Existential Positive Psychology
Designing EPPIs with life stages in mind, would suggest as a general guide that whilst younger children would benefit from playing outside, teenagers might enjoy more dynamic activities such as mountain biking. Hiking might appeal more to adults and gardening activities suitable for the retired. However, there is no intention to categorise and stereotype each age group and self-selection of activity would always be a preferred option.
An Example of EPPI
The following exercise is offered as an example of an EPPI with suggestions of how it could be adapted for different life stage.
Part of EPP is being connected to something bigger than ourselves and nature provides us with constant and consistent opportunities to experience this. However, in the busyness and bustle of everyday living, it is easy to ignore, overlook or take nature for granted and fail to notice its magnificence. Yet, if we made time to connect with some aspect of nature, even for a brief period, perhaps we might find some refuge, relief, space, and balance and to escape from the stress that living a modern life often brings.
If you set the intention to connect with nature, nature offers endless opportunities to engage wherever you are. Even in the busiest cities untidiest gardens or tiniest outdoor space, you will find evidence of the natural world at work.
A walk in nature
The instructions are simple.
· Set aside a minimum of 10 minutes to immerse and surround yourself in nature, a beach, park, garden or any green space.
· Take three slow, deep breaths.
· Using your five senses, sight, sound, smell, touch and taste, bring into your awareness and focus your attention on three things for each category one and a time, and then move on to the next.
· Once you have gone through all five. Repeat this process, so you are constantly paying attention to all that is around you.
Some senses will be much easier to access and connect with than others, such as sight and sound. However, when it is not practical, for instance to touch, smell or taste something, you can substitute the imagined experience and / or you can focus on any specific modality. Attempting to use all your senses is likely to evoke a fuller, richer experience and take your attention to things that may otherwise go unnoticed.
Variations and life stage considerations
This intervention is suitable for those who wish to participate in seated meditation and those who prefer to be more active.Although initially designed for an individual, it can be adapted for a walk accompanied by another, taking it turns to verbalise what you each notice in each of the categories.
If accompanied by children, it would be very easy to turn this into a game based on ‘I-Spy’, with the addition of ‘I-hear’. Another adaptation could include finding and noticing things of different textures such as prickly, smooth, soft hard, something bigger / smaller than ‘x’, and identifying various colours. The hypothesis of this intervention (and based on subjective feedback) is what is initially practiced as an intervention may eventually become a new habit and once a new thing is observed it becomes more readily noticed and appreciated.
An existential view of happiness (from a dog’s perspective)
Many texts exist regarding existential angst and anxiety and less about existential joy, which could be described as those times when we at one with the world. Existential happiness is said to come when we live our lives in a way that gives us meaning, satisfaction and joy. The times when we are expressing our authentic selves and living in the moment. The following video looks at happiness from a dog’s perspective and perhaps offers us the opportunity to consider whether some of these lessons may be helpful for us?