My academic paper submitted as part of Module 1 for my MSc. Programme in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology. (Appendices not published). Copyright: Poornima Nair. Please do not replicate.
My first positive psychology intervention (PPI) was Mindfulness-based meditation, part of an 8-week Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programme (Kabat-Zinn, 2003) with an MBSR trained instructor in 2015. I was introduced to instruction-led mindfulness meditation and gentle movement meditations. After completing the programme, I continued to practice mindfulness meditation five times a week, and I have since found an increased sense of wellbeing (Brown & Ryan, 2003). In the same year, I included the PPI of exercise into my regime, a structured programme that includes a combination of running and strength training five times a week. This has improved my mental and physical fitness, enhanced my psychological and general wellbeing and boosted my body image, self-esteem and self-perceptions (Hefferon, 2013, p.163).
In my early twenties, I experienced two traumatic events that significantly altered my life. In 2001, I was a victim of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. Soon after, I lost a parent to suicide. As a direct result of these traumas, I began experiencing symptoms of posttraumatic stress. I spent 10 months in therapy with a mental health professional, who used cognitive behaviour therapy along with other interventions to mitigate my issues. Over the years, I made tremendous progress bringing about vital and positive changes to many areas of my life, thereby leading to posttraumatic growth (PTG). PTG is defined as "the experience of positive change that occurs as a result of a struggle with highly challenging situations" (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004). Research shows that trauma changes people specifically in terms of their psychological wellbeing (Joseph, Maltby, Wood et al. 2012). The concept of psychological wellbeing by Ryff (1989; Ryff & Singer, 1996) consists of six aspects: autonomy, environmental mastery, positive relations with others, personal growth, purpose in life and self-acceptance. As psychological wellbeing reflects one's engagement with the existential changes in life (Ryff, 1995), I was motivated to measure my psychological wellbeing in these areas. The Psychological Well-Being: Posttraumatic Changes Questionnaire (PWB-PTCQ: Joseph et al. 2012) uses Ryff's theoretical architecture of psychological wellbeing, so I used this scale to determine my changes in psychological wellbeing. On completion, I discovered that I experienced an overall positive shift but my psychological wellbeing scored lowest in two areas - positive relations and personal growth (see Appendix 1).
Using the results of the PWB-PTCQ as a scientific measure, my goal was to use this Portfolio to increase my psychological wellbeing in these two dimensions and to use relevant PPIs to support this objective. As a first step, I administered the Person-Activity Fit Diagnostic (Lyubomirsky, 2008) to determine my right fit and committing to goals strongly appealed to me. Then, upon completion of the VIA survey for adults (Peterson & Seligman, 2004) I discovered that my top strength is perseverance. So, I sought to use the PPI – Using Signature Strengths in a New Way (Seligman, Steen, Park & Peterson, 2005) to focus on using this signature strength of perseverance to build positive relationships. To enhance my wellbeing in the dimension of personal growth, I completed a Best Possible Self (King, 2001) intervention and used Ryff’s Psychological Wellbeing Scale (1989) pre and post-intervention to measure my psychological wellbeing.
Summary and reflection on the personal use of two interventions
Intervention 1: Using Signature Strengths in a New Way
A highly salient definition that captures the style of relationships I would like to build comes from Ryff (1995) who defined it as: "Has warm, satisfying, trusting relationships with others; is concerned about the welfare of others; is capable of strong empathy, affection, and intimacy; understands give-and-take of human relationships". Positive relationships are viewed as the road to happiness (Niemiec, 2018, CSI 40). Research, evidence and literature reviews show the importance of building and nurturing positive relationships for individual wellbeing. For instance, at deepest levels people want to feel connected to others and this helps nurture their mind, body and spirit (Roffey, 2011, p.2). More research by Larson, Mannell, & Zuzanek (1986) found that individuals are happiest with their friends and family members, and least happy if they were alone. Positive relationships have also been shown to increase physiological functioning and boost health and wellbeing outcomes leading to the secretion of oxytocin, associated with positive mood and stress relief (Ryff & Singer, 2001).
Peterson and Seligman (2003) conducted character strengths studies prior to and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and results showed that character strengths like hope and faith had increased among Americans. As in my case, with the number of casualties I encountered whilst experiencing the 9/11 terrorist attacks and with my own personal loss of a parent to suicide, it became evident that when individuals like myself experience and survive traumatic situations like death, we “are more likely to learn lessons about life that shape character and lead to growth” (Peterson, Park, et al. 2008). Given that I was ready to increase my psychological wellbeing, especially in the dimension of positive relationships I was motivated to use my strengths of character in PTG. First I took the VIA survey for adults (Peterson & Seligman, 2004) that allowed me to determine my 24 character strengths. I then reviewed five of my signature strengths (see Appendix 4) and decided to apply “perseverance” for the purpose of this intervention. Positive associations of the character strength for perseverance are achievement/goal completion, resourcefulness and self-efficacy (Peterson and Seligman, 2004). I applied this signature strength in a variety of ways for a week with the overall aim of using this intervention to increase positive relationships with people. I set new, specific, short relationship enhancing goals to accomplish each day of the week. Research shows that when deadlines are set and goals are specific, a person’s performance enhances thereby improving the effectiveness of goals (Lunenburg, 2011). Therefore, through each of the seven goals, I fulfilled a new task every day. I used my strength of perseverance to complete each day's new goal, deal with obstacles whilst being resourceful and meet daily deadlines (see Appendix 2 for journal on application and reflection).
I felt invigorated with the strengths use (Peterson and Seligman 2004), but at times I also felt stuck when conducting this intervention, for example on Day 2 and Day 4 when I was uncomfortable and thrown outside of my comfort zone. However including variety to my daily goals avoided the task feeling too dull (Biswas-Diener, Kashdan & Minas, 2011). Considering my wellbeing in the positive relationships dimension was low at the onset of the intervention, upon completion I found myself inspired. By Day 7, I even found a mildly increased sense of wellbeing (Liney et al. 2010) that manifested in the form of positive emotions. Research shows that strengths increase relationship satisfaction (Gable, Reis et al. 2004) and signature strengths use also relates to the progress of one's goals (Deci & Ryan, 2000). The biggest impact of this intervention for me was the reflection on Day 7- knowing that I have a long way to go in this area but feeling positive that I have the potential to grow. Finally, to receive optimal benefits from this intervention, in this area in the future, I continue to anchor the signature strength (Niemiec, 2018, p. 43) using the poster I created (see Appendix 2).
Intervention 2: Best Possible Self (BPS)
Looking to strengthen and develop my psychological wellbeing in the dimension of personal growth, I found Ryff’s (1995) definition of personal growth most inspiring - "has a feeling of continued development; sees self as growing and expanding; is open to new experiences; has sense of realising his or her potential; is changing in ways that reflect more self-knowledge and effectiveness.” Research demonstrates that high psychological wellbeing in the area of personal growth leads to abundant benefits for an individual. For instance, in a paper by Ryff (2013), she demonstrates how traits such as purposeful engagement, personal growth, self-realisation and self-regard directly influence the longevity and wellbeing of individuals. In her same research, participants who demonstrated higher purpose and growth in their lives showed better cognitive functions and higher levels of spirituality, both of which have been positively linked to personal growth (Ryff, 2013). Emphasises on continued personal growth and adaptation leads to enhanced psychological wellbeing from a eudaimonic perspective (McDowell, 2010). By enhancing personal growth people are also seen to interact, support and encourage friends whilst also receiving the same support from others (Schutz, et al. 2013).
Pre-intervention, I used Ryff’s Psychological Well-being Scale (1989) to measure my psychological wellbeing in the dimension of personal growth (see Appendix 5). Characteristics of a low scorer in this area exhibit lack of meaning in life and direction, with an incapability to develop new attitudes or behaviours Ryff (1995). Upon research, I found that expressive writing interventions are shown to help trauma survivors find meaning and direction (Pennebaker, 1997a, 1997b, 2004) in their lives. Studies that analysed expressive writing by trauma survivors also showed manifestation of greater psychological wellbeing (Baike & Wilhelm, 2005) in participants. Therefore, as a trauma survivor, looking to increase my wellbeing in this area and find more meaning and direction, I felt it was best to use an expressive writing intervention and therefore decided to conduct the well-validated intervention by King (2001) titled Best Possible Self. So over a period of 4 consecutive days, I visualised and wrote about my best possible self in relation to my goals, priorities and new experiences in my academic/professional life, relationships, mental/physical wellbeing and growth mindset (see Appendix 3 for journal on application and reflection).
Reflecting on this intervention, I observed that even visualising the positive aspects of achieving a goal reaped instant psychological rewards (Biswas-Diener, 2010, p. 71). As personal growth focuses on one’s continued development and being open to new experiences, I found this intervention raising my levels of optimism. For instance, a week after the intervention, I felt positive whilst outlining plans in areas of my life relating to academics and career. Writing about one's best future self helps integrate a person’s priorities (King, 2001) with life goals boosting wellbeing (Lopez & Synder, 2009, p. 673). In addition to this, I also found the intervention therapeutic (Baike & Wilhelm, 2005). Expressive writing offers benefits for psychological wellbeing (Park & Blumberg, 2002) with boosts in emotional health, mood and affect (King & Pennebaker, 1988; Paez et al. 1999). Further studies by Smyth (1998) on expressive writing show remarkable benefits in psychological wellbeing and general functioning outcomes (Baike & Wilhelm, 2005). Finally, my post-intervention measurement on the Ryff's Psychological Scale found an increase in my wellbeing in the personal growth dimension (see Appendix 6).
A description and reflection of the personal use of two positive psychology questionnaires
Questionnaire 1: Values in Action (VIA) Survey For Adults
The Values in Action (VIA) survey (Peterson & Seligman, 2004) is a self-report questionnaire used by adults to identify their individual character strengths. There are 240 items on the scale. The survey is free, psychometrically valid (Niemiec, 2018, p.278) and can be taken online. The measure uses a 5-point Likert-style item (ranging from 1= 'very much like me' through to 5 ='very much unlike me') to measure the degree to which respondents identify with items reflecting the 24 strengths of character that encompass the VIA Classification. The survey offers relative, and not absolute comparisons. It takes about 20 minutes to complete and the user receives an immediate rank order of results of their character strengths. The survey is available in more than 35 languages.
Prior to the VIA classification, there was no consensual nomenclature for identifying and classifying positive traits in people to serve as a foundation for strengths interventions (Niemiec, 2018, p.3). This survey offers a tool for a comprehensive understanding of an individual's strength of character at any given time. There are six virtues and 24 character strengths identified through the VIA. Character strengths are – “positive traits/capacities that are personally fulfilling, do not diminish others, ubiquitous and valued across cultures, and aligned with numerous positive outcomes for oneself and others” (Niemiec, 2018, p.2). Park and Peterson (2010) referred to character strengths as the “foundation of optimal life-long development and thriving.” The original publication on the VIA classification, Character Strengths and Virtues, also defines signature strengths as those “positive traits that an individual owns, celebrates and frequently exercises” (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). As PTG takes various forms and strengths (Tedeschi & Moore, 2016, p.70) I was motivated to gain an awareness of my strengths of character and signature strengths in PTG. Therefore the VIA survey (Peterson & Seligman, 2004) was the most appropriate self-report questionnaire that allowed me to look at my own strengths in PTG and use the results to conduct my first PPI.
The VIA survey is long, time-consuming to complete and has 240 statements in total, in comparison to other tools. Analysis from various trials involving questionnaire length show that shorter questionnaires are found to yield better results (Edwards, Roberts et al. 2004). I found this true when administering this scale to my clients. Traits such as low attention span, lack of time and patience impacted proper engagement and accurate completion. Some of my clients were distracted halfway through whilst others stopped before completion. However, both my clients and I found the statements on the VIA scale short and easy to comprehend. This supports evidence from studies undertaken by Holbrook et al. (2006) on the importance of keeping statements short (Foddy 1993; Dillman 2000; Fink 2003) to boost the level of understanding for respondents. The 5-point scale on the questionnaire satisfactorily measures the degree to which statements reflect individual character strengths and I found some of the statements thought provoking. For example, the strength of gratitude is measured with the statement - “At least once a day, I stop and count my blessings.” Evidence from VIA published reliability and validity data shows that all scales have satisfactory alphas (>.70) (VIA, n.d). The survey also subjectively measures psychometric properties and is shown to have good validity (Proyer, Wellenzohn, Gander, & Ruch, 2015a). Once the survey is completed, the rank order of strengths is delivered immediately and as a user I found this satisfying. The information gained from the results of the questionnaire is a general awareness of one's 24 character strengths with a hierarchy from high to low. It is important to note that the 24 character strengths are a "common language" (Niemiec, 2018, p. 3) that can be easily understood and implemented by many across different cultures. Research shows that at least one-third of people have no idea what their strengths are (Linley & Harrington, 2006), so using a survey like the VIA can lead to awareness and utilisation of strengths which in turn can lead to higher wellbeing (Wood, Linley et al. 2011). To sum up, taking the VIA survey helped me gain powerful insight into my character strengths in PTG. Upon reflection, I would recommend the VIA survey, and I will continue using it in the context of coaching with my clients as an assessment to identify their character strengths and to open a discussion about them.
Questionnaire 2: Ryff's Psychological Wellbeing Scale
Ryff Psychological Wellbeing Scale (Ryff, 1989) measures the different dimensions of psychological wellbeing. The subscales include - self-acceptance, positive relations with others, autonomy, environmental mastery, purpose in life, and personal growth (Ryff, 1989). The scale has 42 statements. On the Likert scale, respondents rate the statements from 1 to 6 - 1 specifying strong disagreement and 6 specifying strong agreement. Each of the six dimensions has 7 statements for its evaluation. For instance, a statement measuring personal growth is “I think it is important to have new experiences that challenge how you think about yourself and the world.” There are 20 statements that are negatively phrased while the other 22 are positively phrased. Responses for each of the six categories are totalled. Total scores for the scale range from 42 to 252 with higher scores indicating greater psychological wellbeing in each subscale at that given time in an individual’s life.
Concepts of psychological wellbeing theory are derived from eudaimonia. Eudaimonic wellbeing is the actualisation of human potential and is defined as "fulfilling or realising one's daimon or true nature" (Heffernon & Boniwell, 2011, p. 77). Ryff (1989) created a multi-dimensional model of wellbeing with six domains - self-acceptance, positive relations with others, autonomy, environmental mastery, purpose in life, and personal growth. These dimensions are well-defined and were developed on the basis of an extensive literature review integrating empirical studies, mental health, clinical and life span developmental theories (Ryff & Singer, 1996). Apart from Ryff's model, the Self-determination theory like Maslow's hierarchy of needs also states that there is an “evolutionarily adaptive function of three psychological needs - autonomy, competence and relatedness” (Heffernon & Boniwell, 2011, p.84). Since research shows that the concept of PTG is acquired from eudaimonia (Durkin & Joseph, 2009), I became more inclined to measure my psychological wellbeing using Ryff's psychological wellbeing scale in PTG. According to Joseph (2011, p. 19) there are three themes to PTG; the second existential theme being psychological mindfulness, which was relevant to me as this dimension reflects self-awareness and how a person’s thoughts, emotions, and behaviours bring about change and increase personal growth. Therefore to measure the impact of the writing intervention Best Possible Self (King, 2001) Ryff's psychological wellbeing scale (Ryff, 1989) was the ideal scale for me to measure the impact this intervention had on my psychological wellbeing.
I completed Ryff's Psychological Wellbeing Scale (Ryff, 1989) before and after conducting the PPI - Best Possible Self (King, 2001). I had a pre-intervention score of 171/252 and a post-intervention score of 180/252. Ryff's Psychological Well-Being Scale has 42 items with respondents rating how strongly they agree or disagree with the statements on the Likert scale. This Likert scale is uni-dimensional and one of the disadvantages of this is that the true attitudes of respondents may not necessarily be captured. A reason for this could be social desirability (Paulhus,1984) motivating individuals to choose responses that are congregated in the middle rather than choose extremes. That being said, I was pleased to find the statements on the scale to be short and easy to comprehend. Both times it took me an average of 6-8 minutes to complete the scale. There are six subscales clearly measuring Autonomy (e.g. “I have confidence in my opinions, even if they are contrary to the general consensus”); Environmental Mastery (e.g. “In general, I feel I am in charge of the situation in which I live”); Personal Growth (e.g. “I think it is important to have new experiences that challenge how you think about yourself and the world”) and so on. The subscales are the highlight of this scale and provided a comprehensive and clear measurement of my psychological wellbeing in each of the six dimensions. Respondents’ are instructed to reverse-code the 21 items with higher scores indicating greater wellbeing. Separate subscale scores can be calculated by summing all items within each subscale. However, if respondents like myself are new to measurement scales, then reverse coding may be difficult and confusing, very often leading to difficulties in interpretation (Van Sonderen, Sanderman, Coyne, 2013). I also had to re-do the scoring more than once. Research shows that 10% of reversely coded questionnaires leads to artificially created factors (Woods, 2006). However, overall I believe the scale provides a comprehensive view of one's psychological wellbeing in the six dimensions and would recommend implementing the scale in a coaching environment, where coaches can administer it to their clients. The scale also has a powerful impact on individuals like myself who want to understand, measure and raise psychological wellbeing in PTG.
A critical analysis and evaluation of the positive psychology questionnaires and interventions used drawing on both personal experiential learning and review of research
Conducting both PPIs in PTG was a substantial learning experience for me. I noticed that I had already started feeling a small increase in my levels of wellbeing, just by knowing that I would be conducting the interventions. The placebo effect came into play, whereby beliefs about the effectiveness of an intervention can lead to cognitive changes (British Psychological Association, 2019). I ran both my PPIs simultaneously with the hope of achieving a high personal benefit (Sin & Lyubomirsky, 2009).
Perseverance is defined as - "Finishing what one starts; persisting in a course of action despite obstacles; getting it out the door; taking pleasure in completing tasks" (Niemiec, 2018, p.128). My goal here was not only to use the signature strength of perseverance but to also use it in a new and different way for a week in the domain of relationships with the aim of improving positive relations with others (Ryff, 1985). My most prominent observation and learning from conducting this intervention – Using signature strengths in a new way (Seligman, Steen, Park and Peterson, 2005) are the self-awareness (Govindji & Linley, 2007) and now conscious use of this signature strength of perseverance. Having seen an increase in wellbeing in the domain of personal relationships, I decided to consider building this strength into a habit by using the technique of anchoring (Niemiec, 2018, p. 43). This has led to an increase in my use of perseverance in different domains, for instance whilst setting goals and pursuing personal and professional growth opportunities. Research shows that strengths habit-making offers benefits such as greater flourishing, engagement, feeling valued and being energised (McQuaid & VIA Institute of Character, 2015).
An extremely distressing element for trauma victims is losing friends post-trauma (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 2013; Hefferon et. al 2009). Having personally suffered the loss of friends after my traumas, this intervention helped me reflect on the importance of closer relationships with people who matter. Over the last few weeks I noticed that I have started to engage more deeply with people. For instance, I have started spending quality time with people who matter to me, joined fitness workout groups in my neighbourhood, initiated lunches with friends and volunteered at my local wellbeing centre. Engaging with people has increased my wellbeing. Evidence from the original research has shown that using signature strengths in a new way (Seligman, Steen, Park & Peterson, 2005) can lead to substantial benefits for happiness (Gander et al. 2013; Seligman et al. 2005). Consistently using perseverance in a variety of ways over the past few weeks has also been useful for accomplishing my goals (McCabe & Fleeson, 2016) and pursuing my academics (Park & Peterson, 2009). Although the original research shows that long-term improvement in happiness occurred for participants using this PPI, I would highly recommend that this intervention be conducted for a longer period of time and the strength repetitively practiced in a consistent context (Lally, Van Jaarsveld et al. 2010) to build the signature strength into a habit.
This was the very first time I was introduced to character strengths and taking the VIA survey was a positive experience for me, despite the long length of the questionnaire. It has been found that answering positive questions is a new experience for many as it helps people remember their positive qualities (Niemiec, 2018, CSI 2). After taking the survey personally, and also administering them to my clients, I got an opportunity to reflect and observe that my knowledge of VIA strengths has increased considerably. This tool is great for coaches and practitioners, as it will also deepen their knowledge on the valuable use of strengths interventions. Therefore I believe the VIA survey could work well in a coaching environment. Coaches can use the results as a springboard to discuss individual strengths (Biswas-Diener, 2010, p. 33) and carry out character strength interventions for their clients to boost wellbeing and improve relationships in both personal and professional settings. A caveat: whilst administering it to clients, practitioners need to take an exploratory approach rather than offering conclusive interpretations (Niemiec, 2018, p.37). The VIA survey is also a great tool for individuals like myself to assess the strengths of character in PTG as it has been seen that trauma entails an increase in strengths (Peterson, Park, et al. 2008). Therefore as character strengths can be learned, practised, and cultivated it can be used to help a person blossom into PTG and in domains relating to personal strength, improved relationships, new paths, spirituality and understanding life’s meaning and purpose (Tedeschi & Moore, 2016, p.71).
Whilst I relished both PPIs, I found the Best Possible Self (King, 2001) intervention to be most effective. Visualising and writing down my future self was no doubt an emotional experience but one that I found extremely therapeutic and cathartic. For instance, during the intervention, I found myself writing about new goals and experiencing a sense of resilience and strength that I had not previously felt. A number of studies over the years show that when individuals use expressive writing to describe their emotional experiences, they see significant benefits both in their physical and emotional health (Pennebaker, 1997b). Coming from a background of trauma, I relished the opportunity to witness my recovery and growth and to visualise and write about my future self. I found the writing experience personal, meaningful and emotional (Baikie & Wilhelm, 2005). Through this intervention, my aim was to increase my psychological wellbeing in the domain of personal growth (Ryff, 1995). Since conducting the intervention I have felt invigorated and motivated to set and pursue goals and engage in new experiences that improve my personal growth especially in the area of my career and studies. Conducting this intervention in PTG has also heightened my existential awareness and I feel ready to explore "new possibilities in life" (Tedeschi and Calhoun, 1995). Since the intervention, I have found a renewed sense of optimism specifically relating to my future in the field of academics and pursuing my doctorate in the field of PTG in the coming years. Relating to the original research, the Best Possible Self intervention has been found to elevate optimism (Peters, Meevissen & Hanssen, 2013). This further links to Fredrickson’s (2001) Broaden and Build Theory where an increase in positive experiences can strengthen positive emotions over time thereby opening up to new possibilities and ideas. Through the writing intervention, I also felt a mild increase in gratitude and that has prompted me to count my blessings (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). It is evident that in PTG I have experienced a positive outcome from conducting the Best Possible Self intervention. However, I would recommend that support is offered and available for people coming from a trauma background who are conducting writing interventions as they can experience distress, negative mood and physical symptoms in the short-term (Baike & Wilhelm, 2005).
My main struggle with Ryff’s Psychological Wellbeing Scale (1989) was the reverse coding, but overall I found using the scale to be a positive experience. Having administered The Psychological Wellbeing: Post-Traumatic Changes Questionnaire (PWB-PTCQ: Joseph et al. 2012) at the onset of my portfolio, I found using Ryff's Psychological Well-being subscales the most suitable way to continue down the path to measure my psychological wellbeing pre and post-intervention in the six domains in PTG. Through this Portfolio, I was looking to increase my psychological wellbeing in two areas - positive relations with others and personal growth (Ryff, 1989). Post-intervention my score in the positive relations with others dimension marginally increased from 21 to 24 and personal growth from 28 to 31. However, I noticed that most of my scores in the other dimensions remained the same, making me question if the scores are truly reliable. Another point that I would like to raise here is the effectiveness and accuracy of undertaking self-report assessments in the area of psychological wellbeing, especially for individuals affected by trauma. Some factors such as introspective inability, social desirability and response bias may alter findings. Dunning, Heath & Suls (2004) found that self- report assessments are also subject to errors and biases. Therefore I recommend that care should be taken while administering the scale via self-assessment alone. However, in terms of practice, the scale can be used in a coaching or therapy environment. This scale provides a great overview on how the client is faring and helps accesses his/her current psychological state. So this scale can help establish a benchmark for psychological wellbeing and track its evolution over time. The results from specific subscales can also be used as entry point to more in-depth conversations relating to purpose, relationships, self-acceptance, autonomy and growth.
Review of Learning
Coming from a multiple-trauma background, the completion of this Portfolio and the learnings derived from this experience and PTG specifically have been invaluable to me. I am now able to clearly comprehend how individuals who went through traumatic experiences like myself can construct a meaningful, purposeful life filled with new possibilities (Tedeschi & Moore, 2016, p.161) and achieve "transformation across a variety of life domains" (Ivtzan et. al. 2016, p. 86). This correlates with the organismic value theory that states PTG as an increase in eudaimonic rather than hedonic wellbeing (Joseph, 2013). These learnings have led to a rise in my optimism and level of hope with my understanding that PTG is not only a return to baseline but also a deep transformation that is truly profound (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004). Upon reflection, a noteworthy insight from this experience has been my increased sense of self-acceptance (Ivtzan, et al. 2016, p. 63) an area I have previously struggled with in the past. As a result, I have started developing a positive attitude towards myself, which is a vital component of positive psychological functioning (Ryff, 1989). Since the interventions, I still continue to draw on my VIA signature strengths and apply them consciously across all domains of growth by adopting appropriate character strengths implementations. The BPS intervention had a profound effect on me and I continue to use writing interventions as and when required to gain clarity on a situation and as a therapeutic mechanism. I have also started setting stronger goals in areas focussing on my career and academics and pursuing new experiences by signing up to challenging fitness regimes, experiential travel and engaging in mindful eating. My academic learnings have also been significant - knowledge about PPIs, measurement scales, empirical studies, and a true understanding of wellbeing concepts. Over the coming months, I will continue to conduct PPIs on myself and measure impact using relevant scales. In terms of next steps, to further build on my character strengths in PTG, I will conduct the intervention – Boost a lower strength (Niemiec, 2018, CSI 19) to improve my less familiar strengths. I will also conduct the gratitude intervention – Three good things (Seligman, Steen, Park & Peterson, 2005) to boost gratitude (Niemiec, 2018, CSI 37) and measure its impact on my psychological wellbeing using The Gratitude Questionnaire (McCullough et.al 2002). A caveat: Through this Portfolio, I have learnt that care should be taken while self-administering PPIs and measurement sales to ensure that errors and biases are avoided.
After exploring the ‘dark side’ of positive psychology in this Portfolio with topics such as PTG, meaning, resilience and human development, I’ve learnt that appropriate evidence-based PPIs like mindfulness, gratitude, savouring, expressive writing activities, exercise and physical activity can be introduced by practitioners in clinical and non-clinical settings for individuals who have undergone trauma or suffering and measure the impact of interventions using PPI scales. Using PPIs in this ‘dark side’ of positive psychology in practices will show how challenging experiences for individuals can lead to growth, healing, insight and even transformation. To sum up, I am grateful for this opportunity to have worked on my Portfolio. The use of the two PPIs and measurement scales has not only improved my psychological wellbeing in PTG but has also left me with the intellectual curiosity to trial further interventions on myself. As a coach, I will also look to effectively administer PPIs on my clients and I look forward to successfully improving wellbeing in others.
Baikie, K. A., & Wilhelm, K. (2005). Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 11(5), 338–346. https://doi.org/10.1192/apt.11.5.338.
Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). Practicing Positive Psychology Coaching: Assessment, Activities, and Strategies for Success. Hoboken NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Biswas-Diener, R., Kashdan, T. B., & Minhas, G. (2011). A dynamic approach to psychological strength development and intervention. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 6(2), 106-118. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2010.545429.
British Psychological Association. (2019). The Placebo Effect, Digested - 10 Amazing Findings. Retrieved from https://digest.bps.org.uk/2019/03/11/the-placebo-effect-digested-10-amazing-findings/.
Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), 822–48. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12703651.
Calhoun, L., & Tedeschi, R.G. (2013). Posttraumatic growth in clinical practice. London: Routledge.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227–268. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15327965PLI1104_01.
Dilman, D. (2000). Mail and Internet Surveys. The Tailored Design Method. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Dunning, D., Heath, C., & Suls, J. M. (2004). Flawed self-assessment: Implications for health, education, and the workplace. Psychological science in the public interest, 5(3), 69-106.
Durkin, J., & Joseph, S. (2009). Growth Following Adversity and Its Relation with Subjective Well-Being and Psychological Well-Being. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 14(3), 228–234. https://doi.org/10.1080/15325020802540561.
Edwards, P., Roberts, I., Sandercock, P., & Frost, C. (2004). Follow-up by mail in clinical trials: Does questionnaire length matter? Controlled Clinical Trials, 25(1), 31–52. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cct.2003.08.013.
Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377–389. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1687.
Foddy, W. (1993). Constructing Questions for Interviews and Questionnaires. Theory and Practice in Social Research. Cambridge. UK: Cambridge University Press.
Fink, A (2003). How To Ask Survey Questions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Fredickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology. American Psychologist, 56(3), 218-226.
Fredrickson, B.L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology. American psychologist, 56(3), 2018-222.
Gable, S. L., Impett, E. A., Reis, H. T., & Asher, E. R. (2004). What do you do when things go right? The intrapersonal and interpersonal benefits of sharing positive events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87(2), 228–245. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.124.
Gander, F., Proyer, R. T., Ruch, W., & Wyss, T. (2013). Strength-Based Positive Interventions: Further Evidence for Their Potential in Enhancing Well-Being and Alleviating Depression. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14(4), 1241–1259. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-012-9380-0.
Govindji, R., & Linley, P. A. (2007). Strengths use, self-concordance and well-being: Implications for strengths coaching and coaching psychologists. International Coaching Psychology Review, 2(2), 143–153.
Hefferon, K., Grealy, M. & Mutrie, N (2009). Posttraumatic growth and life threatening physical illness: A systematic review of the qualitative literature. British Journal of Health Psychology, 14, 343-378.
Hefferon, K. & Boniwell, I. (2011). Positive Psychology: Theory, Research and Applications. UK: McGraw-Hill.
Hefferon, K. (2013). Positive Psychology And The Body The Somatopsychic Side To Flourishing. NY: McGraw-Hill
Holbrook, A. Cho, Y.I., & Johnson, T. (2006). The impact of question and respondent characteristics on comprehension and mapping difficulties. Public Opinion Quarterly. pp. 565-595.
Ivtzan, I., Lomas, T., Hefferon, K., & Worth, P. (2016). Second Wave Positive Psychology. Embracing The Dark Side of Life. Routledge: London. New York.
Joseph. S. (2011). What Doesn't Kill Us: The New Psychology of Posttraumatic Growth. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/uel/reader.action?docID=796098.
Joseph, S., Maltby, J., Wood, A. M., Stockton, H., Hunt, N., & Regel, S. (2012). The psychological Well-Being-Post-Traumatic Changes Questionnaire (PWB-PTCQ): Reliability and validity. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 4(4), 420–428. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0024740.
Joseph, S. (2013). What doesn't kill us: A guide to overcoming adversity and moving forward. London: Piatkus.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003) Mindfulness-based stress reduction. Constructivism in the Human Sciences, 8(2), 74.
King, L. A. (2001). The Health Benefits of Writing about Life Goals. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27(7), 798-807. https://doi:10.1177/0146167201277003.
King, L. A., & Pennebaker, J. W. (1988). What’s So Great About Feeling Good? Psychological Inquiry, 9(1), 53–56. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327965pli0901_8.
Lally, P., Van Jaarsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W., & Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(6), 998–1009. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejsp.674
Larson, R., Mannell, R., & Zuzanek, J. (1986). Daily well-being of older adults with friends and family. Psychology and Aging, 1(2), 117-126. https://doi:10.1037/0882-79126.96.36.199.
Linley, P. A., & Harrington, S. (2006, February). Playing to your strengths. Psychologist.
Linley, P. A., Nielsen, K. M., Gillett, R., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2010). Using signature strengths in pursuit of goals: Effects on goal progress, need satisfaction, and well-being, and implications for coaching psychologists. International Coaching Psychology Review, 5(1), 6–15. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004.
Lopez, J.S, Synder, C.R. 2009. The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology. Second Edition. New York: Oxford University Press.
Lunenburg, F. (2011). Goal setting theory of motivation. International Journal of Management, Business, and Administration, 15, 1–6. Retrieved from http://www.managementstudyguide.com/goal-setting-theory-motivation.htm.
Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). The how of happiness: A scientific approach to getting the life you want. New York: Penguin Press.
McCabe, K. O., & Fleeson, W. (2016). Are traits useful? Explaining trait manifestations as tools in the pursuit of goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 110(2), 287–301. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0039490.
McCullough, M. E., Emmons, R. A., & Tsang, J. (2002). The grateful disposition: A
conceptual and empirical topography. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 112-127
McDowell, I. (2010, July). Measures of self-perceived well-being. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychores.2009.07.002.
McQuaid, M., & VIA Institute on Character (2015). VIA character strengths at work. Retrieved from https://www.viacharacter.org/blog/category/via-character-strengths-in-use/.
Niemiec, R.M. (2018). Character Strengths Intervention: A Field Guide For Practitioners. Boston, MA. Hogrefe Publishing.
Páez, D., Velasco, C., & González, J. L. (1999). Expressive writing and the role of alexythimia as a dispositional deficit in self-disclosure and psychological health. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(3), 630–641. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.520.
Park, C. L., & Blumberg, C. J. (2002). Disclosing trauma through writing: Testing the meaning-making hypothesis. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 26(5), 597–616. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1020353109229.
Park, N. & Peterson, C. (2009). Character strengths: Research and practice. Journal of College and Character, 10(4), np. http:doi.org/10.2202/1940-1639.1042.
Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2010). Character Strengths: Research and Practice. Journal of College and Character, 10(4). https://doi.org/10.2202/1940-1639.1042.
Paulhus, D.L. (1984). Two-component models of socially desirable responding. Journal of personality and social psychology, 46(3), 598.
Pennebaker, J.W. (1997a). Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions. New York. Guilford Press.
Pennebaker, J. W. (1997b). Writing about emotional experiences as a therapeutic process. Psychological Science, 8(3), 162–166. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.1997.tb00403.x.
Pennebaker, J. W. (2004). Theories, therapies, and taxpayers: On the complexities of the expressive writing paradigm. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11(2), 138–142. https://doi.org/10.1093/clipsy/bph063.
Peters, M. L., Meevissen, Y. M., & Hanssen, M. M. (2013). Specificity of the Best Possible Self intervention for increasing optimism: Comparison with a gratitude intervention. Terapia psicológica, 1(1), 93-100.
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2003). Character strengths before and after September 11. Psychological Science, 14(4), 381–384. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9280.24482.
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M.E.P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York, NY: Oxford University Press/Washington DC: American Psychological Association.
Peterson, C., Park, N., Pole, N., D’Andrea, W., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2008). Strengths of character and posttraumatic growth. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 21(2), 214–217. https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.20332.
Proyer, R. T., Gander, F., Wellenzohn, S., & Ruch, W. (2015a). Strengths-based positive psychology interventions: a randomized placebo-controlled online trial on long-term effects for a signature strengths-vs. a lesser strengths-intervention. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 456. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00456.
Roffey, S. (2011). Positive Relationships: Evidence Based Practice Across the World. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/uel/detail.action?docID=886028.
Ryff, C.D. (1989) Happiness is everything, or is it? Explorations on the meaning of psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57 (6): 1069-81.
Ryff, C. D. (1989). Psychological Well-Being Scale. PsycTESTS Dataset. https://doi:10.1037/t04262-000.
Ryff, C. D. (1995). Psychological Well-Being in Adult Life. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 4(4), 99-104. https://doi:10.1111/1467-8721.ep10772395.
Ryff, C. D., & Singer, B. (1996). Psychological well-being: Meaning, measurement, and implications for psychotherapy research. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 65(1), 14–23. https://doi.org/10.1159/000289026.
Ryff.C. D., & Singer, B. (2001). Emotion, Social Relationships and Health. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Ryff, C. D. (2013). Psychological well-being revisited: Advances in the science and practice of eudaimonia. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 83(1), 10–28. https://doi.org/10.1159/000353263.
Schütz, E., Archer, T., & Garcia, D. (2013). Character profiles and adolescents’ self-reported affect. Personality and Individual Differences, 54(7), 841–844. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2012.12.020.
Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: empirical validation of interventions. The American Psychologist, 60(5), 410–421. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.60.5.410.
Sin, N. L., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2009). Enhancing well-being and alleviating depressive symptoms with positive psychology interventions: A practice-friendly meta-analysis. Journal of clinical psychology, 65(5), 467-487.
Smyth, J. M. (1998). Written emotional expression: Effect sizes, outcome types, and moderating variables. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 66(1), 174–184. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.66.1.174.
Tedeschi, R.G., & Calhoun, L.G. (1995). Trauma and transformation: Growing in the aftermath of suffering. Thousand Oaks: CA: Sage.
Tedeschi, R. G., & Calhoun, L. G. (2004). Posttraumatic Growth: Conceptual Foundations and Empirical Evidence. Psychological Inquiry. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327965pli1501_01.
Tedeschi, R.G, Moore, B.A. (2016). The Posttraumatic Growth Workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
Van Sonderen, E., Sanderman, R., & Coyne, J. C. (2013). Ineffectiveness of Reverse Wording of Questionnaire Items: Let’s Learn from Cows in the Rain. PLoS ONE, 8(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0068967.
VIA. (n.d.). VIA Assessments: VIA:IS. https://www.viacharacter.org/www/VIA-IS-More-Info.
Wood, A. M., Linley, P. A., Maltby, J., Kashdan, T. B., & Hurling, R. (2011). Using personal and psychological strengths leads to increases in well-being over time: A longitudinal study and the development of the strengths use questionnaire. Personality and Individual Differences, 50(1), 15–19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2010.08.004
Woods. C.M. (2006). Careless responding to reverse-worded items: Implications for confirmatory factor analysis. J Psychopathol Behav 28: 189–194.