations, Health Promotion International, Volume 21, Issue 1, March 2006, Pages 45–54
Richardson M, Cormack A, McRobert L, Underhill R (2016) 30 Days Wild: Development and Evaluation of a Large-Scale Nature Engagement Campaign to Improve Well-Being. PLoS ONE 11(2): e0149777
This is a recording of the live online event on the official book launch day, hosted by Buckinghamshire New University.
Dr. Piers Worth talks about his role as the book editor and the other chapter contributors before taking questions from some of the event attendees. Matthew Smith, Associate Professor at Buckinghamshire New University is the presenter.
We are offering you the opportunity to ask Piers Worth, as editor of the book, questions about its content and the potential unfolding nature of ‘existential positive psychology’. He will do his best to respond as quickly as possible.