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By Kathi Norman -

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The World Health Organization (WHO)

Forgiveness is sorely misunderstood and complex.

Forgiveness is a process of replacing the negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors one might hold toward the transgressor with more positive, prosocial responses while still holding the transgressor accountable.

Forgiveness, according to Gandhi
Click to read words.

Forgiveness is not a pardon or excuse. It does not mean forgetting, denying, or condoning. One does not need to reconcile or have a relationship with the transgressor. Forgiveness is not for the transgressor; it is for the transgressed.

Unforgiveness involves the nurturing of anger, hostility, resentment, and fear.

The practice of forgiveness has been found to improve health outcomes because it helps to reduce physiological responses to stress. Other factors that affect the forgiveness-health connection are the presence of social support, relationship quality, and religious inferences. Let’s review the research that explores the effects of forgiveness on the autonomic nervous system, cardiovascular disease, the immune system, chronic pain, autoimmune disorders, anxiety and depression, HIV, and longevity.

This article is about why to forgive, not how to forgive. For ideas about ways to forgive, consult articles on that topic on this site.

Stress Hormones and Immune Function

Impact of chronic flight or flight

Have you ever felt your heart pound, muscles tense and your breath rapid when experiencing a stressful event? Then you have experienced the “fight or flight” reaction. While the stress response is critical in running from a predator, it becomes pathogenic when sustained. Many westernized diseases occur or are worsened by the condition of toxic unremitting stress over time.

Stress is unavoidable. How we manage this state makes a difference in physical health and psychological well-being. Stress changes one’s physiology, behaviors, and genetics. Chronic unremitting stress is lethal like a gun or knife. Left unchecked, stress may even begin to change one’s genetic components that leads to pathology at the same time the disease becomes irreversible and inheritable by one’s offspring.

Chronic activation of the stress response is maladaptive because it increases the risk for certain diseases by suppressing functions such as tissue repair, sleep, bone strength maintenance, and immunity. Sustained levels of cortisol can cause the hippocampus (the part of the brain responsible for integration of memory) to shrink. Accurately perceiving stressors and sources of coping is important to reduce this physiological response, and individual differences in temperament and personality are factors in understanding the stress response in humans.

Forgiveness has been found, when practiced, to calm down the stress response. The consequence of being forgiving is that one experiences less stress, depression, anxiety, and hostility as well as more satisfaction with life.

Anxiety and Depression

Forgiveness therapy helps to reduce anger, anxiety, and depression. Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental disorders in the United States. As many as one half of those diagnosed with depression have an associated diagnosis of anxiety. Rumination, or repetitive unhealthy contemplation, is linked to depression, anxiety, mixed anxiety/depression disorders, behavior disorders, and substance abuse. Rumination has been found to keep the transgressed in the loop of unforgiveness. For those who achieve forgiveness, restorative hope and self-esteem improve anxiety and depression.


Chronic pain and fibromyalgia

Forgiveness is currently being assessed with growing interest as an essential tool in coping with chronic pain. Current research in forgiveness therapy involved with chronic pain involves affective, behavioral, motivational, and cognitive components. With interpersonal and social stressors having a unique and powerful contribution to chronic pain, forgiveness has been found to be a useful and productive response.

If fibromyalgia (FM) symptoms could be associated with anger, resentment, and stress related to childhood abuse and neglect, then reducing anger and stress and forgiving a perpetrator might result in diminishing the influence on the neurophysiological process of FM. Forgiveness practice in women with FM and childhood abuse or neglect improved overall FM health and decreased anger.

Not a great blood pressure reading

Blood Pressure

Forgiveness can produce valuable effects directly by reducing the allostatic load (the amount of energy for recovery of wear and tear on the body) associated with betrayal and conflict, and indirectly through lowering perceived stress. Lower blood pressure and high blood pressure recovery were found to be associated with higher levels of forgiveness.

Sustained stress over long periods can cause damage to the heart and blood vessels through the elevation of blood pressure. If unforgiveness is prolonged, wear and tear to the heart and blood vessels can lead to permanent damage and disability. Loss of vision, kidney failure, and heart failure are downstream results of chronic untreated hypertension.

Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary Artery Disease and Vascular Resistance

Perfusion, or the distribution of blood to the heart muscle, is reduced when recalling anger. This increases the risk of coronary heart disease with the likelihood of a poorer prognosis for those with heart disease. Failure to forgive unconditionally has an influence on one’s mortality. One possible antidote to attenuate the cardiotoxic effects of anger is through cultivating forgiveness. Forgiveness has been found to be associated with lower total cholesterol and higher HDL-to-LDL ratios, both indicators of cardiac health.


HIV/AIDS is a communicable disease that affects the autoimmune system, compromising health and many aspects of life for the person afflicted. HIV research aims at improving quality of life and managing chronic illness. The practice of forgiveness may be one way to improve quality of life in HIV positive persons. Research and theory on psychoneuroimmunology and HIV suggests that biological, psychological, and behavioral aspects interact in complex ways to influence quantifiable disease progression. HIV research demonstrates that a slower rate of disease progression, measured as preserved CD 4 count (a type of white blood cell that moves through the blood to find and destroy bacteria, viruses, and other invading germs) and lower viral load (the measurement of amount of virus in a system) in those with a positive view of God as benevolent and forgiving.

Self-administered Salve


Personal differences, daily frustrations, hurts, and injustices we experience throughout our lives can impose deep wounds in our bodies and minds. Forgiveness can serve as a powerful, self-administered salve. If one does not forgive, it is like handing the transgressor the skeleton key to the door of one’s life. Forgiveness might not prevent the pain of the past, but it can reduce suffering in the future.  


Norman, K. (2017). Forgiveness: How it manifests in our health, well-being and longevity. MAPP capstone, University of Pennsylvania.

Friedberg, J. P., Suchday, S., & Shelov, D. V. (2007). The impact of forgiveness on cardiovascular reactivity and recovery. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 65, 87-94.

Greening, S. G., & Mitchell, D. G. (2015, September 10). A network of amygdala connections predict individual differences in trait anxiety. Human Brain Mapping, 36, 4819-4830. https://doi.org/10.1002/hbm.22952

Ironson, G., Stuetzle, R., Ironson, D., Balbin, E., Kremer, H., George, A., … Fletcher, M. A. (2011). View of God as benevolent and forgiving or punishing and judgement predicts HIV disease progression. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 34, 414-425. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10865-011-9314-z

Lee, Y., & Enright, R. D. (2014). A forgiveness intervention for women with fibromyalgia who were abused in childhood: A pilot study. Spirituality in Clinical Practice, 3, 203-217. https://doi.org/10.1037/scp0000025

Martin, L. A., Vosvick, M., & Riggs, S. A. (2011). Attachment, forgiveness, and physical health quality of life in HIV + adults. AIDS Care, 24, 1333-1340. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540121.2011.648598

May, R. W., Sanchez-Gonzalez, M. A., Hawkins, K. A., Batchelor, W. B., & Fincham, F. D. (2014). Effect of anger and trait forgiveness on cardiovascular risk in young adult females. The American Journal of Cardiology, 114, 47-52. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.amjcard.2014.04.007

McCullough, M. E., Orsulak, P., Brandon, A., & Akers, L. (2007). Rumination, fear, and cortisol: An in vivo study of interpersonal transgressions. Health Psychology, 26, 126-132. https://doi.org/10.1037/0278-6133.26.1.126

Offenbacher, M., Dezutter, J., Vallejo, M. A., & Toussaint, L. L. (2015). The role of forgiveness in chronic pain and fibromyalgia. In L. L. Toussaint, E. L. Worthington, Jr, & D. R. Williams (Eds.), Forgiveness and Health: Scientific Evidence and Theories Relating Forgiveness to Better Health (pp. 123-138). New York, NY: Springer Science.

Randall, M. (2013). The physiology of stress: Cortisol and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science.

Reed, G. L., & Enright, R. D. (2006). The effects of forgiveness therapy on depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress for women after spousal emotional abuse. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74, 920-929. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-006X.74.5.920

Sapolsky, R. M. (2004). The physiology and pathophysiology of unhappiness. In E. L. Worthington Jr. (Ed.), Handbook of Forgiveness (pp. 273-303). New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group.

Shapiro, J. (2005). Visual thinking strategies: A new role for art in medical education. Family Medicine, 37, 250-252.

Temoshok, L. R., & Wald, R. L. (2005). Forgiveness and health in persons living with HIV/AIDS. In E. L. Worthington, Jr (Ed.), Handbook of Forgiveness (pp. 335-348). New York, NY: Routledge.

Waltman, M. A., Rusell, D. C., Coyle, C. T., Enright, R. D., Holter, A. C., & Swoboda, C. M. (2008). The effects of a forgiveness intervention on patients with coronary artery disease. Psychology & Health, 24, 11-27. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08870440801975127

Photo Credit: Flickr via Compfight with Creative Commons licenses
Forgivess according to Gandhi courtesy of symphony of love
Chronic stress courtesy of Duncan Rawlinson – Duncan.co – @thelastminute
Pain collage courtesy of sbpoet
Blood pressure reading courtesy of stevendepolo
Heart disease courtesy of gandhiji40
Salve courtesy of Vaping360

This article first appeared on Positive Psychology News. To see the original article, click here. To comment on this article, click here.

Kathi Norman, MAPP '17, is a physician assistant practicing in the Portland, Oregon area. Her passion is the marriage of medicine and positive psychology including both sustaining the well-being of health-care providers and understanding how factors such as forgiveness influence health. Kathi was accepted into the Doctor of Medical Science program at Lynchburgh college to study health care law and administration along with global and disaster medicine as the next step in her mission to help providers flourish. Website. LinkedIn profile. Her articles can be found here.

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By Senia Maymin -

ANNOUNCEMENT:  On May 24, we will have a Positive Psychology News webinar featuring Alex Goldfayn, author of Selling Boldly: Applying the New Science of Positive Psychology to Dramatically Increase Your Confidence, Happiness, and Sales.

Alex Fayn, author of Selling Boldly

Alex Goldfayn is the CEO of Evangelist Marketing Institute, LLC, a revenue growth consultancy for clients who want to grow quickly. Alex’s average client grows by 15-20% in their first year of working with him.

He is among the top-rated and most requested sales speakers in the world, motivating sales teams, managers, executives and owners to take simple action which will grow their business. Alex delivers more than 50 keynotes speeches and workshops on sales growth per year.

Alex’s latest book is called Selling Boldly: Applying the New Science of Positive Psychology to Dramatically Increase Your Confidence, Happiness, and Sales.

He also wrote The Revenue Growth Habit: The Simple Art of Growing Your Business by 15% in 15 Minutes Per Day.

 It was selected as the sales book of the year by 800-CEO-Read and Forbes called it one of the top 15 business books of 2015.

Alex lives in the Chicago area with his wife and eight-year-old twins, and it’s immediately obvious to everyone that Alex’s wife, Lisa, who raises the kids and feeds Alex, works much harder than he does!

WHEN: May 24 at 2PM ET
WHERE: Zoom webinar
CONTENT: Alex Goldfayn discusses his book, Selling Boldy

What questions do you have for Alex?  Leave them for us in comments below so we can ask them on the webinar!

For questions, please email admin@positivepsychologynews.com.

Q: How much does this webinar cost?
A: It is completely free!

Q: What will the format be?
A: One hour:

  • 40 minutes of PPN Q-and-A with Alex on Selling Boldly
  • 20 minutes of your Q-and-A for Alex

This will be a highly interactive webinar. Be at your keyboard and ready to type in questions and comments and answers to Alex’s questions!

When:  24 May 2018 @ 2:00pm ET
Where: Online – view the webinar anywhere!
Price for the webinar – FREE


Click here for more information.

You can view our previous webinars on the PPND-TV YouTube channel

This article first appeared on Positive Psychology News. To see the original article, click here. To comment on this article, click here.

Senia Maymin, MBA, MAPP, PhD, is the coauthor of Profit from the Positive and founder of the boutique coaching firm, Silicon Valley Change. Maymin is an executive coach to entrepreneurs and CEOs. Maymin is the founder and editor in chief of PositivePsychologyNews.com. Her PhD is in organizational behavior from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Full bio. Senia's solo articles are here, her articles with Margaret Greenberg here, and with Kathryn Britton here.

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By Henry Edwards -

Do you keep up with the news? There’s certainly a lot of drama on the air, in the newspapers, and on Twitter. How does the news make you feel? If you’re like me, you may find that your well-being takes a nosedive after a dose of the news. Nonetheless, I don’t think we should avoid it. A strong democracy requires us to be informed citizens. What can we do to keep informed without a major cost to our well-being?

Questioning the Content of the News

Reading the paper

People rarely question the content of the news, but they should. What we see on TV, in the papers, and on social media does not tell the whole story of the world.

Life has been getting better, not worse, for nearly everyone.

According to scholars like Steven Pinker at Harvard and Max Roser at Oxford, we live in the best time in history. Just as crime has fallen, so too have rates of HIV infection, homelessness, extreme poverty, war, murder, youth drug use, underage drinking, smoking, air pollution, and hunger.

At the same time, many of the good things in life have been on the rise, including longevity, high school graduation rates, educational attainment, vaccination rates, access to mobile phones, democracy, transportation, and human rights.

But we still seem to think the world’s going to hell in a handcart. The Center for Media found that during the 1990s, network evening news shows in the US tripled their coverage of crime, especially murders. The 1990s were also a time when the murder rate plummeted 42%. The gap between the way the world is reported and the statistical evidence that paints a picture of progress is stark. In 2015, despite the roll call of human progress noted above, a YouGov poll found that only 6% of Americans believed the future was going to be better.

Negative News

The news media is certainly one culprit for our pessimism about the world, but some of the blame lies in our psychological makeup. Researchers have found that we all are subject to negative biases. In their own research and review of the literature, Paul Rozin and Edward Royzman note that “negative events are more salient, potent, dominant in combinations, and generally efficacious than positive ones.”

Negative information grabs our attention more strongly than positive information. When people form impressions from a mix of positive and negative information, the negative dominates. When they consider negative information, people think more about and sift through the nuances of it more than when the information is positive. Negative memories form more quickly and remain in memory longer than positive ones.

Tied up in news knots 

These biases mean that we tend to see threats faster than opportunities and dwell on problems more than solutions. These biases affect journalists and editors no less than news consumers. Remember the trope, “If it bleeds it leads,” which reflects the negative biases of journalists and news consumers alike.

While much of the blame of news negativity lies in human psychology, it also lies in the news gathering and publication process. For a start, news doesn’t just exist out there in the world. It’s constructed. Journalists and editors determine what will be considered the news. Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw have called this the agenda-setting function of journalism.

Another important media effect is framing. Framing is the way a story is told. It affects whether or not consumers will keep reading or stay tuned. If we report that 95 people miraculously survived a plane crash, news consumers will likely find it less compelling than if we report that 5 people were killed. Journalists often frame stories negatively to get more attention.


In an experiment that captured subjects’ psychophysiological responses to real news stories, Stuart Soroka and Stephen McAdams found that negative news caused stronger and more sustained reactions than positive news. In another experiment conducted by Marc Trussler and Soroka, subjects claimed to prefer positive stories, but eye movements showed preference for the negative, especially by participants who expressed interest in current affairs.

So what? Maybe negative news isn’t so bad.

Unfortunately, negatively biased news is both inaccurate and detrimental for well-being. Many studies demonstrate the negative psychological effects of negative news. Wendy Johnston and Graham Davey found that those exposed to negative news were sadder and more anxious. They also found that the negative news group obsessed more about their problems. In another study, Attila Szabo and Katey Hopkinson found “that watching the news on television triggers persisting negative psychological feelings that could not be buffered by attention-diverting distraction (i.e., lecture), but only by a directed psychological intervention such as progressive relaxation.”

Television news

In a 2014 poll conducted by National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health, a quarter of respondents said that the news was one of their biggest daily stressors. In a 2001 study, Mary McNaughton-Cassill found that exposure to the news was directly related to anxiety. When hearing negative news, consumers feel less emotionally stable and more fearful about possible harm to themselves than when exposed to positive news.

Clearly the news is biased toward the negative, and negative news has negative consequences.

Workshop to Combat Negative Biases in the News

As part of my work as a positive psychology masters student at the University of Pennsylvania, I developed a half-day workshop meant to combat negative biases in the news by training attendees in relevant strategies.

A healthy diet

First attendees explore their own news diet, which I define as a person’s daily intake of local, regional, national, and international news from print and digital media sources.

After assessing their own news diet, attendees learn about negative biases both in themselves and in the news they consume. They next learn about Barbara Fredrickson’s theory of positivity, that positive emotions can cause upward spirals via positive feedback loops of positive emotion, creativity, and physical health. They learn about cultivating and savoring positive emotions.

The next step is to learn about how news is constructed and framed by journalists. Consumers can then get their news from news sources that frame stories in broader, less narrowly negative, frames. Thus, consumers can create their own healthier news diet that is both more accurate and more positive.  Several examples of more constructively framed news sources are listed in my capstone on pages 55 and 56.


While not all news is negatively biased, much of it is.

Biased news is inaccurate.

Negatively biased news is detrimental to well-being. There are alternatives for those looking for a healthy news diet.



Edwards, H. (2017). From negative biases to Positive News: Resetting and reframing news consumption for a better life and a better world. MAPP capstone, University of Pennsylvania.

Center for Media and Public Affairs. (1997). In 1990s TV news turns to violence and show biz. Pess release, Washington, DC.

Gyldensted, C. (2011). Innovating news journalism through positive psychology. MAPP capstone, University of Pennsylvania.

Gyldensted, C. (2015). From Mirrors to Movers: Five Elements of Positive Psychology in Constructive Journalism.

McCombs, M. E., & Shaw, D. L. (1972). The agenda-setting function of mass media. Public Opinion Quarterly, 36(2), 176-187.

McNaughton-Cassill, M. (2001). News media and psychological distress. Anxiety, Stress, and Coping, 14, 193-211. Abstract.

Pinker, S. (2012). The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. Penguin Books.

Roser, M. (2017). Our world in data.

Rozin, P., & Royzman, E. B. (2001). Negativity bias, negativity dominance, and contagion. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5(4), 296-320. Abstract.

Soroka, S., & McAdams, S. (2015). News, politics, and negativity. Political Communication, 32(1), 1-22.

Szabo, A. & Hopkinson, K. (2007). Negative psychological effects of watching the news in the television: Relaxation or another intervention may be needed to buffer them!. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 14, 57-62. DOI: 10.1007/BF03004169.

Trussler, M., & Soroka, S. (2013, June). Consumer demand for negative and cynical news frames. In annual conference of the Political Science Association, Victoria, BC.

Photo Credit: Flickr via Compfight with Creative Commons licenses
Reading newspaper courtesy of Christof Timmermann
Entiled courtesy of Rusty Russ
Reporter courtesy of Ian Muttoo
Television News courtesy of caribb
Choose my plate from USDA

This article first appeared on Positive Psychology News. To see the original article, click here. To comment on this article, click here.

Henry Edwards, MAPP '17 has the mission to create a better world by telling the story of human goodness and moral progress. For 30 years he has taught in progressive schools in the DC area. Henry blogs about human flourishing in the Getting Better Blog, and his book THE DAILY BETTER: 365 Reasons to Feel Better about Our World will be published in late 2018. Positive Psychology News articles by Henry are here.

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By Senia Maymin -

Editor’s Note: Jen and Pete are offering a discount to their Portland, OR training. Email admin -at- positivepsychologynews.com to get the code. You must register by Thurs, May 17 to get the discount!

We interviewed Pete Berridge and Jen Ostrich on our most recent PPND Webinar on May 9, 2018. They discussed how to create lasting change in organizations using the technique, The Shift Positive 360 Approach. Here is the webinar in case you missed it or want to see it again!

"Create Lasting Change in Organizations: The Shift Positive 360 Approach - YouTube

(Watch on Youtube.)

This article first appeared on Positive Psychology News. To see the original article, click here. To comment on this article, click here.

Senia Maymin, MBA, MAPP, PhD, is the coauthor of Profit from the Positive and founder of the boutique coaching firm, Silicon Valley Change. Maymin is an executive coach to entrepreneurs and CEOs. Maymin is the founder and editor in chief of PositivePsychologyNews.com. Her PhD is in organizational behavior from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Full bio. Senia's solo articles are here, her articles with Margaret Greenberg here, and with Kathryn Britton here.

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Positive Psychology News Daily by Rosalinda Ballesteros Valdes - 1w ago

By Rosalinda Ballesteros Valdes -

I recently came across the HEalthy and Resilient Organizations (HERO) model created by the research team led by Dr. Marisa Salanova in Valencia Spain. Created in 1999, this model was originally used to study work-related stress, the burnout phenomenon, and the effects of outplacement in workers during economic crisis. Subsequently all the negative parts of the work-related health spectrum transformed into a model to provide organization members with the psychological resources to be not only resilient in facing economic crises, but also to look at economic cycles and market challenges as moments of growth and opportunity for organizations.

Sprouting in the desert:
thriving in adverse times

One advantage that this research group has is that the European Union regulates occupational health so that companies need to allocate resources to health initiatives. For many years companies believed that the obligation had to be fulfilled, but that it was costly to company revenues. Now, years later, the HERO model is transforming organizational health into organizational positive psychosocial growth. Research by this team shows that happy and healthy employees create wealth for the organization.

The model has three aspects:

  • Resources that employees create
  • Resources that the organization provides
  • Community relations

“Healthy employees and teams have positive psychological resources with which to feel good and positive at work.” ~ Marisa Salanova and colleagues

HERO Model
(Click to see larger image)

Model Terms

In terms of employee resources, the model proposes that self-efficacy is the most important tool that people need to have.

In terms of resources that the organization should provide, the model provides a series of measurements of the quantity and complexity of tasks that are required of people within the organization.

In terms of the community, the foundation of the model is that organizations that are HEROes not only outperform other types of organizations, but also have better community relationships and social responsibility programs.

Model in Action

In addition to self-efficacy, the HERO model also proposes that emotional intelligence and being able to generate positive emotions are important resources that employees create. As people live longer lives, organizational psychologists should also look at how generations interact in the workspace and re-examine retirement from the viewpoint of what is healthy for the employee and for the organization.

The Puzzle of Customer Service

The model refers to organizational resources in terms of the systemic organization of tasks that a job comprises: the number of tasks, the cognitive complexity, and the emotional complexity of tasks within the job description. It is not the same to handle customer service with customers full of complaints and problems to solve as it is to handle customer service for companies with high customer satisfaction. One of the interventions that the model proposes is to help employees change their mindsets towards challenging tasks. The model also suggests that each job be designed to have a certain amount of emotionally challenging work and then have recovery processes or moments. The model has been applied, for example, to hospital employees to reduce the amount of emotional dissonance related to patient care.

HERO organizations are financially healthy and stable. Because the psychosocial capital exists, they are better equipped to deal with the volatile economic times that are our everyday reality.


Ballesteros Valdes, R. (2015). An intervention model to create a strong sense of meaning and life purpose in high school students. MAPP capstone, University of Pennsylvania.

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84, 191-215.

Salanova, M. (2009). Psicología de la salud ocupacional (No. 159.9: 331). Síntesis. Preface, Table of Contents, Introduction.

Salanova, M., Llorens, S., Cifre, E. & Martinez, I. M. (2012). We Need a Hero! Towards a Validation of the Healthy & Resilient Organization (HERO) Model. Group & Organization Management, 37 (6), 785-822. DOI: 10.1177/1059601112470405.

Salanova, M., Llorens, S., Acosta, H., & Torrente, P. (2013). Positive interventions in positive organizations / Intervenciones Positivas en Organizaciones Positivas. Terapia Psicológica, 31(1). DOI: 10.4067/S0718-48082013000100010.

Photo Credit: Flickr via Compfight with Creative Commons licenses
Flowers in the desert courtesh of philipbouchard
Customer Service courtesy of jeffdjevdet

HERO Model image in Salanova et al (2013). Adapted from Salanova et al (2012).

This article first appeared on Positive Psychology News. To see the original article, click here. To comment on this article, click here.

Rosalinda Ballesteros Valdes, MAPP 2015, is the director for the Institute of Wellbeing and Happiness at Universidad Tecmilenio, where she previously had the position of Vice-president for High School Education. She has a PhD in Humanistic Studies from the Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico as well as her MAPP degree from Penn. Rosalinda has 20 years of experience with education and curriculum design. She has also worked extensively in peace education programs. More information. Positive Psychology News articles by Rosalinda are here.

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By Elaine O'Brien -

“The most influential and growing trend in medicine today is the emerging field of what is known as Lifestyle Medicine; Lifestyle Medicine is not just prevention, but can be a lasting source of peace, health, and joy.” –Dean Ornish, MD, founder of the University of California San Francisco’s Preventative Medicine Research Institute.

International Positive Psychology Health and Well-being Division Leadership team represented by president Gail Ironson with Michael Steger, Kathi Norman, Elaine O’Brien, Ed Diener, Noemie Le Pertel, and Eric Kim.

On May 6-7, 2018, the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) hosted a ground-breaking Summit on Happiness Science in Health Care: Infusing Positive Psychology into Medicine and Health Care, in partnership with Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. Participants in the invitation-only event represented the spectrum of the key stakeholders who recognize the need to connect positive psychology and health care.

The ACLM is a professional medical association dedicated to the advancement and clinical/community practice of Lifestyle Medicine as the foundation of a sustainable healthcare system. Lifestyle Medicine involves the prescription of evidence-based therapeutic lifestyle approaches, such as a predominantly whole-food plant-based diet, regular physical activity, adequate sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substance use, and other non-drug modalities. These approaches can prevent, treat, and sometimes reverse the lifestyle-related, chronic disease that are all too prevalent.

Dr. Liana Lianov

The inaugural Summit on Happiness Science in Health Care, is the first of its kind. Liana Lianov, MD, MPH, and Chair, Happiness Science and Positive Health Committee at ACLM discussed, “Until now, emotional well-being has not been addressed consistently as a crucial factor in health promotion and disease treatment.” Dr. Lianov, first ACLM president, is a passionate supporter. She described this landmark event as “Huddling together to make a dream come true!”

The Summit was a think tank, a jump off point, launching an emotional well-being movement that includes innovative medical and health provider training, tools, support, and collaborative care models. Thought leaders and experts in the emerging science of Lifestyle Medicine joined forces to advance new models of health care and well-being. The Summit participants shared knowledge, opinions, and best practices, emphasizing well-being and value-based care in medical and health systems. The results of these recommendations will be the publication of a white paper.

Dr. Carrie Barron

Dr. Carrie Barron, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Creativity for Resilience Program at Dell Med, and Summit Co-Chair, stated “By learning to manage emotional states well, there’s a great deal we can do for prevention, recovery and overall health.”

Dr. Lianov and fellow participants identified the increasing burnout rate among physicians, which speaks to the need to address this factor for both patients and providers.” See Jordyn Feingold’s innovative REVAMP model for ways to handle this concern. Personal applications of evidence-based positive psychology tools and empathetic clinical/community encounters were identified as crucial to support the health care workforce.

Another key aim of the Summit was in recognizing new models of health and medical care, like social connectedness, positivity, resilience, and love. These models are critical to improving health outcomes. They were taken very seriously in this effort to promote positive change.

Summit keynote speakers included luminaries like Ed Diener, Barbara Fredrickson, and Lifestyle Medicine forerunner Dean Ornish. After describing the current science, Ornish and Fredrickson inspired the participants to envision harnessing positive psychology to total health care. Early in my career, I had the pleasure of attending a course with Dean Ornish at Albert Einstein University. It was a thrill to reconnect with him and realize how profoundly he affected my career trajectory. I have a calling to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease through my practice and teaching.

Dr. Gail Ironson with Rachel Millstein, and Jessica Matthews, Community Resources and Support Panel

At the Summit, fellow health care innovators, lifestyle medicine and positive psychology experts, clinicians and other stakeholders worked together to determine how to engender lasting habit change. Emotional well-being was again identified a key factor. Emotional well-being has a direct physiological impact.

There was a uniform appreciation for the science and practice of positive psychology in developing lifestyle prescriptions. The belief is that by integrating evidenced-based applications, which focus on emotional, mental, and physical health across the lifespan, we can co-create and build new values, systems, and applications in health and medicine. ACLM can be a galvanizing force for positive change by addressing the need for quality education and best practices in support of the practices and patients of its members.

“There is too much pharmacology. We need to teach movement to people.” – Dr. Antonella Delle Fave, M.D., Ph.D., 2010

Patty Purpur de Vries, Stanford Health Promotion Network, discussing Fredrickson’s Broaden and Build model applied to health (Click to enlarge image.)

Susan Benigas, Executive Director, ALCM, spoke about “A passion for identifying and eradicating the cause of disease, rather than simply diagnosing and treating-too often medicating. Our members are at the forefront of the movement to redefine true “health” care.” As opposed to a first option of treating symptoms and consequences with expensive, ever increasing quantities of pills and procedures, the ACLM, and its members, are united in their desire and mission to identify and eradicate the cause of disease. These steps are the beginning of a positive transformation in the culture of health and medicine.

The Lifestyle Medicine 2018 conference is set for October 21-24 in Indianapolis, IN. The theme will be Real Health Care Reform, and the conference will offer Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits.
Author’s Note: At this summer’s European Positive Psychology Conference, an international panel will address the question, Is Medicine Ready for Positive Psychology? Innovative Research from the Front Lines of Positive Health. Merenthe Dronnen (Norway), Marlena Kossakowshka (Poland), Svala Sigurdardottir (Iceland), and Lisa Buksbaum, Kathi Norman, and I (USA) will be presenting leading edge research and applications that support the Lifestyle Medicine movement.


Fredrickson, B. L. (2009). Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive. New York: Crown.

Fredrickson, B. L. (2013). Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become. Hudson Street Press.

Grant and Glueck Study

Lianov, L and Johnson, M. (2010). Physician competencies for prescribing Lifestyle Medicine. Journal of the American Medical Association, 304(2), 202-203.

Masten, A. (2007). Resilience in developing systems: Progress and promise as the fourth wave rises. Development and Psychopathology, 19(3), 921-930. doi: 10.1017/S0954579407000442

O’Brien, E. (2016). Move2Love and Vibrancy: Community Dance/Fitness. Journal of Women & Therapy, 39(1-2), 171-185. DOI: 10.1080/02703149.2016.1116329

O’Brien, E. (2011). Medical Wellness in Action, Positive Psychology News.

Ornish, D. (1999). Love and Survival: 8 Pathways to Intimacy and Health. Harper Collins.

Photo credits: Photos used courtesy of author, Elaine O’Brien. Photo of Dr. Carrie Barron from her website.

This article first appeared on Positive Psychology News. To see the original article, click here. To comment on this article, click here.

Elaine O'Brien, PhD, MAPP '08, CAPP, is Executive Director of Lifestyle Medicine: Body, Brain and Movement Science, a consultancy, training, and design company. She earned a PhD in Psychology of Human Movement at Temple University. Elaine provides services for corporations, government, health, medicine, education, sports, and in the entertainment industry, inspiring people to move toward positive energy, vibrancy, and excellence. Full bio. LinkedIn. Elaine's articles are here.

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By Linda Schiavone -

I have chosen a grueling and demanding calling: I am a licensed professional counselor. This calling is both one of the most emotionally challenging of professions and one of the most uplifting human endeavors. I serve as a holding container, a cradler of secrets, a re-enactor of Bowlby’s secure attachment, and a key change agent in facilitating another’s personal growth. Along with my colleagues in the mental health professions, I bear witness to human suffering. I see human depravities that often unfold in therapy, but also the most glorious and profound self-growth imaginable.

Holding the secrets

Self-Care in the Face of Vulnerability to Burnout

People in my profession frequently experience strong emotions brought about by the intimacy of the counseling relationship. Our work is particularly challenging in that it requires deep and sustained engagement with clients. Because of the psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually demanding nature of this work, compassion fatigue and burnout are hazards of the profession, which in turn significantly impact our ability to be effective counselors.

Moreover, traditional self-care is primarily solitary. This is the paradox of the therapist’s working environment: working alone despite the intimacy of many therapeutic relationships. Indeed, the counseling profession can be both isolating and overwhelming.

Thus, attending to our personal selves is critical for us to be able to serve our clients. In fact, self-care activities that promote well-being are mandated by professional counseling associations and state laws in order to maintain professional competencies.

Despite the theoretical foundation underpinning the professional necessity of self-care for therapists, there is no widespread agreement about how to actually do it. Self-care is a topic more conceptualized than applied, and ironically, one that is more requested of our clients than expected of ourselves.

Moving away from a Deficit Model

The traditional self-care strategies that do exist follow a pathology-oriented model, focusing on reducing and mitigating stress-related outcomes, counteracting burnout and compassion fatigue, avoiding stress-related adverse effects, reducing professional impairment, and limiting legal liability.

Minister to loneliness

Therapists are left with no clear direction for proactively meeting the demands of a demanding profession, nor are they encouraged to draw on a community of support. Thus, there is a very real unmet need for nurturing a culture of self-care that integrates psychological, emotional, spiritual, and relational wellness into our professional identities, a foundation from which therapists can sustain not only their professional functioning, but their very selves.

The science of positive psychology offers a radical shift in both the theory underlying self-care and the self-care practices. A positive-psychology-based model changes the focus from deficit-based to one oriented to well-being, while shifting the goal from mitigation and remediation to self-renewal and optimal functioning, both personally and professionally. When I picture a flourishing therapist, I see someone who engages in self-care practices that promote personal self-growth, spiritual fulfillment, emotional support, psychological replenishment, and relationship connection. The contrast with traditional self-care is illustrated in the table below.

Pathology-oriented model Model oriented to wellbeing, thriving, and flourishing
Reduce and mitigate stress-related outcomes Cultivate the conditions for self-renewal
Remediate burnout, compassion fatigue, and professional impairment Promote self-growth, improvement, and transformation
Focus on self-protection, reducing risk, and limiting exposure and legal liability Focus on optimal personal and professional functioning
Constrictive and restrictive Expansive
Practiced in isolation Engages community and connectedness

Practices Drawn from Positive Psychology

Using positive psychology’s pillars of well-being, I developed a formal self-care program for therapists that cultivates enhanced well-being by offering psychological, emotional, and spiritual support through peer connection and community.


The acronym, PSYCH, succinctly describes the motivation for this set of practices: Positive Self-care Yields Caring Healers.

The program consists of seven evidence-based interventions, each of which has been demonstrated to contribute to therapists’ well-being as well as to translate into tangible benefits in the maintenance of the therapeutic relationship and the effectiveness of therapy. Importantly, PSYCH is practiced within a group setting, providing opportunities for therapists to come together for social connectedness, which capitalizes on the demonstrated benefits of relationships and social support.

Component activities include:

  1. Positive Introductions, in which individuals describe a time when they were their very best selves
  2. We don’t have to walk alone.

  3. Strengths Spotting, in which partners acknowledge and describe the use of a specific strength by the other
  4. Active Constructive Responding, in which partners practice the principles of supportive responses to positive events
  5. Positivity Portfolios, in which participants cultivate positive emotions and foster emotional perspective through creation of a collection of mementos focused on a selected positive emotion
  6. Savoring by seeking bittersweet experiences, in which participants focus attention on an experience in three dimensions of time (past, present, future)
  7. Reciprocity Ring, in which high-quality connections are fostered as participants both make requests and help to fulfill requests
  8. Group meditation, prayer, and/or reflection, in which participants are mindful and/or spend time in the presence of God, Spirit, Nature, a Higher Power

The table below shows how these activities contribute to pillars of well-being.

Pillar of Well-being Impact on Therapists Contributing Activity
Self-worth Enhances compassion, cushions against stress, fosters psychological flexibility, cultivates curiosity and listening skills Positive Introductions
Meaning Improves wellbeing, sense of meaning, coherence, purpose & relatedness, limits over-identification Signature Strengths
Relationships Improves empathy, relationship quality Active Constructive Responding
Positive emotions & perspective Increase positivity & wellbeing, enhances inter-connectedness Positivity Portfolios
Engagement & attention Improves skills for engaging and separating Savor the Bittersweet
Connectedness & community Cultivates understanding, empathy, & trust Reciprocity Ring
Spirituality, transcendence, & religion Improves attention & self-monitoring, welcoming & witnessing practices Meditation / Prayer / Reflection


Therapist self-care represents a unique application of the principles of positive psychology. Self-care that supports and sustains clinicians’ well-being through positive evidence-based strategies has immense potential not only for the therapists’ wellness, but also for the benefit of those they serve.



Schiavone, L. M. (2017). Positive Self-Care Yields Caring Healers (PSYCH): A Positive-Psychology-Based, Peer-Supported Self-Care Series for Therapist Wellbeing. MAPP Capstone, University of Pennsylvania.

Bowlby, J. (1988). A Secure Base: Parent-Child Attachment and Healthy Human Development. Basic Books.

Best Self Introductions: Peterson, C., (2006). A Primer in Positive Psychology New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Strengths-spotting: Niemiec, R. (2013). Mindfulness and Character Strengths. Hogrefe.

Active-Constructive Responding: Gable, S. L., Gonzaga, G. C., & Strachman, A. (2006). Will you be there for me when things go right? Supportive responses to positive event disclosures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 004-917.

Positivity Portfolio: Fredrickson, B. L. (2009). Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive. New York: Crown.

Savoring: Bryant, F. & Veroff, J. (2007) Savoring: A new model of positive experience.. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Reciprocity Ring: Grant, Adam. (2013). Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success. Viking Press.

Group meditation or religion: Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. New York: Penguin Books.

Photo Credit: Flickr via Compfight with Creative Commons licenses

Holder of secrets courtesy of Gwendal_
Minister to loneliness courtesy of marcoverch
We don’t have to walk alone courtesy of Baha’i Views / Flitzy Phoebie

This article first appeared on Positive Psychology News. To see the original article, click here. To comment on this article, click here.

Linda Schiavone, MAPP '17, MS, LPC is a licensed professional counselor who works at both a non-profit community-based center and a multi-site counseling agency in Philadelphia and suburban areas. Linda's theoretical orientation integrates spirituality and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Linda emphasizes compassionate self-care with all of her clients, who are facing real-life challenges. She has proposed a positive-psychology-based, peer-supported model as a way for therapists to strengthen the foundation of self from which their work arises. Her articles can be found here.

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By Ryan Niemiec -

The Positive Psychology News Movie Award series is now in its 9th year of providing the best of the best positive psychology movies. I comb through popular, independent, and obscure films from the previous year in order to share with you these awards across positive psychology themes.

How might you use these awards? Here are a few ways:

  1. Improve yourself: Watch a movie using the suggested positive psychology lens and apply the insights to your life.
  2. Help your clients: Recommend appropriate movies to your clients to help them see one or more models for important areas of well-being that would help them improve their lives.
  3. Learn more: Use each award as a lens to learn more about the positive psychology topic: how it fits the characters, how it doesn’t fit, and how they build it up or express it.

This edition features the usual awards that I give each year, for example, the best for positive relationships, mindfulness, resilience, and signature strengths use. I have also done something new this year: I’ve given awards for each of the 6 virtues outlined in the VIA Classification of character strengths and virtues.

General Awards

The Shape of Water: Best Positive Psychology Film

For the first time, my selection for Best Positive Psychology Film is aligned with the Best Picture winner at the Academy Awards. In what is described as “an adult fairytale” is a story with themes of love, sacrifice, tolerance, teamwork, and understanding amidst corruption, secrecy, and suspense.


A Ghost Story: Award for Resilience

Following an untimely death, the viewer sees the protagonist for the entire film as a white sheet, with two holes cut out for the eyes. Desperate to be around his loved one and in their home, he wanders aimlessly and cannot be seen or heard. He is stuck, unable to communicate or connect. Loneliness is captured. Desperation. Isolation. Helplessness. But the viewer can discover resilience. It is the resilient and tumultuous journey of letting go.

Loving Vincent: Award for Mindfulness

In the first wholly painted film, colorful swirls and distinctive lines for characters fill the film and accompany the voiceovers for the story of a postman’s son, who’s attempting to deliver a letter one year after the suicide of infamous painter, Vincent van Gogh. While disengaged from this task at first, the young man shifts to mindfulness and engaged effort as his attends to the people around him in his search for answers about the late painter. This parallels the viewer’s experience of mindful awareness of the unique beauty being shown on the screen. The ultimate positive psychology question is posed to the young man: “You want to know so much about his death, but what do you know about his life?”

Coco: Award for Meaning

This Oscar winning film (Best Animated Feature) is stocked with profound and inspirational meaning – especially around themes of family and human connection.


Everything, Everything: Award for Positive Relationships

If relationships are about connecting and supporting another person in reaching their ideal self or full potential, then this story of a young girl locked in her home with a rare immune disorder and her connection with her new neighbor, has much to teach us.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Award for Signature Strengths Use

A middle-aged woman creatively pursues justice for her raped and murdered daughter by bringing forth her signature strengths of bravery, perseverance, fairness, and honesty to fuel her actions.

The Virtue Awards


Wonder Woman: Award for Wisdom

In addition to brute strength and multiple intelligence (to play off the talent themes of Howard Gardner’s work), the character of Wonder Woman displays many wisdom-oriented strengths, certainly perspective/wisdom to do what is best for the world, critical thinking in seeing the details and exceptions in people’s arguments, curiosity and learning in her exploration of the world, and creativity in her fighting.

Colossal: Award for Courage

Unique story merging fantasy and reality about a self-loathing, alcohol abusing woman, who is dumped by her boyfriend, reconnects with an old friend, and suddenly begins to see a strange connection between her life in the United States and a monster that is destroying Seoul, Korea. The allegory involving her courage to face the monster represents her facing interior monsters relating to her alcohol dependence and her troubled past.

Stronger: Award for Humanity

True story about a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing and his real-life struggles with his family, relationship partner, and physical recovery. Look for a short scene, involving a gratitude exchange, that serves as a turning point for him appreciating the depth of the human condition.

Okja: Award for Justice

A young girl forges a special bond with a creature that’s a cross between a pig and a gentle hippo, and stands up against a corrupt corporation. Her focus is a moral one: do what is right. She displays an unbending intolerance for what’s wrong (e.g., mistreatment of animals) and a persistent resistance to superficial agendas (e.g., a person trying to present to the public with “the right optics”).

Detroit: Award for Temperance

An important tactic for learning is to learn from the opposite. Amidst true storytelling on rioting, looting, and police brutality, this emotional film covers racism, abuse of power, and ignorance through the lack of self-regulation, lack of prudence, lack of humility, and lack of forgiveness. Discover how to boost these 4 strengths of temperance by doing the opposite of what some of the characters in this film do.

On Body and Soul: Award for Transcendence

Fascinating and beautiful story of transcendence, love, and connection between two awkward people working in a slaughterhouse. The woman, a quality inspector with autism, and the man, a manager, discover they are connected transcendently through their dreams at night. Through synchronicities they learn about their connection, form a relationship, and save one another’s lives. Runner-up for Best Positive Psychology Film of 2017.

Films about Specific Aspects of Positive Psychology

Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Award for Heroism

After 41 years, the classic hero’s journey of Luke Skywalker comes to a meaningful conclusion in nothing short of stunning, multi-layered, heroic fashion. The film features plenty of other heroic exemplars in the new trilogy stars of Rea, Finn, and Poe.


Lucky: Award for Positive Aging

A 90-year-old man living alone embodies a steady routine of going to a diner, doing crosswords, taking one phone call, getting items at the local store, doing yoga, and going to a bar. His choices are not always healthy, but he’s consistently around people and trying to learn (e.g., learning to self-disclose, to challenge himself, and to face his loneliness). Look for positive aging metaphors in the film such as a turtle and a large, imperfect cactus.

Tokyo Project: Award for Happiness

Short film about a man traveling for work to Japan who continues to run into a fellow American. The viewer learns of a shared tragedy of this couple and their creative ways to cope, find moments of joy, and search for ways to find happiness following the unimaginable.

Mudbound: Award for Friendship

Two WWII veterans return to their respective homes in a delta farming community of Mississippi where racism and discrimination pervade. Despite differences in race, status, and familial background, they form a friendship. This friendship helps each overcome trauma and despicable discrimination, and eventually seek love and freedom.


Ninjago and LEGO Batman Movie: Awards for Teamwork

Two well-constructed animated films bring clever humor and engaging plots to a variety of themes such as the father-son relationship, appreciation for mother, environmental friendliness, creating peace, and the “superpower” of making others better. Both films embody the idea that without teamwork, there will not be success.

The Circle: Award for Integrity

In an environment of technology and paranoia, secrets sustain an organization. A new employee challenges the system in a film where The Truman Show meets the Netflix series Dark Mirror. This film triumphs around the importance of transparency, bravery, leadership, and ultimately integrity.

Bokeh: Award for Optimism

Minimalist Icelandic film about a young couple vacationing for 5 days in Iceland who suddenly realize they are alone in what might be the apocalypse. They awaken with no people around them, dead or alive. Electronic access is gone. With no future, no information, no clues to go by, and existing in a stark environment, one of the two protagonists is still able to find optimism. To uphold optimism amidst various existential issues (aloneness, isolation, freedom, meaninglessness, loss) is significant.


mother!: Overuse of Character Strengths

In what might be the most stunning, unforgettable, and challenging film of the year, and coming from one of the greatest filmmakers alive, Darren Aronovsky, is this highly allegorical film about a couple that moves into a dilapidated mansion. A variety of problems and selfish people come into their lives, none of whom seem to know anything about character strengths use!

Honorable Mention

Battle of the Sexes: Positive Sport

The Bad Batch: Character Strengths Underuse

Sleight: Creativity

Get Out: Strengths Use
Editor’s Note: This is the ninth year that Ryan has provided positive psychology movie awards. Check the reference list below for links to his previous movie award articles as well as his book on positive psychology at the movies.

We provide Amazon for most movies. We know there are many ways to gain access to these movies, but the Amazon reviews may be helpful even so.



Niemiec, R. M. (2017, June release). Character Strengths Interventions: A Field Guide for Practitioners. Hogrefe Publishers.

Niemiec, R. M. (2007). What is a positive psychology film? [Review of The pursuit of happyness]. PsycCRITIQUES, 52(38). DOI:10.1037/a0008960. Available for download from ResearchGate.

Niemiec, R. M., & Wedding, D. (2013). Positive Psychology at the Movies: Using Films to Build Character Strengths and Well-Being Gottingen, Germany: Hogrefe.

Smithikrai, C. (2016). Effectiveness of teaching with movies to promote positive characteristics and behaviors. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 217, 522-530.

Earlier Positive Psychology Movie Awards by Ryan Niemiec:

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By Kathryn Britton -


Daniel Tomasulo is a master story teller. He is also a man with an important purpose.

In his new book, American Snake Pit, the purpose is to open the eyes of his readers to the humanity of people with intellectual and psychiatric disabilities. I think reading this book can make our moral circles a little bit larger.

As he points out in his preface:

What I learned from [Richie] and from the people I have worked with is that, in spite of enormous intellectual and psychiatric disabilities, these individuals are not very different from you and me. They crave love; need affection, compassion, and kindness; get hurt when they feel left out; are in need of guidance; want meaningful relationships; get angry when they are betrayed or can’t get their needs met; and are generally as confused and uncertain about their course in life as the rest of us.

This book is a story of a real adventure, the establishment of a group home for people who had previously been warehoused in the institutional setting described by Robert F. Kennedy after a surprise visit,

“I think that particularly at Willowbrook, we have a situation that borders on a snake pit… living in filth and dirt, their clothing in rags, in rooms less comfortable and cheerful than the cages in which we put animals in a zoo.”

Dan reading aloud from his book

Following Kennedy’s visit and a news series by Geraldo Rivera, mental health treatment started being considered a civil right, but the transition away from mass institutionalization was neither easy nor smooth. Just releasing people from the institutions didn’t work. Homelessness, joblessness, and crime all went up. They needed places to go. By 1979, the easiest people to place in viable community homes and training programs had already been moved out years earlier. The people remaining needed many services to function outside the hospital.

Enter Tomasulo, in the last year of his doctoral program in psychology. He was flat broke and looking for a job. To hold body and soul together, he applied to manage one of the new group homes, Walden House, just being set up in small town. He got the job probably because of his answer to a question in the group interview:

“What if you found two residents kissing in one of their bedrooms?”
“If it was clear that neither of them were being coerced, I’d apologize and close the door.”

The stories in this book are real, though names and locations are changed to protect privacy. We are invited along to experience the challenges and adventures of residents and employees of Walden House.

Group Home = Home with Group Living in It

In the stories, we get to know people with odd behaviors, and slowly learn why those odd behaviors make sense, given what people are able to do and what they experienced before. Getting to know Sophia, Candy, Mike, Albert, Harold, Taimi, and the rest of the characters on the pages of this book has been as beguiling as reading my favorite novels.

We learn about relationships that grow among the residents, among staff and residents, and among staff. From initial discomfort, I found myself starting to love these people, to feel pity for their pasts, and to care how their futures would unfold.

There are many, many challenges, enough that chapters often end with cliff-hangers. Will they find enough people to staff the house? Can they get someone with catatonia to eat? What to do with someone who can’t speak and gets incredibly frustrated – and violent – when she can’t make herself understood? What happens when Benny keeps trying to see his father, especially after hearing the words, “Well, Benny, your father is in heaven now,” from the parish priest?

Then there’s the fire drill test. The mayor, a dead ringer for Danny DeVito in Taxi, doesn’t want this kind of house in his community. He colludes with his brother-in-law, the fire chief, to declare that Walden House must show they can get everybody out of the building in two minutes, or it closes down. Will they pass the fire drill? Then what happens when a real fire occurs?

Dan, closer to the time of the story

Tomasulo knows how to tell a story. For a sample, check out an earlier version of the Hot Dogs chapter, which we published here and included in the chapter on Perspective in Character Strengths Matter. He laces his observations with humor, and he helps us see heroes in unexpected places.

After reading this book, you’ll face the world a little bit differently. If you’re walking down the street and feel your eyes start to slide away from someone that looks a bit weird, maybe you’ll remember to think, “He’s human too.” Maybe your eyes will connect.

Note: Daniel Tomasulo went on to become a New Jersey licensed counseling psychologist frequently working with people with combined intellectual and psychiatric disabilities. He co-authored the book, Healing Trauma: The Power of Group Treatment for People with Intellectual Disabilities. Besides studying positive psychology, he specializes in psychodrama. He is also very good at making people laugh.


Tomasulo, D. (2018). American Snake Pit: Hope, Grit, and Resilience in the Wake of Willowbrook. Stillhouse Press.

The screen play of American Snake Pit has received over 20 awards at international film festivals since June 2017.

Tomasulo, D. (2014). Perspective: Giving Up When You Can’t Cut the Mustard. Positive Psychology News.

Razza, N. & Tomasulo, D. (2004). Healing Trauma: The Power of Group Treatment for People With Intellectual Disabilities. American Psychological Association.

Laham, S. M. (2009). Expanding the moral circle: Inclusion and exclusion mindsets and the circle of moral regard. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45(2), 25—253. Abstract.

Lombrozo, T. (2016). Expanding the circle of moral concern. NPR Opinion.

Polly, S. & Britton, K. H. (Eds.) (2015). Character Strengths Matter: How to Live a Full Life (Positive Psychology News). Positive Psychology News.

Photo Credit: Flickr via Compfight with Creative Commons License
Group Home courtesy of Onasill ~ Bill Badzo

This article first appeared on Positive Psychology News. To see the original article, click here. To comment on this article, click here.

Kathryn Britton, MAPP '06, former software engineer, is a coach working with professionals to increase well-being, energy, and meaning in their work lives (Theano Coaching LLC). She is a member of the Silicon Valley Change coaching network. She is also a writing coach and facilitator of writing workshops. Her own books include Smarts and Stamina on using positive psychology principles to build strong health habits and Character Strengths Matter: How to Live a Full Life. Full bio. Kathryn's articles are here.

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By Senia Maymin -

ANNOUNCEMENT:  On May 9, we will have a Positive Psychology News webinar featuring Pete Berridge and Jen Ostrich, co-inventors of Shift Positive 360®, a method for creating sustainable positive change by changing the way people give and receive feedback.

 Jen Ostrich, Co-Founder of Change Positive llc, PCC

After 14 years of leading teams and clients in the advertising industry, Jen decided to follow one of her own core beliefs of “leap and the net will appear” when she sprung into a new career of leadership coaching.  To complement her BA in Communications from Penn State, Jen is certified in leadership and transition coaching by the prestigious Hudson Institute, considered to be “the Harvard of Coaching.” Since then she’s become a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) with the International Coach Federation (ICF) after completing nearly 1,000 hours of coaching.

Jen is the founder of ostrich coaching + consulting where she works primarily with leaders in creative communities such as advertising, marketing, and technology.  Jen helps leaders craft their own leadership brands and then live in ways that are authentic to who they truly are. Through positive psychology, emotional intelligence, the work of Brené Brown and other experiences across business and marketing, Jen brings a unique combination of being able to think like a coach, a leader, a brand, and a business person.

As the co-founder of Change Positive, llc and co-inventor of the Shift Positive 360® method, Jen is thrilled to be a change agent for giving feedback in an energizing and effective way while helping others to create sustainable positive change. When she’s not running her two businesses, Jen enjoys eating her way through Austin with her outrageously handsome dog, Koko.

Pete Berridge, Co-Founder of Change Positive llc, PCC, MAPP

Peter Berridge is an accomplished coach and facilitator who uses the sciences of positive psychology and executive coaching to help individuals, teams, and organizations be more engaged, effective, and productive. Pete became a certified executive coach through the Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara and is one of 450 people in the world with a Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Positive psychology is the study of human strengths and well-being, and it employs proven methods to promote the flourishing of people, organizations, and communities. It is with this training that the Shift Positive 360® was born. Pete was determined to bring the benefits of positive psychology into the feedback process, which led to him partnering with Jen Ostrich to create Change Positive, llc.

Pete is also the founder and president of Shorebird Coaching and Consulting. He has 25+ years of coaching (more than 3,500 hours of individual coaching), facilitation, and human resources experience, culminating as executive VP of Human Resources at Courage Center, a nationally respected healthcare agency serving over 20,000 people with disabilities annually. Pete’s passion is coaching senior executives, rising leaders, teams, and organizations that are navigating challenges and charting new directions.

When he’s not exercising his passions across his two businesses he’s either whittling a bird or chilling on a Minnesota lake in his boat with his two favorite pups and incredible wife, Jenny.

WHEN: May 9 at 2PM ET
WHERE: Zoom webinar
CONTENT: Pete Berridge and Jen Ostrich discuss Create Lasting Change in Organizations: the Shift Positive 360® Approach

This is a LIVE webinar. You will not have a chance to capture this in any way other than live. This webinar may be recorded, but for internal purposes only. If you want to be there, sign up to get it live.

What questions do you have for Pete and Jen?  Leave them for us in comments below so we can ask them on the webinar!

For questions, please email admin@positivepsychologynews.com.

Q: How much does this webinar cost?
A: It is completely free!

Q: What will the format be?
A: One hour:

  • 20 minutes of the host’s Q-and-A with Pete and Jen
  • 20 minutes of Pete and Jen presenting Create Lasting Change in Organizations: the Shift Positive 360 Approach
  • 20 minutes of your Q-and-A for Pete and Jen

This will be a highly interactive webinar. Be at your keyboard and ready to type in questions and comments and answers to Pete and Jen’s questions!

Topic: Create Lasting Change in Organizations: the Shift Positive 360 Approach
Guest: Pete Berridge and Jen Ostrich

When:  9 May 2018 @ 2:00pm ET
Where: Online – view the webinar anywhere!
Price for the webinar – FREE


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This article first appeared on Positive Psychology News. To see the original article, click here. To comment on this article, click here.

Senia Maymin, MBA, MAPP, PhD, is the coauthor of Profit from the Positive and founder of the boutique coaching firm, Silicon Valley Change. Maymin is an executive coach to entrepreneurs and CEOs. Maymin is the founder and editor in chief of PositivePsychologyNews.com. Her PhD is in organizational behavior from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Full bio. Senia's solo articles are here, her articles with Margaret Greenberg here, and with Kathryn Britton here.

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