Re-framing the UK Riots – lessons from positive psychology

Everything we have learned about mental wellbeing teaches us that what works is proactivity and positive redirection. So why, in relation to the youth riots are we so keen to embrace an illness model and attribute cause?  Sure, we can surmise and perhaps that might even help us circumnavigate these types of problems in the future, but I would hazard a guess that even the youth themselves don’t know ‘what’s wrong’ only that ‘something is’.

From a slightly different perspective it seems clear that, although expressed pathologically, the riots represent an uncontrollable urge to feel a part of something, a physical sense of community, which as a human response is not so very different from the uncontrollable urge that drew adults in their hundreds to clean up the mess. So is it, in fact, possible that we have all been busy expressing the same social need?

So no, I don’t condone it, I don’t excuse it, but beyond this, if we are to be proactive and forward thinking we need to provide a vehicle that will ensure that hundreds of angry, disenfranchised youth, who have clearly demonstrated their ability to ‘pack’, don’t turn into angry, disenfranchised adults.

Young people need guidance, they need boundaries, they need positive mentors and they need industry. This is our long term solution. It is fundamental, it is the responsibility of our society to provide it and in doing so we may, in fact, find ourselves reconnecting with the same positive, social urge that had us picking up our brooms in the first place.



The benefits of the mental well-being at work ‘booster’

Yesterday I received assessor feedback on my dissertation recommending that I publish my results on my recent thesis. It’s interesting to consider the  impact that positive feedback can have on us. Today I am at my computer, reconnecting with this project when yesterday I was quite happy to prep my bedroom for painting. While doing my research one of the studies that stood out in my mind looked at the impact of a vacation on the mental well-being of workers. It suggested that for three weeks post-vacation workers were on a productive/ positive wave, yet after those three weeks they returned to baseline. Today on Radio 4, I also listened to two women authors who spoke of their sense of dejection rather than elation when a novel was finally finished – a project vacuum emptiness of ‘well…now what do I do?’ Together these thoughts made me think about ‘well-being at work programmes’, the overall costs of running programmes, the potential dis-elation when they finish. It seems to me that ‘booster session’ (as evidence by my own renewed interest and focus as a result of external feed-back) to re-energise our engagement may be all we need, not a daily rah-rah- rah, but just a slow, regular drip from the positive re-enforcement intravenous…

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Status makes us Happy

Although money doesn’t make us happy, research suggests that status does, opening an interesting debate as to what status actually means. At first glance status appears to be a ‘reactive’ response where our sense of it is based largely upon the feedback of others. So then where does our opinion of ourselves play into this dynamic? How plausible is an intrinsically rather than extrinsically defined sense of status? In essence I suppose intrinsically defined status’ is what we refer to as ‘mental wellbeing’; a sense of our own worth that comes from within and does not require a huge public profile or a large home to be realised. Instead, what true status appears to come down to, – the status that makes us happy, is the outward manifestation of the impact we have made on the world, our world. It’s about feeling we have made a positive contribution, no matter how big nor how small and feeling that that contribution – has been heard.


Government ‘to measure happiness’

Government ‘to measure happiness’


If the tone of the posts in relation to the government’s recent announcement that they would be measuring happiness on a national level are to be believed, they are clearly being mislead by the journalistic dictum of ‘titles inverted commas’.  Mental well-being in the workplace – which is essentially what this study is tied to – is a serious issue that costs the UK government and business over £28 billion each year. I applaud a move to ‘measure’ happiness. The government already knows there is a problem and until you know its scope you cannot begin to devise a solution.

Mental Wellbeing in the workplace. What evidence supports a role for art therapy as an effective intervention?


Mental well-being in the workplace is an issue of increasing government, organisational and business interest as the social and economic costs of challenges to mental well-being are increasingly recognised.  Supporting mental well-being in the workplace is, however, a complex intervention challenge. In contrast to the illness-model approach of previous stress-based interventions, new research suggests that proactive, wellness modelled interventions provide a more appropriate solution for the support and enhancement of employee mental well-being.

In response to the need to identify intervention approaches which can proactively and successfully respond to this multi-faceted issue, the objective of this research was to identify what evidence supports art therapy as an effective mental well-being in the workplace intervention.

To achieve this objective, this study employed a thematic analysis of primary research on mental well-being in the workplace and art therapy interventions with adult, non-clinical populations. The research captured evidence from a wide range of both qualitative and quantitative studies to reflect the ‘meaningfulness’ that is criticised for being lost by traditional systematic reviews. By synthesising themes between studies, this research identified the characteristics that support and challenge both employee mental well-being and intervention success.

A logic model was also designed and used to illustrate the findings of the research.

The first hypothesis, that art therapy is a sufficiently flexible intervention to respond to the complex mental-wellbeing needs of work-place populations was partially supported by the findings of the study. The second hypothesis, that art therapy is a sufficiently flexible technique to approach well-being from a proactive-wellness model of intervention was supported by the findings.

The findings indicate a high level of cross-over between the characteristics of both art therapy interventions and successful individual-level mental well-being in the workplace interventions. These characteristics included providing interventions which are meaningful, empowering and enjoyable.

The findings of this research indicate support for art therapy as an effective individual-level, mental-well-being in the workplace intervention; highlighting areas of both efficacy and challenge. Although the results are promising, more field research is needed to explore the use of art therapy with workplace populations.


Exploring Creativity Workshop in Review

A Sample of feedback from our Exploring Creativity Workshop participants:

“Thanks to all of you for a most stimulating and enjoyable day. The setting was great as were all those involved. Hope to see more of you.”

“Thank you very much for enabling me to participate in these sessions; and to share them with others whom I found unfailingly interesting. It was a great pleasure and a valuable experience.”

“I was amazed at how far we could go in so little time.”

“The mix of creative forms worked beautifully.”

“I genuinely thought the whole day, the structure, the content and the thought that had gone into organising it was fantastic.”

“This will spur me to find some time for myself and my creativity.”

“I approached it an open (but fundamentally cynical way..) and was pleasantly surprised by every session, they all can be applied to my life.”

“The rooms, the arrangements and the organisations were all supurb.”