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Recent research: six studies on positive psychology, goals, relationships, caregiving, mindfulness & nature

Here are half a dozen studies that one could loosely put under the broad umbrella of positive psychology.  Zorba the Greek said "Take what you want and pay for it, says God." and Niemiec et al's study, on the effects of achieving different kinds of goal, supports this statement (for all six research studies mentioned in this blog post see below for abstracts and links).  Quoting Niemiec et al's somewhat awkward language: "The relation of aspiration attainment to psychological health was found to differ as a function of the content of the goals. Attainment of the intrinsic aspirations for personal growth, close relationships, community involvement, and physical health related positively to basic psychological need satisfaction and psychological health.

Recent research: six articles on wellbeing – meaning in life, reappraisal, positive emotions, and neighbourliness

Here are six research articles (see below for abstracts and links) loosely falling into the overall area of wellbeing.  Boyle, Barnes et al report on the association between purpose in life and mortality in older people.  They found that greater purpose in life was associated with considerably reduced mortality even when allowing for a series of possible confounders like depressive symptoms, disability, neuroticism, the number of chronic medical conditions, and income.  Also showing benefits for purpose and meaning, Maselko, Gilman, et al looked at religious involvement in the USA and and its associations with psychological health - specifically links between high, medium and low tertiles (dividing the study population into thirds) of spiritual well-being and religious service attendance and lifetime risk of depression. They found that "Religious service attendance was associated with 30% lower odds of depression. In addition, individuals in the top tertile of existential well-being had a 70% lower odds of depression compared to individuals in the bottom tertile. Contrary to our original hypotheses, however, higher levels of religious well-being were associated with 1.5 times higher odds of depression".

“Smile intensity in photographs predicts divorce later in life”

I do think that Matt Hertenstein and colleagues came up with an eye catching title here:

Hertenstein, M., C. Hansel, et al. (2009). "Smile intensity in photographs predicts divorce later in life." Motivation and Emotion 33(2): 99-105.  [Abstract/Full Text]  [Free Full Text]

Handouts & questionnaires for compassion & criticism (third post)

This is the third of three posts giving handouts & questionnaires on compassion & criticism.  There are a dozen MP3 recordings listed below.  It would be possible to use these tracks as a "compassionate mind training" sequence, although I've listed them more to illustrate the kind of approach that it's probably sensible to use.  The twelve recordings make up a four exercise training.  Each exercise includes a brief (1 to 3 minute) introductory track and then a medium length (15 to 18 minute) and longer (24 to 28 minute) meditation.  If you want to follow this sequence, please read the Suggestions for goodwill practice handout (below) first. 

Handouts & questionnaires for compassion & criticism (second post)

This the second of three posts on handouts & questionnaires for Compassion & criticism. It contains a series of loosely linked downloads about compassion, self-criticism, hostility, self-esteem and related subjects.  To see the earlier post on this subject click on Compassion & criticism (first post).

Compassionate/self-image goals scale and background - this is a scale from Crocker's fascinating work on compassionate and self-image goals.  See too the "Self and social motivation laboratory" website at http://rcgd.isr.umich.edu/crockerlab

Contingencies of self-worth scale - this is another questionnaire from the Crocker lab (see above).  Interesting way of probing what people's self-worth is based on ... and what the subsequent effects then are.

Social integration and a midsummer potluck lunch

We have fifty to sixty people due for lunch today.  I better not hang around writing blog postings for too long.  There's still lots of preparation work to do.  It's great.  I love these midsummer potluck lunches that we've been hosting for many years now.  It's such fun to invite most of our local social network and see them all mixing up together in a chaotic "soup".  Hard work.  Heart warming.  If we invite ninety or so people we normally reckon that about half of them will be able to make it, so today's "catch" is a pretty good one.  Nearly all our closest local friends will be here and mixed up with them will be other friends, acquaintances, new partners, a couple of children.  Fantastic.  There's plenty of preparation and dear Catero has done a lot of cooking but, since it's potluck, we're not trying to feed them all just from our own efforts.

Stanford psychophysiology lab: social anxiety, mindfulness with kids, & loving kindness

Emotional reappraisal (changing the way we see a situation) and emotional suppression (inhibiting our already present emotional response) have very different effects on our feelings, relationships and wellbeing.  As a generalisation, reappraisal tends to work well, while suppression comes at higher cost.  I wrote about this last month  in a first post on James Gross's Psychophysiology Lab at Stanford . I went on, in a subsequent post, to put together a handout on reappraisal entitled Getting a better perspective.

Because there is so much interesting research being conducted at the Stanford Lab, I thought it worthwhile to write a further post mentioning some of this other work.  The webpage detailing their current research projects mentions nine different areas.  These include the following descriptions:

Stanford psychophysiology lab research on emotion regulation

Last week I talked about coming across Srivastava and colleagues' paper (Srivastava, Tamir et al. 2009 - see below) on the social costs of emotional suppression.  This led me to Srivastava's lab at the University of Oregon.  It's then an easy jump to James Gross's Psychophysiology lab at Stanford University (see below).  The Stanford lab is a hive of activity with research projects in a whole series of fascinating areas  .  A key focus is work on emotion regulation - its neural basis, emotional & social consequences, and relationship with personality.  Their "process model of emotion regulation" suggests that " ...

Oregon University research on emotional regulation, interpersonal perception & personality

I love it when I follow up ideas from a new research paper and then break through into a whole area of helpful knowledge that I haven't come across before.  This happened recently with the paper by Srivastava and colleagues (Srivastava, Tamir et al. 2009 - see below) on the social costs of emotional suppression.  This then linked me through to James Gross's work at Stanford, but more on that in next week's post.

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