On weekends throughout this year, I have been studying a Master in Applied Positive Psychology, as a means of connecting closer to empirically rigorous research that helps organisations and individuals increasingly flourish. Our college motto is rigorous minds and compassionate hearts. I’ve tried to walk-the-talk by taking on additional studies for season in 2018.

As a Christian in our school community, it made sense to me to study in an area that directly connects with our sense of design and purposefulness. I’ve come across many theories and models while reading numerous books and journal articles. For example, I learned that people who are conscientious tend to live longer than those less conscientious. It’s likely they are more conscious about taking good care of themselves.

An interesting theory that drew my attention is the ‘Broaden and Build’ theory. It helps show the effect on people of positive emotions. Dr Isen, a pioneer researcher of positive emotions observed that when people experience mild positive emotions, they are more likely to:

  1. Help other people.
  2. Be flexible in their thinking
  3. Come up with solutions to our problems.
  4. Be more willing to exhibit self-control.

Another researcher with an interest in the effect of positive emotions is Barbara Fredrickson (2000). Below is a summary picture of her research.


Take-away reflection

I’m reminded that it is helpful to share knowledge and understandings. It’s a means of adding value and support into our community. In an earlier newsletter article, I shared with you research in Psychology that suggests an authentic, personal faith (compared to legalistic religion) adds into your personal level of life satisfaction.

The above theory caused me to wonder what activities and thoughts may prompt us to experience the warmth and sustaining energy of positive emotions.

By association, the Bible’s teaching about blessings came to mind.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart,
for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

(Gospel of Matthew 5:3-10)

In a world that increasingly sees personal happiness to be all about individual needs and wants, I find Jesus teaching to be counter-cultural and refreshing. The focus of being blessed (personally happy) is refocussed towards the wellbeing of others. It is no surprise that the social science associated with ‘giving to others’ is aligned with positive emotion, and therefore, increased self-reported wellbeing. The message to our children: It really is better (and good for you) to give than receive.

Blessings to you, your family and the communities in which you move,

Des Mitchell