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The Body and Positive Psychology: Challenging the Lack of Embodiment (corporeality) within Positive Psychology Canadian Positive Psychology Conference.

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Presentation on theme: "The Body and Positive Psychology: Challenging the Lack of Embodiment (corporeality) within Positive Psychology Canadian Positive Psychology Conference."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Body and Positive Psychology: Challenging the Lack of Embodiment (corporeality) within Positive Psychology Canadian Positive Psychology Conference July 20-21st, 2012 Dr. Kate Hefferon, PhD, C Psychol University of East London


3 Positive Psychology: A focus on the cognitive
A ‘neck up focused discipline’ (Seligman, 2007) Positive Psychology predominantly focuses on passive leisure activities to enhance well-being (e.g. gratitude, best possible self) Focuses on changing perceptions of the self via cognitive reframing and not holistically engaging the person There is a noticeable neglect of the important role of the body in a healthy and happy mind (Warmouth, Resnick & Serlin, 2001) Active leisure activities can have significant positive effects on one’s well-being and satisfaction with life (Holder, Coleman, & Sehn, 2009) We need to engage our bodies in order to ensure optimal functioning

4 The body and what we do to it
How we treat it How we move it How we sooth it How we feed it How we dress it How we decorate it How we connect to it -All have an impact on our Hedonic and Eudaimonic well being-

5 Outline of Talk Embodiment Trauma and illness transformation
Somato-psychic principle Adornment and body modification Note- This lecture contains sensitive content and medical photos

6 Question What does it feel like to be in your body?

7 Background Embodiment
“how people experience having and using their body: Our body effects our emotions, feelings and experiences”  Lack of embodiment is a criticism of not just positive psychology but all of psychology (Hefferon & Mutrie, 2012;Resnick, Warmoth, & Serlin, 2001)

8 Brief on the body in philosophy
Greek- Aristotle, Plato (mind, body and soul) Cartesian Dualism (René Descartes, 17th century) Immaterial mind (consciousness, self awareness) and material body (brain-intelligence)

9 Brief on the body in phenomenology
Maurice Merleau-Ponty Embodiment as how people experience having and using their body Not physical but phenomenological Body effects our emotions, feelings and experiences The subjective body: our body as-it-is-lived. This body engages with the world but we are not conscious of our bodies, we take them for granted – this is the habitual body or the ‘taken-for-granted’ body The objective body: the body that is known by the Other and can be observed and objectified. Objectification has negative implications on young females (Gil-Rodriguez, 2012; Impett et al)

10 Brief on the body in general psychology
Somatic psychology: reunite body and mind through therapy Experiential and gestalt Embodied interactions Humanistic psychology “examines somatic influences and the fundamental role played by states of the body in the ability to attain and especially to sustain a positive frame of mind:” (Warmoth et al., 2001, p.5) Since then= Indifference (Frank, 1998) (Wilhelm Reich)

11 We are embodied creatures
Nothing you do, say or feel is not connected to the body Touch is an important component for healthy development Significantly reduces psychological and physiological distress Reduces cortisol levels and blood pressure Increase in Serotonin and Dopamine neurotransmitters Induces higher levels of oxytocin Baby chimps chose a warm and cuddly surrogate mother, with no food, over a steel, unforgiving mother, with an abundance of food (Harlow & Zimmermann, 1959; Grewen, Anderson, Girdler, & Light, 2003; Light, Grewen, & Amico, 2005; Grewen, Girdler, Amico, & Light 2005; M. Matsunaga et al., 2009) Gallace & Spence, 2010; Diego, Field, & Hernandez-Reif, 2008; Dieter, Field, Hernandez-Reif, Emory, & Redzepi, 2003; Diego et al., 2002; Field et al., 1998; Field et al., 1997; Field, Quintino, Hernandez-Reif, & Koslovsky, 1998; Hernandez-Reif, Dieter, Field, Swerdlow, & Diego, 1998; Hernandez-Reif et al., 2000; Moyer, Rounds, & Hannum, 2004; Field, Hernandez-Reif, Diego,Schanberg & Kuhn, 2005; Diego et al., 2001; Hernandez-Reif et al., 2005; Hernandez-Reif et al., 2004; Field, Hernandez-Reif,Diego, Schanberg, & Kuhn, 2005)

12 Intimacy and embodiment
Engagement in sexual relationships with trusted partners can: Increase in physical and psychological (hedonic and eudaimonic) wellbeing Better physical shape Enhanced immune system functioning Reduced cancer risk in males (Prostate) Longevity Exposure to moments of intense joy, relaxation and ecstasy Increased self esteem and confidence Feelings of love and connection to another Reduced anxiety and depression Enhanced overall quality of life Self development and growth (Bancroft et al., 2003; Brody, 2006, 2010; Brody, Veit, & Rau, 2000; Davey Smith, Frankel, & Yarnell, 1997; Janssen & Everaerd, 1993; Meston & Buss, 2007; 2009; Meston & Buss, 2009; Bancroft et al., 2003; Brody, 2006, 2010; Brody, Veit, & Rau, 2000; Davey Smith, Frankel, & Yarnell, 1997; Janssen & Everaerd, 1993)

13 Dis-embodiment in 2012 Indifference towards the body (Frank, 1998)
Increasingly negative relationship with the body (Orbach, 2012) Increase in aesthetic procedures (BAAPS, 2011) Increase in negative body image (YMCA report, 2012; Impett et al.) Increase in eating disorders across genders (Orbach, 2012) Increase in self harming (Favazza, 2011) Dysappearing (Frank, 1995; Stam, 1998)



16 Trauma and Illness Transformation
Physical trauma (Injury, illness, burns, etc.) Disrupt our consciousness and calls attention to the body Systematic decline of bodily functioning (e.g. increased fatigue, weight gain, hair loss, steady attack on the body by the body) Positive Existential Embodiment “The physical body after trauma can provide two equally important states of mind: to remind us of our death and to remind of us of our life.” (Goldenberg, Spee, & Greenberg, 2006, p. 129)

17 Reconnecting to the body: Posttraumatic growth
Illness and trauma can help us reconnect to our bodies (Frank, 1995;Hefferon et al., 2009) Can create enhanced appreciation for the body Increased care towards the body (listen to body; treat it better) Increase in health behaviour changes (Teachable moment) (Demark Wahnefried; Hefferon et al., 2010) Claire “When you go out the house in the morning now, you appreciate, ‘I feel, ya, feel well!’ And it’s a lovely feeling. [uh huh]. You know? Em, so, you know, that’s a positive feeling as well […] It’s just, you don’t, you do not realize how nice it is to feel…feel well”. Brenda “Because if you don’t have your health, you hav’nae got anything […] But em…it’s just that my health, I would never take (pauses), you know, never take it for granted…ever again.”

18 Reconnecting to the body: Posttraumatic growth
Agata Cardoso Daniel Regan

19 Somato-psychic principle

20 Physical Activity and well-being
“The ability to build psychological and emotional strength via the building of physical strength” (Hefferon & Mutrie, 2012) Mens sana in corpore sano There is a noticeable lack of focus on the body and its impact on well-being within the positive psychology literature (Mutrie & Faulkner, 2004; Hefferon & Mutrie, 2012) Positive Binary effects= physical and psychological Normal and clinical populations (Hefferon et al., 2012) .

21 Differences in concepts
Physical activity Exercise Movement Energy expenditure Break a sweat Planned Structured Direct focus is fitness progression AT LEAST 30 minutes/5 days a week Moderate intensity Can be broken up (10 min x 3) Approximately 27% of Americans attain minimum (Gallup,2010) 24% engage in activity 3-4 days/week 50% engage in <3 days/ week Less than 40% in Europe

22 Physical benefits of exercise
Reduces the risk of developing: Obesity Cardiovascular disease Coronary heart disease Stroke Diabetes (type 2) Osteoporosis Sleep disorders High blood pressure Certain cancers (colon, breast; rectal, lung, prostate, endometrial) Premature death (Salonen et al, 1983; Paffenbarger et al. 1986; Biddle & Mutrie, 2001;2008;Mutrie & Faulkner, 2004; Department of Health, 2004)

23 Psychological benefits
Improved acute and chronic positive affect Increased well being (Hellmich, 2009; Mayo clinic) Enhanced body image, self-esteem and self-perceptions (Fox, 2000; Moses, Steptoe, Mathews, & Edwards, 1989) Improved general cognitive functioning (Ratey, 2008; Boutcher, 2000; Rejeski & Mihalko, 2001; Rejeski et al., 2001) Reduced emotional distress (Steptoe, Wardle, Pollard, Canaan, & Davies, 1996) Reduced anxiety (McDonald & Hodgdon, 1991) Reduced depression (Babyak et al., 2000; Hassmen, Koivula, & Uutela, 2000; Kritz-Silverstein, Barrett-Connor, & Corbeau, 2001) Evidence for dose response 2 days a week are happier and less stressed Every day up to 6 x per week adds additional benefits 20 mins= prolonged happiness 2, 4, 8 and 12 hours

24 PA and Depression STUDY 1 Alameda county study (Camacho et al, 1991) N=8,023 non-institutionalized adults >20 1965, 1974, 1983 Those that were low active at baseline were significantly more likely to be depressed then high active STUDY 2 Bluementhal et al. (1999) Three groups (exercise, medicine, exercise*medicine) Results (16 weeks): All three groups improved (>60%) No significant differences among groups (except medication results were faster) STUDY 3 Babyak et al. (2000) 10 months follow-up Relapse medication: 38% Relapse medication*exercise: 31% Relapse exercise: 9%

25 PA and Schizophrenia Adjunct to therapy
Not reduction of psychotic symptomatology BUT…. Enhancement of affect and self esteem Confidence to leave ‘inner world’ (re-integrate) Increased social inclusion Purpose and meaning (Carless & Douglas; Biddle & Mutrie, 2008; Hefferon et al., 2012)

26 ‘Leave all the troubles of the outside world’: A qualitative study on the binary benefits of ‘Boxercise’ for individuals with mental health difficulties (Hefferon, Mallery, Gay & Elliott, In press) Main Theme Subtheme Gone off track Loss of physical self Loss of confident self Endeavour Social re-integration Free to ‘Be’ Class constituents Wayne Evoke power Study 1 consisted of one pre-intervention focus group (n=8) and one post intervention focus group (n=4) Pre intervention results yielded three main themes and several subthemes Post-intervention results, focused on the actual experience of the programme, yielded three main themes and several subthemes Main Theme Subtheme Praise of class A focused challenge Healthy escape Camaraderie Wayne Superstar status Proxy Efficacy Wayne's gym Path to Metamorphosis Lost and found Somato-psychic principle in practice Heightened awareness of health

27 Participants quotes (Pre and Post)
‘I think as well there’s some emotions due to numerous reasons that also feel I need to get out, and I think boxing is one of those sports that can help do that.’ (Andrea) ‘Yeah, I am [looking forward to] hitting that bag. Just getting all my frustrations out you know.’ (Becca) ‘[It] takes your mind off things. Em, especially as you’re kind of learning a new skill. It’s kind of- like the speedball for instance-You zone in on looking at that little ball and you just totally forget everything. Or like focus pads. Yeah. Because it’s so- don’t know, everything to think about. [So you] Just totally zone out.’ (Andrea) ‘Yeah I feel that way as well. I feel as though em, don’t know, just achieved, a big life changing, kind of [Life changing?] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah…no it’s just that I’ve come to a fork in the road and this has taken me in the right direction. Instead of, keep em, in the wrong direction. Like trying to drag everything back from wrong- wrong direction and putting it on the right road.’ (Becca) ‘It’s very interesting […] I’m not really an emotional person. Well not in public anyway. Em…like I mentioned before, it has given me a lot more confidence to approach different situations-situations, in a more controlling, em, collected way.’ (Peter).

28 Physical activity and Psychological well-being (Ryff)
Self acceptance Personal growth Psychological Well-being Purpose in life Autonomy Environmental mastery Positive relationships

29 Adornment and Body Modification

30 Adornment Ancient practices of adornment exist today (e.g. Fashion, make-up, hair, jewelry) Beauty, status, celebration of events, rituals, to mark individuals as part of a certain in-group Transient to more permanent forms of adornment (e.g. necklace to neck rings) Body Modification (BM)

31 Body modification (BM)
Body modification is the deliberate altering of the human body At some point in time, all cultures have engaged in practices of body art (Cuyper & Perez-Cotapos, 2010) Tattooing, Piercing, Scarification, Implantation, Branding and many more Traditionally been regarded as practices of marginalized populations and associated with psychopathology (Fisher, 2002; Cardasis et al., 2008; Jeffreys, 2000) Contemporary research now looks at positive experiences and psychological well-being from certain BM practices (e.g. enhanced confidence, authenticity, completeness) Motivations include: Identification (as part of a group or as unique) Rites of passage Authenticity Transcending physical body to higher level of consciousness Positively engaging with mortality Meaning and purpose Achievement

32 Tattooing (Smithsonian, 2007)
1000’s of years with evidence existing to have been in use up to years ago (Angulo, García-Díez & Martínez, 2011) Symbolic nature of tattoos (positive to negative): “fertility, aesthetic decoration, Valor in war, rank and status in the group, age, ingroup-outgroup, Marital status, to ward offs spirits or the marking of slaves, deserters, criminals” (Laumann, 2010, p. 2) 18th century popularity amongst sailors, military and working class Miami, L.A., London ink TV Reality shows= tattoos have become more acceptable (Laumann, 2010) Skin and tattooing can be seen from three metaphorical perspectives: Skin as container Projection surfaces Cover to be modified Skin has a ‘double sidedness’ in which tattoo culture can dissect its intercorporeality and embodiment (Patterson & Schroeder) (Smithsonian, 2007)

33 Links to Eudaimonic well being
Artistic permanence to the self derives a sense of pleasure in creating something meaningful This then becomes part of their body = a corporeal artifact Individuals derive authenticity by having the final say in how they look and how they portray themselves to the world BM can not only enhance individual identity, but also connect and solidify certain social groups Two meaning making processes: a) the design (rebellion, independence, conformity) and b) the act of undergoing BM (tolerance of pain, rite of passage, achievement)

34 Conclusions Reviewed several ways in which individuals can engage with the body and facilitate/maintain both Hedonic and Eudaimonic well being: How we treat it How we move it How we sooth it How we feed it How we dress it How we decorate it How we connect to it Positive psychology needs a more holistic approach to well being (theoretically and in applications/interventions) Several further areas of research: Body therapies (body psychotherapy, mindfulness, yoga); Nutrition; Genetics; Positive neuroscience; Positive psychophysiology Creation of ‘Embodied Positive Psychology’ interest groups or divisions (sport and physical activity, performance psychology)

35 @katehefferon (twitter)
Thank you! @katehefferon (twitter)

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