Report from IPPA Conference, Day 3

Wow! What an absolutely amazing day! In case you’re just “tuning in”, today is day 3 of the 2nd Congress of the International Positive Psychology Association.
Here are the highlights:

  • Barbara Fredrickson (author of my #2 pick on Happiness, Positivity) talked about Love
  • Meeting Todd Kashdan and (what may be his last) talk at IPPA
  • Possible collaboration with positive psychologist and local, Lynn Johnson
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy with a Positive Spin
  • Positive Computing
  • Meeting Jane McGonigal and using her on-line game to enhance Happiness 101
  • How much you think you can do something effects whether (and how hard) you try *
  • The use of strengths in therapy – the intermediate lesson *
  • Gala and the National Constitution Center *

* I will report on these tomorrow.

It was much cooler today. A blessing for my walk to my third download of information in the realm of positive psychology, a.k.a. Happiness! As I walked through City Hall in (literally) the heart of Philadelphia, I hummed a little tune. I was distracted by the richness and variety of the people as I walked. Per haps distracted enough by the suits, the homeless, the street venders, the skaters and the provocative dress, the song’s lyrics did not bubble to the surface until in the shadow of the Downtown Marriott. I murmured, “All you need is love. Bump-ba bump-ba bump. All you need is love. Bump-ba bump-ba bump. All you need is love, love – love is all you need.” As I realized I was humming a Beatles standard, I also realized that the topic of Barbara Fredrickson’s talk was “Love: A new lens on the science of thriving”

Fredrickson surprised me! She said that love is not sex, a connection or unconditional. Fredrickson admitted that these things are by-products of love, but not love itself. She purported that love, like all emotions, is fleeting but that there are many conditions we can create to make more of it. She spoke of the importance of really connecting with others, stressed the importance of communicating (both verbally and non-verbally) and how positives interactions strengthen love bonds. Fredrickson said that love is not something that occurs solo but is the result of a relationship between two or more people. It was a fascinating talk and I will definitely be writing about and referring to this talk more in the future.



Frank and Todd Kashdan

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog that I saw Todd Kashdan speak and would see him speak again tomorrow (now today) if given the chance. Boy did I! As I approached the door, he was sitting in the hall chatting with an attendee. I’ve become conference savvy enough to know that once a speaker has spoken, they are usually rushed by people who want to congratulate them or ask questions. I had Todd Kashdan all to myself for a minute! I introduced myself and gushed my appreciation and admiration for his outspoken nature. I admitted that I had referred to him yesterday in my blog as “the gadfly of positive psychology”. He laughed and said he would love to read it and asked me to E-mail him the link. I emphasized the importance that someone be brave enough to speak the truth about positive psychology – even when it is not necessarily positive. He thanked me for my encouragement. Another bloke came up and asked Todd to take a picture. Todd joked that the man could sit on his knee like Santa. Laughingly, the man ended up draped across Todd’s lap. I wanted my picture as well and took advantage of the light-hearted spirit of the situation to sit on Todd’s lap while a young lady took pictures on my iPhone. As I posed, playing the role of the Christmas present hopeful, I told Todd “…and I want to be happy and I want joy and I want world peace and….” He laughed again and went in to speak.

Inside, instead Todd taking the podium three budding positive psychology researchers spoke for approximately 15 minutes each. When Todd did take the microphone, he said that he had been told 45 minutes before the workshop was to begin, that he was not actually going to speak, but facilitate for the other three speakers. He did speak for 5-10 minutes though. I was relieved – this is what I came for! To my surprise he called for more openness, claiming the IPPA was too structured and that using a “top down” hierarchy, missing an opportunity to hear from people who might be able to contribute to the movement but were not given a platform to do so because they lack credentialing. Todd said that he and his partner (whom he claimed to be sitting in the metaphorical side-car (which I find hard to believe given Todd’s outspoken personality)) were starting a grass-roots movement that will be “what IPPA should be”. I admire Todd’s chutzpah.


After he spoke, I stood in the expected line to speak to Todd again. I told him I appreciated his point of view and his desire for the movement in positive psychology to be all-inclusive. I told him about my passion for helping people and my willingness to go outside the box to do it. For instance: the Happiness 101 webinar to help reduce suicide in the state of Utah. I was very animated and passionate as I spoke of this and Todd said he liked my style and invited me to contact him about my efforts. ‘Couldn’t ask for a much better outcome than that 🙂

During the half hour break between workshops, I went downstairs to look at some of the posters made for the conference. They were quite elaborate covering a wide array of topics including topics such as flourishing, cultivating character strengths, sports, motivation as well as gender and cultural specific issues. Truly an amazing collection. I took many pictures but I am honestly not sure I can share them due to potential copyright violation. If I find that I can share some in the future, I will.

While perusing the fine work, Lynn Johnson stopped by that we could get our daily dose of one another. He was taking in the workshops that might apply positive psychology to improve organizations, while I leaned toward workshops that I could use either in Happiness 101 or with clients in private practice. Lynn mentioned the book he is working on and encouraged me to write my own (I have been getting this suggestion a lot lately). I DO love to write (as you can see). I asked if he is still planning to do a workshop of his own in Salt Lake. He said he was and we spoke briefly of possible collaboration. We became so engrossed in good, happy conversation, neither of us noticed we were late for our next workshop. Off we went.

I stumbled into Fredrike Bannink’s called “Positive CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy): Changing the Focus from Repairing What is Worst to Creating Best in CBT. She had some AMAZING things to say! She gave some fantastic analogies. For instance, she said if we (as therapists) were taxi cab drivers, and someone jumped into our cab, the first thing we would ask would be “Where to?” and if the person did not know where they wanted to go, we would not just start driving! We would ask questions and gather information until we were clear on where they wanted to go. So too it should be with therapy. We should immediately find out where the client wants to go and help them to get there. If you have read this far into this blog, you are a truly dedicated reader and I want to reward you for that by sharing an amazing exercise she had us do. Bannink told us to look around and find the color beige in five instances around the room – it could be a coat, a chair, the wall, a book – just five instances. To really get the most impact from this sharing, do that for yourself right now. Look around and find five instances of the color beige (or tan). Got it? Okay, now: what is your favorite color? It’s probably not beige. Our volunteer’s favorite color was purple. Then Bannink asked her if while she was searching for the color beige if she noticed any instances at all of the color purple. She admitted she had not, just as you are probably doing with your own color right now. The analogy was clear and obvious immediately. If one is looking to be happy (purple), they should not be focusing on what they do not want, namely depression or negativity (beige). This was quite powerful in the moment and I can’t wait to use it. It’s right up there with my folding-the-arms exercise. ‘Loved this workshop and I look forward to using Bannink’s techniques both in Happiness 101 and with clients.

During my lunch hour I greatly anticipated the next class. I savored the excitement. ‘Good thing I read deep into the description of the class on Positive Computing because not only was Martin Seligman going to be present as a discussant, but Jane McGonigal was going to be there! Jane has taken positive psychology in a very unusual and creative direction. She makes online video games that are experienced for a limited period and in real time. She sees “gamers” (people who play a lot of video games) as an untapped resource. In her book, “Reality is Broken” Jane acknowledges that gamers have many talents including creative problem solving, an innate desire to do something big with their skills and tenacity – did you know that gamers fail 80% of the time? Yet, they persist! Think about that. If you failed at 80% of your endeavors in real life, you would probably quit! But gamers have an enviable tenaciousness streak – something that could come in very handy in solving some of the world’s real problems. Jane has launched games in the past, giving gamers an opportunity to apply their skills to problems such as food shortage and soaring oil prices.

Jane exceeded my every expectation but first I learned some amazing things from the first two presenters of the Positive Computing workshop. Rosiland Picard, founder of the Affective Computing Research Group at MIT showed a program they are developing that can (willingly) monitor your texts and give you feedback if you have texted negative thoughts, such as “over generalization” and not only that can give you feedback as to how many people would agree with your negative statement. They have also developed a device that is worn around your wrist and measures your levels of stress throughout the day. Jane wore hers before going to the amusement park with her family. One ride there scared her quite badly, so you would assume that that would have been when her stress spiked the highest. But you would be wrong. More stressful than the scariest ride at amusement park was the race to get ready and her family out the door. Wow.

The other presenter was Tomas Sander. He mentioned the Live Happy iPhone application inspired by my happiness hero, Sonja Lyubomirsky. He also pointed out that there are many applications already available for computer and smart phone users to remind them to utilize a signature strength or engage in a moment of savoring or meditation. He suggested we listen to music via Pandora radio where we can pick and choose the music we expose ourselves to. He also reminded that computers and smart phones are so highly customizable that we can have our wallpaper, ringtones, start-up/shut-down sounds and passwords all remind us of things that will raise our level of happiness.



The Happy Therapist and Super Better Hero Jane McGonigal

Now, Jane blew me away because almost everything she said was new to me. She told about bumping her head and suffering from a mild traumatic brain injury which left her unable to read, write or speak intelligently for approximately a month. Her doctors told her that worrying and getting upset about her condition actually thwarted recovery. They suggested she remain as happy as possible to get over her illness as quickly as possible. No small task for someone struggling with basic functioning! So, Jane turned it into a game, called Superbetter! She saw herself as the protagonist and her symptoms as the evil antagonists she must overcome and beat. She developed challenges for herself and put together a team to help her meet her goals. After she fully recovered, she made the game available to the public and FREE. She said people have used it to not only get over traumatic brain injuries but all kinds of physical AND mental challenges – INCLUDING depression! As you might imagine, it didn’t take longer than 2 seconds for me to figure out that this would be a GREAT tool for Happiness 101!


I waited for her after the lecture like a stalker. I waited and waited (her line was the longest). I waited so long, they kicked us out to make room for the next presentation. But I stuck to her like glue as she finished up her conversation with the person in front of me (I was last in line). The upside of that was that we were not rushed. I told her I’d learned of her from Seligman’s book (Flourish) and how I went to that segment specifically to hear her talk. She was REALLY nice, fun and personable. I told her about my idea for Happiness 101 taking advantage of playing her game as part of the upcoming webinar to reduce suicide in Utah. She got really excited about the project and said she could set up a special password so students could cross support one another. This is huge! Taking Happiness 101 via webinar is great but one of my main concerns about the webinar was the lack of social support. Using Superbetter, sub-communities in the rural areas could form and support one another. Whoo hoo! I want to publicly say thanks to Jane for her willingness to help. She really IS a super hero!

Okay, I have two more workshops to tell you about plus the gala (I was left behind in the rain) but that will have to wait. It is 12:30pm here in Philadelphia and I need to be outta here at 7:30pm but I promise to write more tomorrow.

Frank Clayton, the Happy Therapist

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