Emily's News

Read some interesting news selected for you by Emily, the Centre's Psychology Researcher.

The adaptive-adolescent story

The National Geographic has a piece on the teen brain; arguing against the prevailing negative stereotype of teenagers. The article argues that the adolescent is an ' exquisitely sensitive, highly adaptable creature wired almost perfectly for the job of moving from the safety of home into the complicated world outside'

Airbrushing exposed

Paul Jackson head of Media Smart has created lessons designed to educate young people about the advertising and marketing they are exposed to on a daily basis; including showing children non-airbrushed images of celebrities. Jackson believes that we should be encouraging young people to focus on values such as kindness and altruism, rather than judging people on their looks.

Mindfulness and meditation resources

Psychologist Ken Pope has compiled a list of references to articles supporting the benefits of mindfulness and meditiation. Studies are recent; from the last few years

Don't think about a polar bear

The American Psychological Association has an article on the research by Harvard Psychologist Daniel Wegner. His studies show that trying to suppress unwanted thoughts can actually cause more of the unwanted thoughts. A better way to control thoughts is through activities like meditation and mindfulness.

Mindset and the brain's response to failure

New research shows that the brain responds differently to setbacks depending on whether people adopt a growth mindset (a belief that intelligence is malleable) or a fixed mindset (a belief that intelligence is stable) People adopting a growth mindset pay attention to learning information and do better on tests.

Social connection and happiness

The RSA has an article by Professor John Cacioppo on the importance of social connections. The article stresses the benefits of encouraging 'altruistic behaviours, social connection and inclusive communities' within society.

A little more optimism, but not too much

The New York Times has a piece on Optimism. The article discusses both the benefits of more optimism and the pitfalls of having too much of a positive outlook.

Nature benefits us more than we think

An interesting new study finds that people underestimate the benefits of the natural environment on health and well-being. The researchers say that holding this false belief leads people to spend less time in nature and to place less value on the natural environment.

Self-compassion key to child well-being

Self-esteem building in education has come into more controversy in a recent article. The piece argues that a better approach is 'to cultivate self-compassion in children, to help them accept their struggles and guard against self-absorption.'

Nurturing mothers reduce the impact of poverty

New research shows how important a nurturing mother can be in lessening the negative impact of poverty. The study found that children of loving mothers had less health problems later in life.

Laughing the pain away

New research has found that laughter has the power to help people cope with pain. People who laugh heartily feel less pain after a good chortle.

Materialism and childhood unhappiness

Unicef is urging the UK to follow Sweden's example and ban advertising to children under 12. This follows on from their report three years ago which found that children in the UK fared the worst in measures of well-being across 21 Industrialised nations. Being outdoors and spending time with family were what children said made them happy. The Guardian article on this topic argues that children are 'stuck in a materialistic trap' which is robbing them of their happiness.

Managing others changes the brain

New research from the University of New South Wales has found that people who have been responsible for managing others show differences in their brain structure; the area of the brain associated with learning and memory is bigger. The more people a person has managed the bigger the area

Evidence-based management

The New York Times has an article on evidence based practice in business. The piece argues that appealing to science can impact areas such as hiring and motivating staff, and encouraging employees to work well together.

Creativity at work

Harvard University has a great article on creativity at work, detailing research into different ways to improve creativity. For example, The Progress principle is a term coined to capture the idea that employees tend to be 'most engaged by regular, incremental progress toward the accomplishment of a meaningful goal.'

Risky play and mental health

An article in the journal Evolutionary Psychology argues that risky play, such as climbing trees or exploring the natural environment is good for the mental health of children. The authors say that participating in this type of play may buffer against certain mental health problems in the future, as children learn to confront and cope with fearful situations.

'Why Parents Should Stop Overprotecting Kids and Let them Play'

The American Journal of Play has a collection of essays on free-play and the impact that play has on children. The experts warn that not allowing children time to participate in unstructured play is causing them harm. They say that helicopter parenting may be undermining the health and well-being of children because it robs children of the chance to play uninterrupted.

Decision fatigue

The New York Times has a great article on decision making. The piece examines how decision making causes fatigue; and looks at the influence of decision fatigue on various groups in society, like the the poor. The article draws on Professor Roy Baumeister's theory of willpower which suggests that 'people with the best self-control are the ones who structure their lives so as to conserve willpower'

Children's anxiety and depression reduced when parenting style adapted to personality

An interesting study has found that parents can influence their child's level of anxiety and depression by adapting their parenting styles to their child's personality. For example, the study found that children low in self-control responded better when parents provided more structure and less autonomy, while those children with high levels of self-control responded better when parents allowed them more autonomy.

Parenting, consumer culture and rioting

Head teachers' leader Brian Lightman says that the recent violent rioting and stealing by young people is a result of a 'toxic mixture of dysfunctional parenting and a consumer and celebrity culture which tells youngsters they should have whatever they want'

Measuring national well-being

The Office for National Statistics has just published a report on measuring well-being; providing some interesting contributions to the debate.

'5 a day' tips for positive parenting

A report has been published encouraging the Government to help teach good parenting skills. The paper recommends 5 things parents should be doing with their child each day: read to them for 15 minutes, play on the floor for 10 minutes, talk for 20 minutes with the TV off, adopt a positive attitude towards their children and praise them frequently, provide a nutritious diet to aid development.

Cross cultural differences in the risk for depression

Nature online has an article on the cross cultural differences in depression. Research suggests that in the West having low levels of education is associated with a higher risk of depression, in China the opposite is true. Some other interesting findings.

Positive Psychology for people with depression

A new study published in the The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine has found that Positive Activity Interventions (PAI's) such as learning to be optimistic or counting one's blessings can benefit people with depression.

'Therapy can drive you mad'

There is an interesting article in the Guardian on the dangers of psychological debriefing after traumatic events. The article points to a new report which suggests that there is an over estimation of the number of people who need therapy after traumatic events. The report suggests that debriefing can often lead people into deeper anxiety and depression.

Pets improve the well-being of 'everyday people'

A new study shows that pets are good for the mental health of the average person. The study is the first of it's kind to show that pets can also be beneficial to people without health problems. The authors say that the reason pets improve well-being is because they provide social support.

Simple games improve self-regulation in pre-schoolers

A recent study published in Psychological Assessment has found that games such as 'Simon Says' improve self regulation in children aged 3-6. The study revealed that these types of games benefit children in different countries.

Marriage and child development

The Institute for Fiscal Studies have produced a report claiming that marriage does not benefit children's cognitive and social development. However, this does not provide conclusive evidence for the case against marriage as there are a plethora of studies which claim that the opposite is true.

Laughing at oneself increases positive emotion

An interesting new study found that people who can laugh at themselves show more smiling and laughter in response to distorted images of themselves. The study also found that people who could laugh at themselves tended to have happier dispositions and were happier on the day of the study

Raising motivated learners

Scientific American online has an interesting blog on learning. The article challenges some traditional teaching methods, by comparing them with new and innovative teaching paradigms. These newer approaches have been shown to: increase the motivation to learn; improve the retention of information and encourage a love of learning in students.

Positive Psychology for therapists

A new book Therapist's Notebook on Positive Psychology has a free chapter to download. The book has exercises and activities aimed at building upon positive characteristics during therapy sessions. The tools encourage a variety of positive changes such as more optimistism and meaning and purpose in life.

What is it about Denmark?

The Atlantic has an article on why well-being is so high in Denmark. The piece argues that the Danes have a variety of traits, such as resilience, loyalty and trust, which can explain the findings.

Freedom, personal autonomy and well-being

A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology finds that societies which value freedom and personal autonomy have higher levels of well-being. These factors are more important than wealth.

'You are what you watch'

An interesting new study has found that watching 'dumb' TV programmes, like reality television shows, where characters often act in unintelligent ways influences the behaviour of viewers. The study revealed that viewers showed a decline in intelligence scores after watching such shows.

'First, do no harm'

The New York Times Book Review has an excellent article critiquing psychiatry and the 'bible' of psychiatric diagnosis, the DSM . The piece argues that the DSM has encouraged, among other things: pharmaceutical companies to push their drugs; the neglect of effective non money-making interventions like exercise for depression; and the creation of some 'monsters' in terms of childhood disorders. The authors also note how the DSM is subjective and has no scientific citations for justifying categorisation of disorders.

Measuring national well-being

The Occupational Psychology blog on the British Psychological Society's website has an interesting piece on measuring happiness, looking at new data gathered by the Office of National Statistics. Interestingly, the blog highlights the detrimental impact of joblessness on happiness and points out that we have not come close to a full understanding of happiness.

'Could Michael Jackson have created twitter?'

There is an interesting piece in the Huffington Post on creativity. The article explores whether success in one area i.e. Michael Jackson's talent for singing could be generalised to other areas. Could Jackson have become a rocket scientist, or invented Twitter?

Nature: nothing beats the real thing

American Psychologist, Peter Kahn argues in his new book, that exposure to and interaction with the natural environment cannot be substituted by technological adaptations of nature. Though technological simulations of natural scenes may be better than nothing at all, Kahn argues that 'to flourish, humans need exposure to the natural world.'

The gut and anxiety

Recent research, with mice, by researchers at McMasters University has found a strong link between the condition of the gut and mental health. The authors discovered that disrupting the normal bacterial content of the gut produces changes in the brain chemical linked with depression and anxiety

Teenagers and sleep

Sleep researcher, Dr Helene Emsellem, has found that teenagers are sleeping for a significantly reduced number of hours each night: around 2 hours less than what they need. She discusses the consequences of reduced sleep time and provides some suggestions for improving teenagers sleeping habits

Neuroscience of laughter

The Emotion Machine blog has an interesting post on laughter, which looks at the origins and benefits of laughter. There is a video of Professor Sophie Scott talking about the neuroscience of laughter.

Happiness and it's dark side

The academic journal, Perspectives in Psychological Science has just published a review article looking at happiness. The study finds that there are downsides to happiness. For example, pursuing happiness can make us unhappy. The authors suggest that people should forget about being happy and instead spend time nurturing their social relationships: a proven happiness enhancer.

'The untapped power of the smile'

Interesting TED talk on the power of smiling by Ron Gutman. This short 7 minute is packed full of research based evidence for the benefits of smiling. For example, one study found that smiling is as stimulating as receiving ?16,000.

Depression's silver lining

Research published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology has found that people diagnosed with depression display enhanced decision making skills.

Building for well-being

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece on the influence of architecture on health and well-being.

Sleep and cognitive function in adults

New research finds that when adults sleep less or more than 6 to 8 hours a night they show a decline in cognitive function; equivalent to four to seven years of aging.

Yoga and meditation benefit primary school pupils

A UK study has found that children, aged between 9 and 11, who are taught yoga poses, relaxation and breathing techniques show improvements in school: the research revealed increases in concentration and grades.

Happiness and suicide

An interesting study has found that the happiest places in the US have the highest suicide rates.The authors say that the reason for this intriguing finding may be down to social comparison: people who are feeling low feel even worse when comparing themselves to lots of happy people.

Song lyrics are more hostile and narcissistic than ever before

The New York Times has an fascinating piece on the rise of narcissistic lyrics in popular music; recent research has found that hostile and narcissistic lyrics have been on the increase in pop music.

Raising anxious girls

Slate magazine has an interesting article on why it is that woman are more anxious than men. Evidence suggests that females are diagnosed with anxiety disorders twice as often than men and are more prone to worrying. The answer, according to the author, is not down to biology, but to culture. Woman learn to be anxious

Interview with Nurture Shock author

American radio station KDRT has an interesting interview with one of the authors, Ashley Merryman, of the best selling book Nurture Shock. Merryman explains how some common modern day parenting practices are undermining young people's motivation and well-being. She focuses on praise, lying and sleep. This is a great introduction to some of the key themes from the book.

'Disordered environments promote stereoptypes and discrimintaion'

The online magazine Discover has a great article about the influence of environment on thinking and behaviour. The article shows how chaotic and disorderly environments can have a detrimental effect on peoples cognition and relationships with others.

Some pitfalls of Positive Psychology

There is an interesting piece critiquing Positive Psychology, on the American Psychological Association website. The article argues that though there are benefits from this new science, 'interventions are outstripping the science' and Positive Psychology has the capacity to make people feel bad about themselves.

The improving brain

The American Psychological Association has a stimulating article on aging and the brain. The piece details recent research challenging stereotypes of the declining brain, and instead highlights many of the benefits that come with age.

The positive power of the media

Research soon to be published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, has revealed that when people are exposed to media content dealing with being a better person, individuals are more likely to act in a pro-social way.

Feeling angry? try praying

A recent study reveals that people who say a prayer after experiencing a negative situation, report less anger. The finding applies to those who are not religious too. The authors say that one reason why prayer is so powerful is because it helps people to change the way they view the anger inducing event.

Too much too young?

Slate website has an interesting article challenging the need for there to be more instructional learning in pre-school education. The authors argue, from the evidence of two recent studies, that early childhood education should be focusing more on sparking curiosity and creativity - two essential tools for life long learning.

Day time naps help us attend to the positive

A new study has found that people who take a short afternoon nap are more likely to pay attention to positive information, and less likely to attend to negative emotions

Aging, happiness and longevity

A new book The Longevity Project has just been published and contains some interesting findings from a large scale longitudinal study about longevity, and well-being in old age. Much of the research contradicts common conceptions about people who grow old.

Feeling loved reduces materialism

A new study by researchers at Yale University and colleagues, has found that when people feel loved by others they are less likely to value material things. The study revealed that those people who reported lower levels of feeling loved and accepted, placed as much as 5 times more value on material possessions.

Brain Awareness Week

It is Brain Awareness Week from the 14th March - 20th March, and the Society for Neuroscience has lots of tips and advice for applying some of the findings from neuroscience research. They have useful tips for classroom teaching; from preschool upwards.

Self-compassion and motivation

The New York Times has an interesting article on self-compassion. The research shows that people who score high on measures of compassion i.e. people who treat themselves kindly: tend to be more motivated, less depressed, less anxious, happier and more optimistic.

'Smile or die'

The RSA has created an engaging collection of animations to go along with public lectures. This one is of Barbara Ehrenreich's talk, on what she thinks is wrong with positive thinking.

Children benefit from doing chores

Psychology Today has an interesting post on why we should be asking children to help more with daily chores; it cultivates gratitude. Though they may not always enjoy having to give up their activities to carry out these daily tasks, doing them leads to a greater sense of family well-being and promotes pro-social behaviours within the family.

The sun may be shining, but are they happy?

Do you think you would be happier in a warmer climate? New research may make you think again. The recent study shows that four out of the five most miserable places to live in the US are in sunny California.

Spending time together builds family bonds

A new study finds that Grandparents who spend time doing activities with their adult grandchildren like gardening or cooking, may be strengthening family bonds.

Chocolate, crisps and intelligence

A large scale longitudinal study has found a link between diets high in processed foods and child IQ. The authors say that a poor diet may be disrupting healthy brain development.

Singing and child well-being

A recent study has found a relationship between collective singing in schools and child well-being. The researchers say that singing in schools helps to build a sense of community and encourages children to view themselves in a positive light.

Creating a work-life balance

TED has an interesting new talk by Nigel Marsh on how to create a work-life balance. Marsh believes that small things such as spending time with the family can make a big difference to personal lives.

Teenagers influenced by what their friends watch on TV

A new study by researchers at Harvard Medical School has found that girls are influenced more by what their friends watch on television than by their own television viewing. The authors found that indirect TV exposure was found to influence aspects of behaviour such as: body image; pressure to be thin and it increased the chances of having an eating disorder by 60%

Neuroscience for young people

The newly published book Your Fantastic, Elastic Brain: Stretch it, Shape it, aims to teach children about the plasticity of the brain. The idea underpinning the book is to help young people to see that they have some control over their learning.

Physical activity and political participation

A surprising new study has linked physical activity to political activism. The authors say that physically active American states have more people who vote. In their study, the researchers found that priming people with active words like 'go' increased the motivation to vote.

Walking changes the brain

Psychologists asked a group of previously sedentary older people to walk for 40 minutes 3 times a week, for a period of a year. The researchers looked for changes in brain structure over time. They found changes to the hippocampus area of the brain: the part associated with memory and spatial reasoning. This effect was not found for those who had carried out stretching exercises.

The benefits of marriage

The British Medical Journal has an interesting piece on the benefits of marriage; showing that a lasting relationship improves the physical health of men and the mental health of woman. They authors say that though there are benefits to a healthy marriage, those people in a strained relationship fare worse than single people.

Self-control in young children predicts later success

Researchers at the University of Otago, and other international colleagues, have found that children who display self-control skills such as sticking at a task or being self-disciplined are less likely to be involved in criminal behaviour as adults. In addition to this, these children are more likely to be healthy and successful as adults. The authors say that even small increases in self-control would be beneficial for society.

'Cinderella ate my daughter'

Mindfulness meditation changes the brain and reduces stress, in novices

A new study published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, reports findings that an 8 week course in mindfulness based meditation made significant changes to various brain structures of participants; areas associated with stress, memory, empathy and the self all changed.

Top 10 neuroscience TED talks

Great blog post by Neuroscientist Bradley Voytek on the top 10 neuroscienceTED talks. Topics range from Michael Merzenich's talk on rewiring the brain to Daniel Gilbert's presentation on happiness.

UK Early years report

The UK Government has published a major report focusing on the importance of early years education and parenting.

The Chinese mother approach

The Wall Street Journal has another interesting article, this time written by Yale Law Professor Amy Chua on the topic of her new book about why Chinese mothers are better at parenting and raising happy young people. Though stimulating, there are some obvious reservations to this approach.

Accepting fears can loosen their grip

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article on a new type of therapy. The approach helps people to observe and accept their fears; rather than to change their behaviour or how they think about those fears. This mindfulness based therapy is proving to be as good as medication for problems such as depression.

Encouraging a culture of giving

The recent Government Green Paper on giving to others, in time or money, focuses on how we as a society can build a culture of giving. The paper contains various essays on the topic.

Nourishing well-being duing winter

The Herald newspaper has an article with tips on how to maintain a positive outlook during the winter months, and beyond.

Female mental health issues

The Guardian has an interesting piece on the mental health of young woman. The article quotes statistics from the Platform 51 report which suggest that two thirds have mild to moderate mental health issues.

Mental health needs of men and boys

Mental health charity MIND has published a report on the mental health issues influencing men and boys; with an emphasis on how to promote mental wellness within this group.

Thinking about our ancestors can boost success in job interviews and exams

An interesting study in the European Journal of Social Psychology has found that people who were asked (before a test) to think about their ancestors and what those previous generations had endured, performed better. The authors say that thinking about our ancestors may help people feel that hurdles can be overcome.

Young people have an unhealthy craving for praise

A new study by Psychologists Brad Bushman, Jennifer Crocker and other colleagues found that young Americans value boosts to their self esteem more than any other pleasant activity; more than food, drink, money or sex. The researchers also found that those people who had increased levels of entitlement were likely to place a higher value on wanting praise.

Snacking while watching TV makes us eat more later on

A recent study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology reveals that woman who snack while watching TV eat more later, when the TV is not on. The authors say this finding can be partially explained by television interfering with memory.

Curbing violence in young people

New statistics show that violent behaviour is rising among Scottish teenagers. Psychologist Tommy MacKay argues that parents, school uniforms and patriotism are key ingredients combating this trend.

Interesting advice for happiness in 2011

The Guardian online has a great article on why we shouldn't bother to make a new year resolution. The piece suggests, instead some research based tips and advice for improving our happiness and well-being in 2011.

The Neuroscience of lonliness

Psychology Today has an entertaining article on lonliness; looking at how Neuroscience can explain Dr Seuss's character The Grinch, in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Feeling blue? chances are others are too

A recent study has revealed that we tend to wrongly believe that other people are happier than they actually are, and happier than us. The authors say that this is because people are happier in company, while most sad moods are experienced in solitude and therefore not seen.

Job loss and happiness

A new study challenges the previous finding that becoming unemployed makes people permanently unhappy. The study found that while happiness declined after losing a job, after a year people regained previous levels of happiness. The authors say that mos people are more resilient than we believe.

How not to interview people

Here is an interesting blog from Professor of Organisational Psychology, Cary Cooper with an analysis of the interviewing process in the TV show The Apprentice and how unnecessarily aggressive it is.

Woman over 50 have highest levels of work-related fatigue

A recent Dutch article argues for more attention to be paid to the worrying issue of work-related stress in older woman. A previous study found that highly educated woman between 50 and 64 years of age were more likely than any other group to suffer from work-related fatigue. The author provides various solutions including coaching for females and woman taking up more leadership roles.

Having friends protects kids from sadness and depression

A recent study has found that children who have friends are less likely to feel sad or depressed as they reach the teenage years, even having one close friend makes a difference. Lead author Dr Bukowski says "Friendship promotes resilience and protects at-risk kids from internalizing problems such as feeling depressed and anxious."

More economic growth does not lead to happiness

Compelling evidence has emerged from a large scale study carried out by Professor of Economics, Richard Easterlin. The study shows that higher levels of economic growth do not lead to an increase in happiness.

What's in a smile?

There is an interesting article on The Psychological Science website, about the psychology of smiling and how it benefits the self and others.

Positive emotion and creativity

More research has emerged supporting the idea that people in a positive mood are more likely to think creatively. The study found that when subjects were in a good mood (induced through watching a happy video or listening to happy music) they performed better on creative tasks; when compared to those exposed to sad, negative or neutral stimuli.

Social activities beneficial for mental health in old age

A recent meta-analysis has looked at different interventions for depression in older people. The authors found that social activities showed a clear and significant influence on depression and mental health in older people, other interventions such as skills training or support groups did not.

A good nights sleep improves skills

A New Canadian study shows that infants aged between one year and one and a half years of age who get a full nights sleep, and more sleep in their bed at night compared to during the day, preform better on a range of skills such as memory, self-control and mental flexibility.

Keeping happy through winter

The NHS website has some useful advice on how to avoid the winter blues, and flourish during the dark winter months.

Being grateful is better than a magic pill

There is an engaging article on gratitude in the Wall Street Journal. The piece examines the many benefits of adopting an attitude of gratitude; including suggestions that gratitude may be 'one of the best cures for materialism'.

More trees please

The BBC website has an interesting article about the benefits of trees on health and well-being; and the government's plan to plant more of them.

Writing about values improves performance

A recent study has found that female physics students (a group prone to lower science grades) who wrote about important values such as learning or their family performed better: course grades improved by almost a grade.

The pressures of attachment parenting

Novelist and Poet Erica Jong challenges the widely applied attachment parenting method in her article in The Wall Street Journal, saying that it has led to, among other things: more pressure and anxiety for woman; children who can't solve problems on their own; helicopter parenting and children detached from the community in which they live.

Helping parents support each other improves well-being for all the family

Researchers at Penn State University have discovered that when parents participate in a brief relationship strengthening class before the birth of their first child, relationships and well-being improve for each family member.

Certain mental health problems in children linked to parenting, not genes

New research has examined the mental health, specifically depression and aggression, of children in the UK. The authors found that 'genes alone were not to blame'. The study revealed that hostile parenting predicted aggression; and other, yet to be defined, environmental factors (such as poor inter-parental relationships) explained depression.

Your happiness influences how happy your spouse is

A longitudinal study of married people has found that when one person's happiness level changes then so does their respective partners.

Life expectancy of Scots falling behind Eastern Europe

A recent report by Dr Harry Burns, Scotland's Chief Medical Officer, has revealed that life expectancy in Scotland is lagging behind some Eastern European countries. One of the reasons, Burns suggests, is that Scotland has tended to focus on what's wrong with people in deprived communities, rather than looking at their assets.

Walking 6-9 miles a week helps our memory as we age

Walking regularly is simple, free and easy to do. Scientists have found that walking 6- 9 miles per week could be the secret ingredient in preserving the brain and memory in old age

City life takes its toll on the brain

Harvard University website has an interesting article examining the consequences of spending time in a busy city; and the negative impact this has on psychological processes such as attention and memory. There is hope though, nature has a calming and restorative effect which can counteract the influence of City living.

Promising to tell the truth increases honesty in young people

Great article on honesty in 8 - 16 years olds. The study found that when young people were asked to 'promise to tell the truth' they were 8 times more likely to tell the truth.

10 aspects of good parenting

Here is an interesting Scientific American article by Dr Robert Epstein on what makes for a good parent. Interestingly, some of the tips have nothing to do with children and are about the skills of the parents: such as how effectively they manage stress; and how well they get on with each other.

Dim light at night and depression

New research (with hamsters) has revealed a curious finding in relation to depression: hamsters sleeping in a dimly lit environment showed changes in the area of the brain implicated in depressive disorders; they also displayed more depressive symptoms than those sleeping in darkness.

Wholehearted love

Interesting TED talk by researcher/storyteller Brene Brown focusing on beliefs about being a worthwhile individual, the consequences of such beliefs and how to cultivate a strong sense of worth.

The difficulties of measuring happiness

An article in the BBC news online examines the complexities of measuring happiness and well-being in society.

The Glasgow Effect

More research has emerged showing a Glasgow Effect: with people in Greater Glasgow one and a half times more likely to have a doctor diagnosed heart attack. Glasgow residents also have higher levels of anxiety compared to the rest of the country.

A wandering mind makes people less happy

An article in the guardian features some new research by Psychologist Daniel Gilbert and colleagues,which shows that people who often get distracted from tasks they are working on are less happy.

Parents, play, and mental health

A recent longitudinal study published in Development and Psychopathology has found that the way a parent interacts with their child can influence future mental health: spending time with, playing, and teaching children how to complete complex and interesting tasks was shown to foster positive psychological development and protect against personality disorders.

Certain types of trees reduce dubious behaviour

Having certain types of trees in your neighborhood or garden may be just as good as a burglar alarm in the fight against crime. Tall trees seem to be more effective than short ones in reducing criminal activity; they are less likely to obstruct views.

Parents influence is more important than school, for attainment

A study, published in Review of Economics and Statistics, has examined the factors influencing a child's academic achievements. They found that parental encouragement to work hard was more important than the influence of the school.

Meditation improves resilience and health

New research supports the argument that meditation improves various aspects of positive mental health. The study found that those people with the highest improvements on positive psychological measures, also had the highest levels of an enzyme important for the long term health of cells in the body.

Babies learn best from everyday activities - not from educational DVDs

More research has emerged challenging the claim that educational DVD's such as baby Einstein are beneficial development. The authors found that babies learned more words through interactions with their parents, than from watching a DVD (even when a parent watched the DVD with them)

Sisters bring happiness and optimism

An article in the New York Times sheds some light on the recent finding that having a sister makes people happier and more optimistic. The author argues that it might be the number and length of conversations, and not the content, which produces the effect.

Curiosity at work

An article in today's Guardian outlines some of the benefits of curiosity at work, and how to cultivate more of it.

Leisurely acivity and depression

A recent study, reported in the BBC news, has found that exercise has to be fun if it is to ward off depression.

Friendly conversations improve cognitive function

A study which will be published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has revealed that when people engage in cooperative conversations, like getting to know others, they display improvements in aspects of cognition such as memory and self-control. Competitive conversations do not create these benefits.

Psychological well-being and health

A new study by Psychologist Carol Ryff has found that psychological well-being may be the key to preventing future health problems among the most disadvantaged.

Better learning by changing the font

A study has found that children who learn from a text made up of a harder to read font such as 12 point Comic Sans, learn more than those reading the same text in an easy to read font such as 16 point Arial pure black.

Healthy futures through positive traits

New research has found that physical activity, social support and psychological beliefs about control, are linked to better health later in life: reducing bad health by up to 10 years. The study found that the influence of positive traits on health occurs above and beyond the impact of traditional risk factors.

Improving pre-school by mentoring teachers

A report just published by the University of California, Berkley recommends that providing mentoring for teachers will improve the quality of the pre-school environment (in Amercia) The authors say that 'devising tasks that challenge our young children and nurture their cooperative social skills,' will lead to better outcomes.

Viewing natural scenes reduce pain

More research has emerged on the benefits of nature and of viewing natural scenes. The study found that cancer patients who looked at natural scenes, and heard sounds from nature, felt less pain.

Mothers who attend baby signing classes are more stressed

Baby signing courses claim to reduce stress for new mothers. In each session caregivers learn to read their babies non verbal 'talk' to increase communication. However, a recent study published in the Infant and Child Development journal has found that mothers who attend these classes are more stressed.

Mothers, work and child well-being

What are the consequences of going back to work soon after having children? According to a recent meta-analysis study, the outcomes are good for children from a low income family - they display better academic scores and less behavioural problems. The result is not so good for children of higher income families.

The media influences how woman see themselves

Interesting article in The Independent on how images of thin woman displayed through the media are damaging for woman.

A little adversity is good for mental health

It turns out that adversity can make us stronger. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has revealed that people who experience some life adversity have better mental health and well-being, compared to those who experience either no or high levels of adversity.

Young teenagers who play sport are happier

Research published in Applied Research in Quality of Life journal finds that both boys and girls (aged 12 to 14 years) who participate in sports feel healthier and happier about life.

Components of happiness

Psychologist Dr Tom Stevens argues for three components to personal happiness: values; core beliefs and fears; and life skills - which he calls our Happiness Quotient (HQ). His recent study claims to predict happiness, based on these three factors, with 75% accuracy.

The first nine months

Interesting article in The Telegraph about a book just published on how a woman's experiences during pregnancy can determine the health and well-being of her child's life beyond the womb.

Rewiring the brain

Interesting article in the BBC news on the amazing capacity of the brain to rewire itself; showing, in this case, how different parts of the brain compensate for blindness, to help blind people 'see'.

Screen time and psychological health in young people

A research paper in the American Journal of Pediatrics shows that when children, aged 10 and 11, spend more than 2 hours per day on screen based activities they are more likely to suffer psychological difficulties. This finding holds even when children are active at other times of the day.

Encouraging students to aim high

A study has revealed that all students should be encouraged to set high educational standards, even those who don't show initial potential. The research found there is nothing wrong, in terms of mental health, with 'trying and failing'

Choosing to be happy

A recent study reported in the New Scientist has found that people can increase their level of long term happiness, through the choices they make. For example, those people in the study who developed more commitment, altruism and family values, became happier.

The heart of psychology

Intriguing Scientific American article on the heart, and the important role it plays in vaious aspects of social behaviour.

Trying to be happy doesn't work

Professor Todd Kashdan argues in his recent and interesting Psychology Today article that pursuing happiness can backfire. He finds that when people aim for this goal (or even when they are primed to think about happiness) they tend to be less happy, not more.

A case of fixed mindsets?

Only one in six child geniuses go on to achieve their potential, according to an article in The Telegraph.

Brain boosters

Interesting article in The New Scientist exploring the research behind various brain enhancing activities, such as learning to play an instrument or meditating.

The value of sadness

Engaging article in The BBC News magazine on the benefits of de-stigmatising mental illness. The author highlights a downside to de-stigmatisation on how we think about sadness; worrying that we have lost how important sadness can be.

Early life stress can alter genes

A recent study (with rats) has found that a lack of maternal affection obstructs specific areas of the DNA: areas involved with the production of chemicals which regulate emotions and mental health. The opposite was found for rats who were shown lots of affection

'The Secret', 'The Power': why are they so alluring?

Interesting New York Times book review on 'The Power' (which is the new 'The Secret') and why we are taken in by the pseudoscience of such books and ideas. Especially interesting since they offer 'no scientific evidence for the absurd physics behind the law of attraction.' - the law underpinning the whole book.

Alcohol taxes address the most serious problems

A recent meta-analysis of studies carried out over the last 50 years published in the American Journal of Public Health, finds that when alcohol prices rise undesirable behaviours such as violence and crime decline.


The New Scientist has an article on Positive Psychology. The piece specifically addresses the research on happiness: what it is; how to improve it, and some other interesting findings - like how you can have too much of a good thing.

Stressed mum = stressed baby

A study published in the September issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry has revealed that a mother's stress during pregnancy has a long term influence on their babies response to stress; they recover slower.

Raising moral and compassionate children

Interesting article (and short video) on parenting practices and child attachment and development.

How to succeed under pressure

A new book written by Psychologist Sian Beilok has been published on why some people crumble under pressure and how to avoid it - some interesting findings.

Happiness classes for parents

The Telegraph has an article about happiness classes which are on offer for parents at the top English boarding school, Wellington College. The school has previously run classes for students on different aspects of positive psychology.

Better health through social networks

Interesting article from the New York Times on 'network science' - the science of how social networks influence health. The article touches on how these networks can influence public health.

5 minutes in nature improves self-esteem

An engaging article in Psychology Today examines the positive influence of nature on well-being. The author cites an interesting meta-analysis, which was published earlier in the year, showing that as little as 5 minutes in nature can improve self-esteem (especially for younger people and those with mental health problems)

Problem solving and bullying

This is a very short article on a recent meta-analytic study which found that poor problem solving, especially in boys, increased the risk of becoming a bully and a victim of bullying.

Creativity is not an individual act

A stimulating article, by Joshua Wolf Shenk, on success and how individual accomplishments depend on relationships with others. Shenk provides many real life, historical and current examples.

Brain development linked to physical fitness

Researchers at the University of Illinois have revealed that children (9 and 10 year olds) who do more physical exercise have bigger brains - the area which deals with learning and memory - and do better on tests.

Acquiantances are good for us

An interesting article in The Herald on how interactions with people in our community (those we don't know well, like the lolly-pop man, waitress or bank clerk) can be good for us.

Mental well-being study

The University of Warwick need participants for a study to test their online mental well-being tool (they are asking for English participants - so you might want to check with them first if you live somewhere else)

The liberal use of special needs

Ofsted claim that the label 'special needs' is being over used in educational settings. They argue that better teaching methods and support may address the problem.

Nature connects the brain

Research published in the journal NeuroImage has revealed that viewing natural scenes has a positive effect on the brain. The paper found that looking at man made structures like motorways did not produce the same result - they disrupted brain connections.

Too much sitting is making us ill

Interesting article in The Independent on how sitting for long periods is bad for us, regardless of what we do at other times.

The myth of learning styles

There have been a raft of papers published on different learning styles and their impact on educational outcomes. A previous paper challenges the efficacy of learning styles in education: finding "virtually no evidence" to suggest that such approaches work. They worry that educational establishments are taking up this approach, rather than spending on programes which do work.


The London School of Economics has developed, a free to download, iphone app as part of a research project to map happiness. The app beeps at certain times during the day and then asks for answers to various happiness related questions. The idea is to gauge what factors influence happiness.

Designing their own work space can make staff happy and productive

Researchers at the University of Exeter have found that when people have some control over the environment in which they work they are more motivated, happy and in one of their studies, 32% more productive.

When bad things bring out the best

The Wall Street Journal has an article on Post Traumatic Growth in children. It examines children who have grown qualities such as empathy, creativity or gratitude following seriously negative life events, such as 9/11.

Recession and child well-being

Interesting article from the American Psychological Association on how the recession has impacted the children of the poorest, in America. The article talks about some hopeful programmes for parents and preschool.

Money takes away happiness

A study published earlier this year in Psychological Science shows how money e.g. being wealthy, or even just thinking about wealth, undermines our ability to savour the small things in life.

Leadership and evolution

There is an interesting article in the New Scientist on the evolution of leadership. The paper argues for why we have got it all wrong when it comes to modern day leadership.

Mindfulness meditation and teenage boys

A study carried out by Felicia Huppert and colleagues at the University of Cambridge has found that a short course of mindfulness meditation increased positive emotions and functioning in adolescent boys

Close ties change behaviour

More research has been published on how social networks can change behaviour. The studies, carried out by scholars at MIT Sloan school of management, found that people are most likely to change behaviour when they are connected to many people they know well.

Parents and play

A recent report by child psychologist Tanya Byron has found that parents are too busy, or forget, to play with their children and they find playing boring. Byron revealed that when parents do play with their children they are much more likely to play computer games, than play traditional games.

Germs and playing outdoors

Doctors kick back at the ridiculous claim made by Health Protection Scotland (HPS). HPS are targeting the hand washing practices of an outdoor nursery school in Scotland.

Germs and playing outdoors

Doctors kick back at the ridiculous claim made by Health Protection Scotland (HPS). HPS are targeting the hand washing practices of an outdoor nursery school in Scotland.

Why things get better with age

Interesting article on why it is that older people are happier: a socioemotional selectivity theory.

Role models for boys

An interesting article by the BBC which looks at some views put forward by psychologists about why modern day heroes may be damaging for the development of young men.

Fearing a fall may cause one

A recent study has found that older peoples beliefs can influence their behaviour. The study revealed that older people who worried about falling, fell more often than those who were less fearful.

Short intervention reduces negative effects of media exposure

A study has just been published which looks at whether the DOVE video clip impacts on teenage girls perception of body image. They authors found that those watching the video were less likely to make negative comparisons with figures in the media.

Growing the brain in old age

A study published in the October issue of Neuroimage has found that the older brain really can learn and change. The paper revealed that older people who carried out specific repeated memory activities displayed an immediate change in their cortical thickness.

Meditation creates focus

An article in Time magazine outlines some recent research on the benefits of meditation for focus and attention.

Happiest when busy

A study published in this month Psychological Science has found that people are happier when busy, but they prefer (if there is no purpose in place) being lazy.

Maternal affection predicts later coping skills

A study published in The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health has found that maternal love and affection at 8 months has a direct effect on emotional distress as an adult.

Friends keep you alive

A meta analysis, of 148 studies, published in PLoS Med has looked at the effect of social relationships on mortality. The authors conclude that social relationships are as important as other factors such as smoking.

Choice: some suprising findings

Most recent TED talk features Sheena Iyengar talking about her research on choice. She challenges some assumptions about choice, and presents some interesting findings.

Negative stereotypes undermine learning

A recent study shows that negative stereotypes can impact upon how people learn facts: people in the stereotype threat group didn't learn the same skill as those in the control group.

What happens when staff are rude?

An article published by British Medical Journal looks at the consequences of ill-mannered behaviour at work

What does parenting bring?

New York Times article on why parenting doesn't make us happy, but includes research on countries where it does. Also, it turns out that though having children doesn't make people happy it does increase a sense of meaning and agency in life.

Laughing our way to good health

The New Scientist has a short piece on the science of laughter and health, it also points to some research which suggests that being cheerful does have some downsides.

The benefits of music

An article, written by Philip Ball, has just been published in Nature News. The paper argues for the educational benefits of music, he also argues why music should be taught as an end in itself.

Building sibling relationships

Scientifically based article on how to encourage supportive sibling relationships. Interestingly, the authors say that trying to eliminate squabbling and arguing between brothers and sisters is the wrong way to go about it.

Varied practice improves performance

A study published in Nature Neuroscience shows that, when people are learning a skill, varying the type of practice enhances the learning.

What happened to creativity?

Newsweek has an interesting article on creativity, and it's decline, in young people. The piece looks at what can be done to cultivate creative thinking.

Mental well-being impacts physical health in young people

The first study of its kind has shown a link between subjective well-being and physical health in, a sample of around 400 American, young people.

Benefits of gardening in schools

A recent study has revealed that gardening can have a positive influence on pupils; building resources such as resilience and problem solving.

The role of the father

There is an interesting article in The Independent about the important role of fathers for the development of the child.

Failure and sporting success

There is an interesting article in The Independent on failure and how it can be harnessed to improve situations and improve performance.

Treating depression with Omega-3

Results have emerged, from a large clinical trial, which demonstrate that Omega-3 are as effective as antidepressants for treating major depression (in cases where there is no anxiety disorder)

Positive Psychology critique

Here is a critical piece on Positive Psychology from The Independent

Scotland's health

More evidence emerges today which demonstrates that Scotland's health problems are pervasive and dangerous.

Changing behaviour

The RSA has released a report on decision making, which explores how to help people to make better decisions in their lives. The paper argues that teaching people about the science of decision making improves their chances of changing behaviour.

Motivating the workforce

Here is an interesting TED talk by Dan Pink on motivation, filmed last year. He is arguing that rewarding employees for completing tasks at work with monetary bonuses is a mistake. Especially for tasks which are complex and which require creativity.

Outdoor learning publication

A report written by Tim Gill for the English Outdoor Council and Outdoor Education Advisers was published a couple of months ago.

Downside of multitasking

A Washington Post article on why young people should be encouraged to focus on one task at a time, rather than multitasking. There is a video too.


The Centre has been influenced by an article written by the economist John Kay, back in 2004, for the Financial Times. He argues that goals are best pursued indirectly.

What's best for baby?

Oliver James has written a new book on parenting which comes out today.

Sad? It's nothing to do with the weather

This is a controversial study which found that weather conditions are not associated with major depression or sad mood.

Social comparison and unhappiness

A large European survey has found that many people think that it is important to compare their income with others. The study revealed that this leads to unhappiness and less satisfaction with life. The authors also report that social comparison of this type is most prevalent among the poorer groups.

The future is bright

Recent research brings hope to the aging population: we get happier with age. The large survey reveals that older people are much more satisfied and happier with life.

I will?

Researchers have discovered that when it comes to self motivating statements people who ask, rather than tell, themselves whether they will achieve their goals tend to do better.

Effort, hardwork and goals which involve others

This is a great article, published a couple of weeks ago, on attitudes to learning.

Growing from threatening relationships

An article in the New York Times reports on a study which has found that having hostile relationships can be a good thing for young people: it is an opportunity for growth.

Writing about values reduces narcissistic aggression

An article in Psychological Science has reported findings which indicate that writing about personal values reduce narcissistic behaviour. This is an alternative approach to self-esteem boosting.

Negative feedback helps creativity

Researchers from Columbia Business School have revealed that negative feedback helps people to improve their performance and to be creative.

Social support gets people moving

Researchers at Stanford University have discovered that social support, in the form of a telephone call, can increase the amount of physical activity people do.

Sleep is important for learning

This is an interesting study on the quality of babies sleep. What the researchers have found is that babies are learning while they sleep.

Being politically active is good for well-being

Here is an interesting article about a recent study, by Psychologist Tim Kasser, on political activism and well-being.

Negative emotions broaden thinking

A recent study published in Psychological Science has found that low levels of negative emotion can help learning: too much negativity has a detrimental effect.

The power of social networks

This is an interesting talk by Nicholas Christakis on how behaviours such as happiness and obesity are spread through society. He talks about how norms are transmitted through social networks.

Genius is in the environment, not the genes

Today's Guardian has an interesting interview with David Shenk, on his new book and views about genuis and talent. Shenk asserts that we need to get away from the myth that people are born with exceptional talents and look more at the environmental conditions of genuis. According to Shenk even the likes of Mozart can be explained by the environment he grew up in.

Physical activity boosts learning in Scottish schools

Researchers at the Universities of Leeds and Aberdeen have found that 15 minutes of exercise improved the concentration of Aberdeen school pupils.

Doing good deeds builds self-control

Recent research from Harvard University shows that doing good deeds can help people to endure difficulties and persevere for longer on tasks.

Do brain training games really work?

This is an interesting article from The Independent on whether playing brain training games will boost brain function.

Obesity is in the genes

New research supports the idea that we are obeseogenic organisms; hardwired to eat a lot. The study has also found that other aspects of human behaviour such as addiction and sexual responses are inbuilt.

Self-regulation in preschool education

This is an interesting research based approach to preschool education which focuses on cultivating self-regulation.

Optimism is good for your health

An interesting study, published in Psychological Science, has revealed that being optimistic has a direct effect on the immune system.

Optimism is good for your health

An interesting study, published in Psychological Science, has revealed that being optimistic has a direct effect on the immune system.

Parents can reduce materialism in Teenagers

A recent study indicates that parents can help to counteract the materialistic society in which young people live, by being supportive of them.

Marriage is good for mental health

Recent research has revealed that marriage is good for mental health. The large study, of over 34,000 people and carried out across 15 countries, also found that divorce and separation has a negative impact on mental well-being. For example they found that marriage breakdown leads to substance abuse in woman and depression in men.

Family routines reduce obesity

Children of families who eat meals together have lower rates of childhood obestiy. Other family practices which have been shown to play a role are things such as limiting the amount of television young people watch, and encouraging enough sleep and rest. The study is published in a recent edition of Journal of Pediatrics.


This is an article about the benefits of connecting with nature; and how ecotherapy can help beat depression

Conditional parenting

This is an interesting article from the New York Times on the downsides of parental praise. The article discusses the consequences of parents who turn on or off their love towards their children in order to get the young ones to do what the parents want.

Time pressure can lead to confidence at work

A recent study found that when work tasks have time constraints, people preform better on subsequent jobs .

Positive parenting has a long term effect

The first study of its kind to show the lasting effects of positive, rather than negative, parenting on children and grandchildren.

Positive Psychology progress

Positive psychology has been around for 10 years. This TIME article outlines steps forward in the field.

Some things get better with age

This is an interesting news story about how older people get happier with age.

7 steps to happiness

Different tips for cultivating happiness given by seven of the leading researchers in this field.

The case for pessimism

This is an interesting article on the benefits of pessimism and anxiety.

Having children does make us happy

A surprising finding within the literature is that having children does not increase happiness. Considering this, it is strange that people spend a large amount of time with their children and doing other, supposedly, unrewarding activities like working.

Television watching and child development

You are tired, the baby is unsettled and there is housework to be done. Television is seeming like a good option for entertaining the baby while you catch up on those household duties. But what are the consequences of putting the children in front of the TV, or even having it on in the background? According to a new study the answer is not good.

Happiness is love

In this month edition of The Atlantic journalist Joshua Wolf Shank asks What Makes Us Happy? The article looks at insights from the grant study; a research endeavor which has tracked the health and well-being of 268 Harvard university students since the late 1930?s early 1940?s.

Positive stereotyping

Negative stereotypes such as girls can?t do math or the old are senile are common within society. The research shows that these false beliefs have a detrimental effect on motivation and performance. An article published in this months Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows that the way to overcome such stereotyping is to form a new positive stereotype such as the old are wise or students are good at maths.

Positive Psychology in Easterhouse

An article in today's Evening Times reports on a study, carried out by psychologist Elaine Duncan and colleagues from Caledonian university, showing that Positive Psychology made a difference to the well-being of residents in Easterhouse.

Fame, fortune and looks undermine well-being

A study published in the June issue of the Journal of Research in Psychology shows that students who set and attain goals which involve becoming rich, famous or good looking are less happy, less satisfied with life and more angry and anxious than those who follow intrinsic goals, such as helping in the community or personal growth.

Alcohol on TV makes people drink more

Does the amount of alcohol consumed on TV have an impact on how much people drink? According to a recent study from the Journal of Alcohol and Alcoholism those who watch TV shows and adverts which strongly feature alcohol, consume more booze than those who watch TV shows with less of a focus on alcohol.

Household plants can increase well-being in old folks homes

What can happen when older people move from living on their own to living in a care home or assisted living? In some cases this transition can cause a loss of independence and control, which impacts upon older peoples' sense of health and well-being. A recent study shows that something as simple as learning about and caring for a household plant can provide older people a sense of responsibility and can increase their quality of life.

Small changes can reduce overindulgence

Can small changes reduce overindulgence? According to a recent study which will be published in the Journal of Consumer Research this August, people overindulge in response to the positive and negative feelings they experience in the here and now. The study found that when people are asked to focus on the reasons why positive feelings will last or why negative feelings will pass they are less likely to engage in overindulgent activities.

Positive Psychology classes have no effect

Will teaching Positive Psychology build positive virtues and emotions in young people? A five year programme, funded by a $2.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, has been evaluating the benefits of ?character education? since 2003. The findings reveal that there has been ?no effect? on most outcomes. Despite the lack of efficacy some are saying that Positive Psychology lessons should be applied more widely.

Building responsibility through hard work

Are youth programmes which focus on fun and games likely to build responsibility and self-discipline in young people? According to a recent study youth groups which expect a lot from teenagers, are highly structured, contain hard work and hold teens accountable are much more likely to help them develop.

Changing colours to enhance performance

Can different colours influence performance on different tasks? For example, will a blue computer screen enhance success in one area but not in another? According to recent study colour does boost the brains performance; researchers found that red enhances attention to detail and blue enhances creativity.

Employee well-being and organisational success

Could an organisation save money and increase productivity by investing in their employees well-being? According to research, carried out in the States, employees who have low levels of psychological well-being can cost companies around $75 per person per week in productivity, this works out about $4000 per year.

TV and depressive symptoms in young people

The amount of media young people are exposed to may increase the number of depressive symptom they experience. A recent study suggests that TV watching may replace activities such as exercise or intellectual activities, which buffer against feelings of depression.

Victims of overprotection and worrying?

According to some people, including a report released later today by the Children?s Society, young people are more stressed out, anxious and depressed than ever before. Despite the doom and gloom picture various experts say that young people are not in a crisis and that the worries and anxieties of over protective adults are the main cause for concern.

Happiness inequality in the US

Economists at the University of Pennsylvania have carried out a study looking at happiness levels in the US over the last 34 years. What they have found is that the gap between the happiest and the least happy has narrowed. Overall happiness levels have not increased and in some cases the gap has widened.

Measuring progress

Is economic progress a suitable measure for how well a country is doing? For example, could a society be flourishing financially though not doing so well in other areas such as mental well-being or social relationships? Are there other ways for countries to measure progress?

Is personality carved in stone?

Can personality traits such as people?s openness to experience or conscientiousness change over time? And if so how does this happen?

Smiling can change your mood

Do you feel good because you smile or do you smile because you feel good?

Acknowledging non academic success

What are the consequences of poor academic performance early on in school? Can poor achievement have a lasting effect on student well-being? If so what can be done?

Is the happiness boom making us happy?

Since the late 1990?s there has been an increasing amount of public attention surrounding happiness and happiness boosting techniques. Yet some national surveys show that during this time people have become sadder and more anxious? Is pursuing happiness undermining how we feel? And if so why?

Litter and graffiti lead to more serious crime

Will minor crimes occuring within a community, such as litter or graffiti, result in more serious criminal activity? For example, will people steal money from an envelope protruding from a postbox if there is litter on the ground or graffiti on the postbox?

Pizza face turned out to be a winner

What are the consequences of name calling at school? Will nicknames such as specky four eyes or fat cabbage have a detrimental effect on young people? Or is teasing a positive part of playground experience which has the capacity to build life skills rather than diminish them?

Selflessness, spirituality and the brain

Why are activities such as music, prayer or meditation good for psychological well-being?

Winter walk in the park

Does the cold weather prevent you from going for a walk in the park, a stroll in the wood or a hike up a hill? Are the weather conditions a reasonable excuse for not going outside?

Misconceptions about the brain

Does listening to Mozart make people smarter? Will eating spinach make you stronger? Edinburgh University Professor Sergio Della Salla challenged some common misconceptions about science in his Christmas lecture last week.

Synchronous activities like singing or dancing increase cooperation

There are aspects of cultural life which require people to act in synchronicity, this could be marching in the army, playing in a band, singing in a choir or dancing at a rave. What are the outcomes of such experiences?

Learning from mistakes; it's all in the process

There is an interesting short article in today?s guardian on the topic of learning from mistakes at work.

Rewarding children for being helpful undermines future altruism

Will giving children rewards for being kind increase the likelihood that they will be helpful in the future?

Flourishing and positive emotions

Why is it that some people overcome, and grow from, the challenges and setbacks in life, while other people crumble in response to adversity?

Happiness is socially contagious

Could the happiness of others, including strangers, influence an individual?s level of happiness?

Teaching emotional literacy in schools doesn't work

Carol Craig, The Centre's Chief Executive, wrote a 100 page paper in September 2007 on the potential dangers of teaching social and emotional skills (SEAL) to young people in schools.

Mindfulness therapy for depression

Antidepressant prescribing in the UK is at an all time high; with 20 per cent more prescribing occurring in Scotland than in England.

The effect of a green environment on health inequalities

Could living in a green environment reduce the health inequalities associated with socioeconomic status? It has long been known that disparities in health are linked to socioeconomic position, and now the first study of its kind has looked at access to a green environment and the relationship that this has to health in low socioeconomic status groups.

Which way the buggy faces influences child development

Recent research from the University of Dundee, presented at The British Psychological Society Annual Conference (Scottish Branch) on Saturday, reveals that babies, who are pushed in buggies which face the mother, rather than face away towards the outside environment, are less stressed. Not only does having a buggy facing the mother reduce infant stress levels but it also increased parent child interactions; parents in this condition were twice as likely to speak to their child. The researchers also found that babies in the ?facing mother? condition were more likely to laugh and were more self-aware. The findings are the first of this kind and have implications for language and brain development.

Even personality can change

There is an interesting article by Sharon Begley author of 'Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain" in Newsweek today. Begley gives a short, clear and concise argument for how people can change, she uses an analogy of the brain being like 'silly putty'; experience can shape and change it. Begely argues that people are not as fixed as they might believe. For example, aspects of personality such as introversion can and do change across the lifespan. The scientific evidence suggests that people have the capacity to overcome genetic predispositions and achieve more than would have been predicted by early traits.

Could individualism create problem drinking?

Could individualism, of a whole country or area, predict alcohol consumption within the population? According to a recent study individualism has a toxic effect on the drinking behaviour of young people and adults. The study found that those people living in areas which place a high value on individualism display increased alcohol consumption. The effect of individualism on boozing was found to play a role over and above other variables such as income, climate, gender and religion. In another experiment, the researchers temporarily induced people to adopt either an individualist or collectivist orientation. What they found was that the orientation people took influenced whether they felt like drinking alcohol: individualists wanted to drink more.

Thinking through Positive Psychology

The October issue of Theory and Psychology is dedicated to thinking through positive psychology. The various critiques provide important and useful insights, as well as suggestions for ways forward. The critiques may help those researching and applying positive psychology to be aware of the potential barriers underpinning the discipline; barriers which have the capacity to undermine not facilitate the health, well-being and flourishing of people and society.

What do happy people do?

Results from a 30 year longitudinal study reveal that happy, American, people tend to read more newspapers, are more socially active, vote more and attend more religious services, compared to unhappy people. The study found that unhappy people watch more TV. The authors say that TV tends to provide viewers with short term pleasure rather than long term gains. It is unclear, from this study, whether watching TV causes unhappiness or whether unhappy people watch TV.

Increasing well-being through small and frequent activities

An interesting finding from psychology is that people tend to adapt, quite quickly, to major life events; any initial increase in happiness goes back to previous levels. What this means is that people don?t achieve lasting happiness from the things that happen to them. However, new research shows that increasing the frequency of smaller positive events such as exercising or attending a religious ceremony may help to overcome this propensity to adapt to life events, and produce a lasting change in personal well-being.

Violent video games and aggression

Previous research has shown that increased levels of violent video playing causes American young people to be more aggressive. Critics say that this effect does not apply to everyone. They give the example of countries such as Japan who have very low levels of violence despite the fact that many young people play violent video games. This criticism has now been challenged by new research which shows that Japanese young people who often play violent video games do become more aggressive.

Positive emotions build resources through meditation

Research shows that experiencing positive emotions produces momentary gains: they broaden perception. However, can feeling good in the moment produce lasting changes such as building resilience, hope and acceptance of the self and others? A recent study demonstrates that love and kindness meditation boosts positive emotion. The study also found that the daily changes in positive emotions played a role in building physical, social and psychological resources. These changes in personal capital predicted life satisfaction and depressive symptoms in participants.

Self-belief increases mathematical problem solving

Is it the case that some people are naturally superior at solving mathematical problems than others? Or is it the case that factors such as beliefs about ability effect how well people do on the task? A recent study has found that there are important reasons, over and above ability, which determine how quickly and accurately people solve math problems. The study found that self-efficacy: confidence about solving math problems, influenced accuracy and speed of mathematical problem solving. The study also found that prompting students: directing them to reflect on previous experience or strategies used, benefited complex problem solving.

'Five a Day' to keep the blues at bay

Based on the research what small, everyday things, can people do to achieve a sense of happiness and well-being? According to the Mental Capital and Well-being report, produced by the New Economics Foundation, there are some very simple techniques for boosting vitality and mental well-being. The report was compiled by over 400 scientists, for the government thinktank Foresight, and the authors say that just as health and nutrition can be increased with five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, well-being can be increased by incorporating 5 of the following into each day.

Nurturing depressive symptoms in young people

According to a recent study, published in the September issue of the Journal of Psychiatry, teenagers are more likely to display symptoms associated with depression if their mother has major depression. This effect was found for both adopted and non adopted young people. In the same journal another study found that treating the mother?s depression had a positive impact upon the mood and behaviour of the child. Together these studies clearly illustrate the role of the environment in cultivating depressive symptoms in young people.

A dose of nature

What would work better for increasing the concentration and calmness in a young person diagnosed with ADHD: a 20 minute walk in the park or some Ritalin? A recent study clearly shows that a walk in the park increases concentration in children with ADHD compared to those who walked in a town area or in their local neighborhood. The authors suggest that this effect may be as good as, if not better than, medication. The findings contribute to previous research which showed that the direct experience of a green environment can facilitate calmness and attention.

Using humor to remember things

What do you do if you want to remember something? According to previous research you should make the things to be remembered into a bizarre scenario or image. However recent research has revealed that the weirdness of items to be remembered is not what matters for later recall, but how funny they are is. The study found that when people remembered things which were bizarre and funny, they had superior recall compared to those who had the less funny bizarre items

Optimism and the credit crunch

Research within Positive Psychology shows that having a positive outlook on life results in both health and well-being benefits: optimism is a good thing. However, wearing rosy tinted spectacles can have a downside and it seems that too much optimism is not a good thing. For example, there are suggestions that the recent economic crisis is down to over optimism among traders and investors. In fact some say that this whole mess is a result of people being unrealistically optimistic and overconfident.

Mothers expectations predict daughters self-confidence

Mothers who expect that their daughters will do well tend to have daughters who do well. The findings show that the impact of maternal expectations on girls? confidence can last beyond school and influence the occupational attainment of females: woman were more likely to feel a sense of control over their lives and earn more money at work if their mother had expected a lot of them.

The Brain that Changes Itself

At our most recent event Professor Carol Dweck recommended a book by psychiatrist Norman Doidge called ?The Brain that Changes itself?. Dweck?s research shows that teaching people about the brain and its huge potential is a vital component in cultivating a growth mindset and motivating people. Doing this not only motivates people but helps people to perform better in the area they put effort into.

Great expectations in the work place

Holding high expectations about staff and students is they key ingredient for a successful organisation according to academics from Tel Aviv University. Their research reveals that leaders who believe in the potential of their staff and who expect a lot of them end up with a workforce, or classroom, which performs better. Having high expectations not only improves performance but can positively influence things like profitability and economic success.

Growing from the mistakes we make

In this month?s Association for Psychological Science magazine there is an interesting piece on learning, which outlines strategies for learning more quickly and effectively within educational and work settings. The studies illustrate how adopting a particular mindset, for example, can impact at the cellular, the behavioural and even the organisational level. The great news is that there are certain things individuals and organisations can do which have an impact on motivation and resilience, and they can also make a difference to how profitable a company might be.

Nature can help unruly teenagers

Some of the psychological problems experienced by young people have been proposed to arise from what, American author, Richard Lou terms as the 'nature deficit disorder'.

Can love and forgiveness change the brain?

Scientists have been intrigued by extraordinary people like the Dali Lama and other individuals who are involved in eastern practices such as meditation. What has fascinated researchers is how these individuals appear to have a greater ability for love, compassion and forgiveness. These virtues are thought to be cultivated through specific practices and are not inborn and fixed. Not only could love, compassion and forgiveness be cultivated through specific experiences but they may actually change the structure of the brain. Professor Richard Davidson has set up a new research project to apply hard science to these questions.

Sacrificing our safety and our sanity to sanitisation

Just as overprotecting children can undermine their ability to cope; sanitising people against germs may undermine their immune system and cause more, not less, physical and mental health problems.

Leading the way to employee health and well-being

Does leadership matter in relation to employee well-being and absenteeism? For example, does the leader of a company or organisation affect factors such as worker stress, anxiety, sick leave and disability? According to a recent meta analysis of studies there is a moderate to strong effect of good leadership on well-being and a moderate effect of leadership on absenteeism and disability pensions

The Dark Side: The Centre's view

Following the allegations against Martin Seligman, which appeared on the web, the Positive Psychology coach Ben Dean was very effective in alerting people internationally to the story. He sent out an email with Martin Seligman's statement to thousands of people and asked them to forward it on to their database.

Are the Scots happy?

Are the Scot?s happy and satisfied with life? According to a recent survey published by the Scottish government, which compares scores over 24 European countries, they are. These findings are contradictory to previous research which showed that Scottish people scored very low on these measures. The findings revealed that married people are happier, so too are older people: this supports other international findings. Despite the positives, the study also revealed a worrying discrepancy between deprived and affluent areas: those in the most deprived areas of Scotland are twice as likely to score below the average for happiness compared to the least deprived areas.

Don't climb that tree, it's too risky

Think about your favorite place to play when you were young - was it indoors or outdoors? Now, think about whether this play place was in view of adults or out of sight of them? Tim Gill asked this question to an audience at our Flourishing event earlier year. Overwhelmingly the audience responded to outdoors and out of sight. Though this is adults' experience of childhood, how does this translate to young people today?

Happiness and longevity

A recent article in the September issue of the Journal of Happiness Studies, by Ruut Veenhoven of Erasmus University Rotterdam, shows that happiness is a causal factor in longevity: happy people live longer. The study also found that this is not the case for seriously ill people: being happy and chronically ill doesn?t lengthen life. The authors conclude that happiness protects people against falling ill and increases life span.

Update on The Dark Side

As yet we still have not received our copy of Jane Mayer's book The Dark Side. (See previous Emily's news item for background information.)

Reflecting on values transcends the self and increases love and acceptance

Previous research has shown that when people reflect on their values they are less defensive and more willing to accept information about behaviors which may be damaging to their health, such as smoking or drinking too much coffee. It was previously thought that this reduction in defensiveness results from a boost in self esteem. Yet, two recent studies by Jennifer Crocker and colleagues shows that reflecting on values transcends the self. This is because people are focusing on other people or things: they found that reflecting on values increases positive emotions such as love, empathy and acceptance. The authors state that the beneficial outcome of reflecting on values may arise from an increase in the love hormone Oxytocin.

Nature has a calming effect, watching it on TV doesn't

Previous research has shown that nature has enormous benefits on our health and well-being, for example a view of greenery from a hospital room window can aid recovery after surgery. But does nature have a direct impact on us i.e. do we have to experience it first hand to feel the effects, or can we observe nature second hand through a television screen and still reap the benefits? According to researchers watching natural scenes on a plasma screen is just not the same as experiencing nature directly and does not produce the same beneficial outcomes.

Allegations against Martin Seligman

On Monday this week some blogs appeared on the internet which not only claimed that Martin Seligman?s learned helplessness theory had been used by two CIA agents (Mitchell and Jessen) to help them construct torture techniques but also that Seligman had ?assisted? in the process.

You may not see it, but TV is affecting children

Though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under 2 should NOT be exposed to ANY television, the research shows that infants between 2.5 months and 24 months are exposed to on average 120 minutes of television per day. What are the effects of TV exposure in young people? Does it help, hinder or contribute nothing towards their development? According to a growing body of research increased TV exposure is affecting the literacy, relationships and cognitive development of our young people. Recent research adds to this by showing that having a TV chattering away in the background affects young people?s attention span and takes away from focused play.

The Unintended Consequences of Childline

Esther Rantzen set up Childline back in the late 80s to help those young people who were being sexually or physically abused, and to raise awareness of where this abuse was happening. What she did not intend, or expect, was the wider impact that Childline would have on society. Rantzen writes in today's Daily Mail about how the child line campaign has resulted in an atmosphere of political correctness which overprotects people and undermines relationships. She now feels responsible for this unwelcome development.

What happens when I think you can change

Would you take time to help someone if you thought that they couldn?t improve? After all if people can?t change why try to give advice or feedback. Also, why bother to look out for alterations in behaviour, either good or bad, if people are fixed in their ability levels

Less power may equal less success at work

Does being in a low power role at work impair a person?s cognitive ability? And if so, what implications does this have for management and organisations?

Growing Success

Does it make corporate sense to recruit business students who gained the highest marks at University and who shine out as stars? According to Professor Carol Dweck being successful in the business world is not just about ability but is more about applying the right kind of mindset towards work: a mindset which views setbacks and challenges as learning opportunities and which sees people as having a huge potential for growth (rather than those adopting the less helpful fixed mindset which views failure as a lack of the smarts and people as fixed in their ability levels)

Exam success is determined by 'mental toughness' and not intelligence

Is it the case that those who are less able will be less successful? According to Dr Clough of the University of Hull, this will be true if pupils are taught to talk about their emotions at the expense of learning. However, if schools focus more on resilience and setting an ethos which encourages people to overcome setbacks and try new ways of doing things when stuck, then children with less ability can exceed expectations and achieve more.

School ethos can influence smoking behaviour in pupils

A recent study carried out by researchers at Glasgow University has revealed that pupils who experience a positive school environment are less likely to take up smoking.

Therapeutic education is undermining young people and adults

What happens when academic institutions start to value the expression of emotions over the expression of ideas? And, what happens when these same institutions begin to view both students and staff as emotional, vulnerable and helpless? According to Katherine Ecclestone what happens is that we turn teaching into therapy and in the process we destroy the education system.

Grandparents are good for young people's well-being and resilience

Contrary to previous research, which showed that grandparents who regularly care for their grandchildren were depressed and that this had a negative impact on the child, a recent study from Oxford University has revealed that involved grandparents positively influence children?s lives.

Scoring goals comes from having the right stereotype

It?s 2004 and England is playing France in the European finals. David Beckham is to take the crucial penalty shot which will determine England?s success. The stadium is still with anticipation. He shoots and he misses. This is Beckham?s third penalty mistake in succession. The crowd are devastated but, hey, they could have predicted the miss.

Artificially boosting happiness in young people impairs learning

Though happiness has been shown to be beneficial for young people's creative thinking and flexibility, recent research shows that artificially boosting happiness in young people impairs their ability to do well on tasks which require attention to detail. This is thought to be because encouraging people to feel good means that they don?t focus on correcting weaknesses and also because the good mood indicates that things are going well and so there is no need to change things.

It's okay to keep those feelings inside

There is a popular belief that if something bad happens then talking about it is a good thing. But is it normal, or even healthy, to be expressing emotions and talking about negative events after they occur? And should people be encouraged to do so? According to recent research people who chose not to express their feelings, after a major trauma, do better than those who do talk about it. The findings indicate that when people express their thoughts and feelings about the negative event they have a worse reaction that those who don?t .

Giving up cigarettes is socially contagious

When trying to get people to stop smoking is it best to focus on the individual? or on the social network which people are part of? According to new research from Harvard University, it is much better to focus on the social group or network in order to help people give up the addiction. The study found that smoking cessation is contagious: people stop smoking in ?network clusters? and not on their own, and those who continue to smoke are pushed to the edge of their social group.

Embracing the blues

What differentiates how one feels in response to normal negative life events, such as the death of a family member, and clinical depression? A recent article in The Utne Reader explores this question. The article says that normal negative emotions, which were once thought to serve a purpose and to help people do things such as build relationships and correct mistakes, are now being pathologised and are viewed as abnormal and unwanted.

Children of active parents are more likely to succeed

Previous research suggests that there are certain activities which directly raise young peoples' ambition and aspiration level. Recent findings from a three year study, between Glasgow University and Sheffield University, suggests that it is not just what the young people do but it is also about what their parents do. The study showed that young people with socially active parents perform best at school.

More is not always better

There is a mistaken assumption which is that if we give people more choices then they will be happier. However, the research shows that though some choice is good more is not necessarily better. For example, people who have too many options often regret their choices and feel anxious and dissatisfied. This research is backed up by a new study which shows that too many choices, whether good or bad, can be mentally exhausting.

Values are the key to happiness

Recent research conducted by an all-party group of Christian MPs suggests that discontent in the UK has risen due to a decline in key values rather than material wealth. The authors say that if we were to return to some of the values which were once the norm in society then happiness and well-being would increase.

The long tem effect of antidepressants. Who am I?

Since the 1990s it has become much more common for young people to be prescribed medication for depression and anxiety, and this is more extreme in the States. Many young people are on these drugs for a long time. Do we know the long term effects of these drugs on young people?s development?

If at first you don't succeed, you're in excellent company

What would you do if you thought, or someone told you, that something was impossible and that you would never achieve it? Would you try for it anyway? Or, what would you do if you failed at something, then you failed again, and again and again. Would you keep trying despite the setbacks?

Joining the International Positive Psychology Association

Some of you may know that our Chief Execuative Carol is the secretary for the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA)

Happiness is the measure of true wealth

The Centre is delighted that the distinguished British philosopher AC Grayling has entered the debate about happiness. You may know that we?ve been concerned about how happiness is being used by economist Richard Layard, and taken up in the media.

Healthier diets foster success and well-being

We recently hosted an event on flourishing in adolescence, where Dr Alex Richardson from Oxford university presented some scientific findings on the importance of consuming certain foods, such as those foods containing omega three fatty acids. The research shows that certain fats are vital for our well-being and that increasing our intake of these fats positively impacts upon our thoughts, feelings and behaviour. A new study further supports Alex?s findings - that diet is vitally important for well-being, by showing that children who have healthier diets do better in school.

Training in the arts improves thinking

It has long been observed that people who play music perform better in other academic activities. Since 2004, cognitive neuroscientists, from seven large universities in The States, have been working to understand whether ?smart people are drawn to the arts, or whether arts training makes people smart? The study group released preliminary findings earlier this month which conclude that arts training improves thinking: it improves math, reading skills and memory.

The commercialisation of young people

Cambridge University Professor Robin Alexander is involved in the biggest review of Primary education in 40 years. Alexander is arguing that adults, and the commercial world which they have created, are contributing to the unhappiness among our young people. He says that primary schools are now engulfed with the cult of celebrity, materialism and violence. What's more is that the stress caused by modernity is interfering with young people's ability to overcome setbacks; and so interferes with their learning.

A resource for young people

A new website was launched earlier this week by the Young Scot. The aim of the webiste is to provide young people with an online resource of activities which will be on in thier area, and which they can get involved in. Young people can search according to specific categories and according to where they live. The activities they can participate in range from volunteering opportunities to learning activities as well many other things.

Restricting TV time reduces obestiy

Recent research shows that parents who cut down on the amount of ?Television Time? their children participate in per week, has a direct effect on these youngsters weight 2 years down the line: their Body mass index lowered. The researchers say that this is because less ?TV Time? encourages young people to be more active and eat less food.

Is happiness fixed from birth?

Researchers have just published findings which are being interpreted to mean that happiness is fixed. What they say is that the study supports the idea that we are either born happy or unhappy; and that there is nothing we can do about it. However, the claim that happiness is fixed is flawed, and a closer look at the findings from this study could in fact support the opposite conclusion: happiness levels are not entirely fixed. This is because the researchers leave a portion of happiness unexplained.

Revolution of values

In the February issue of the Psychologist magazine, Associate Professor Tim Kasser puts forward a convincing argument attacking western materialism. He argues that we have become a thing centred, rather than person centred, culture and that this has several consequences: it is leading to unhappiness; harming the environment and destroying social connections. He calls for a revolution of values.

The drugs don't work - but therapy will?

A recent study shows that antidepressant medication has little clinical benefit for the majority of depressed people. The research highlights that these drugs only help a small number of the most severely depressed individuals. Some say that a good alternative would be to increase the number of talking therapists for people with depression ? is this really the most helpful solution?

Shifting the focus to staff well-being

Health secretary Alan Johnson has called for organisations to put well-being higher up on their list of priorities. He also argued for GP's to change their focus when writing sick notes, suggesting that they focus on what people can do given their situation rather than signing them off for weeks at a time. Johnson?s announcement was part of a speech he gave last week at the British Heart Foundation conference in London.

Debate on teaching happiness

There is an interesting debate in the Guardian today, between Anthony Seldon and Frank Ferudi, on 'Can we teach people to be happy'

Older people are happy

Recent research reveals that young people think that growing old will be a miserable experience, despite the fact that older people report being happy. The study found that young people who are pessimistic about growing older are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors - such as excessive drinking.

Can people be too happy?

According to recent research extreme happiness has its downsides - and people really can be too happy. The study finds that people who score very high (10 on a one to ten point scale) are less successful in education, income and political participation than those who score moderately happy (7 or 8 on a ten point scale) . This paper questions whether it is sensible for a society to encourage already happy people to aspire to even higher levels of happiness.

What makes children happy?

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have found that spirituality plays a role in childhood happiness. Previous research has shown that spirituality accounts for 4 or 5% of happiness in adults. This study found that spirituality accounts for 6.5-16.5% of children?s happiness. The researchers thought that young peoples? spirituality would be too immature to account for their well-being and say that the findings have implications for happiness being built into children?s experiences.

From the tennis court to the work place

Researchers from the Centre for Sport and Exercise Science at Sheffield Hallam University are working with organisations like the Royal Yachting Association and English Golf to directly apply the findings within the workplace. They are translating the mental habits of high flying athletes to motivate and engage people at work. Primarily they are interested in how different people respond to stress and pressure.

Who's fooling whom?

Workers in the UK are much more likely to suppress their natural behaviour at work and take on a false personality compared to the average European worker, according to a recent study. The study reveals that adopting a ?fake? personality at interview and in the workplace can lead to stress.

Why life is good

A recent article in the New Statesman discusses the dangerous discrepancy which exists between our private optimism and our public pessimism. This gap, Matthew Taylor believes, is caused by certain aspects of modernity: a sharp rise in individualism and a perception that events are beyond our control. We have come to view our authentic selves as revealed in private and personal spheres, rather than the public and social. Taylor suggests that we need to forge a new collectivism which is missing from modern life: a place where people can renew hope and develop ideas and solutions, as well as creating a more balanced and ethical media.

Work stress and heart disease: the mediators

Stress at work can influence employees behaviours, such as their level of physical activity and their diet. It can also have a biological impact on the body, raising the risk of heart diseaase.

Antidepressant studies unpublished

Recent research published in The New England Journal of Medicine shows that the makers of antidepressants, such as Prozac, are misleading doctors and consumers about the ?true? effectiveness of these drugs. The paper reviews 74 trials involving 12 drugs. The researchers revealed that only 14% of studies which showed disappointing or uncertain results were reported, while all of the positive studies, except one, were reported. The researchers caution that this selective publication can lead doctors to believe that drugs are more effective than they really are.

Happiness event

The Centre hosted two events last week: one in Dundee and one in Glasgow, which featured Tal Ben Shahar from Harvard University. Both of the events sold out and were a huge success. Tal presented scientific studies which have implications for how we might begin to make positive changes both at an individual and a group level.

Caveman blues

A news item by John Naish, for the Times online, shows how ?modern life baffles our Stone Age brains into thinking we can never have enough? He looks at how our primitive instincts are leading us to: over consume, over eat and feel fearful and unhappy. The article suggests that we need to challenge our beliefs that ?more is better? and endorse a philosophy of ?enough now?. He also suggests that we make a conscious effort to express more gratitude for the things we have. Our ancestors would have worked hard for the things which come so easily to us. Naish also suggests that we accept ourselves for who we are with out feeling the need to be richer, cooler or someone different.

Slowing the hedonic treadmill

Research, conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, shows that paying attention to the details can help us avoid becoming bored with the same old things. It could help people stay on diets, reduce novelty spending and maintain levels of happiness.

Exercising judgement: the psychology of fitness

One in five adults in Scotland is now clinically obese, and the figure is expected to rise. A recent article in psychological science looks at the growing body of research into why people exercise, and why they don?t. This article brings together some research which highlights some things which can help people to get active. Preferring to be sedentary is not an innate human trait. We have a basic need for physical activity and this is being undermined. This article has research from the leading experts and it provides some useful tips for sustainable exercise.

Mental Health in Education

In Australia, The Mental Health and Workforce Division are seeking to help teachers, mentors and lecturers integrate mental health into the primary, secondary and undergraduate curriculum.

Tal's tips for happiness

A recent news article, published in the Guardian at the end of December, features Tal Ben Shahar: Harvard University?s most popular lecturer. Based on scientific evidence Tal says that money, wealth and status do not provide happiness: we have got richer but not happier. With the rise in GDP there has also been a rise in depression and anxiety levels. Positive Psychology is providing some insights into how people can counteract the negative effects of modern life. Tal gives the reader four useful tips. These are things which may help reduce things like depression and anxiety and increase things like happiness.

Public policy and effects of media violence

In a recent article, in Social Issues and Policy Review, Psychologists explore the literature on the effects of media violence on children and the lack of public policy to curb the risk. The authors, Doug Gentile, Muniba Saleem and Craig Anderson say that more can be done than has previously been tried, to reduce children?s media violence exposure. There are hundreds of studies which link media violence to aggression in children and adolescents, yet attempts to reduce children?s media violence exposure have failed.They suggest a few changes which can be made.

A new way to think about social relations

An article in todays Boston globe details the work by Harvard social psychologist Todd Pittinsky. Pittinsky challenges the widely held belief that we can improve society by eliminating the negative attitudes people hold towards other people and groups. Pittinsky is critical because this approach has nothing to say about the benefits of generating positive attitudes towards others. Pittinskys research is showing that negative and positive attitudes are not opposite ends of a spectrum, but are independent. Instead of training people to hate each other less, Pittinsky says, it may be time to teach them to like each other more.

Happiness can help cut blood pressure and obesity

Research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology has shown that those who report more positive emotion have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol has been associated with many adverse outcomes such as the thickening of the arteries which leads to heart disease, abdominal obesity and impaired immune functioning, along with other adverse effects.

Brain turns to the positive when faced with death

A recent study carried out by psychologists Nathan DeWall and Roy Baumeister shows that when people are faced with thoughts of death their mind isn?t paralysed with negativity or fear. Instead, the brain instinctively moves towards happier images and ideas.

Cultivating happiness

Can we teach children to be happier by focusing more on the positive and by building resilience? Christine Carter, the executive director of the Greater Good Science Centre at University of California: Berkeley, has created a new project at the Centre which aims to teach parents about the ?social science of raising happy kids?

Creative work is good for your health

A study, published in this month?s Journal of Health and Social Behavior, has found that creative activity helps people to stay healthy. The study shows that employees who have more control over their daily activities, and do challenging work they enjoy, are likely to be in better health.

Attending to the positive reduces worrying

Recent research shows that people can learn to reduce their worries by attending to the positive. The study investigated whether what we focus our attention on influences our ability to stop worrying.

Giving gifts or our time to others is good for us

An article in today?s New York Times talks about why giving gifts, and other non material things, is an important part of human interaction. The article draws on research from psychology to show that the act of giving is good for our own selves, as well as for others.

Disguising unsustainable actions eases our mind

Eminent Psychologist, Albert Bandura argues that many of us are pursuing practices that are detrimental to the environment and are not sustainable. Yet, we justify these actions by a kind of moral disengagement. This eases our conscience but does not ease the negative impact these practices will have on the planet and future generations. The evidence suggests that personal economic savings on energy consumption might be offset by increased consumption of goods and services, which may be more harmful for the environment.

Babies prefer helpers

A recent study, published in the November issue of the Journal of Nature, has found that babies are able to distinguish helpful from unhelpful people. The Yale researchers found that babies prefer individuals who help others to those who either do nothing, or interfere with others? goals

The growth mindset and success

Carol Dweck has written an article in this month?s edition of Scientific American Mind. Dweck spells out the secret to raising smart kids: don?t tell them they are. Instead, Dweck recommends that people should praise for effort, strategies and process if they want to foster motivation and success in young people.

Searching for happiness at work

A recent article, by Professor Warr, in the December issue of ?The Psychologist? magazine takes a look at happiness in the workplace. Professor Warr is a leading psychologist at the Institute of Work Psychology in Sheffield. He writes about the complex nature of happiness and discusses his framework for research and practice. Warr suggests that it would help if investigators and practitioners in organisations could think about happiness in 6 different ways. These are detailed below.

Child well-being and income inequality

Recent research published by UNICEF shows that child well-being in rich countries is related more to income inequality rather than further economic growth. The researchers looked at what affected child well-being more: being poor, or being poorer than others. They found that the latter had more of a damaging effect on children?s well-being.

Giving is better than receiving

Research shows that giving to others is important for health and well-being. Studies have shown that providing social support for others is more beneficial than receiving it.

Living arrangements: happiness, health and old age

A recent study, based on findings from 19 European countries, found that in a lot of countries, including the UK, older people living alone were less happy and had lower life satisfaction than those who lived with others. There were some differences between European countries. Older people in Scandinavia were happier than in other regions of Europe.

Storytelling for business

Telling stories is a unique human skill which everyone can do. In the workplace people are telling stories all the time. This article looks at how stories can be harnessed, taught and exploited at work, in order to facilitate change and motivate people.

Violent video games are great aggression teachers

Recent research has shown that violent video games can teach aggression to the people playing them. The researchers found that this is because video games use the same techniques that really great teachers use.

Teamwork improves learning and career success

A recent longitudinal study has shown that students participating in cooperative learning activities learn better and develop higher level skills. The study was carried out by Professor Elsa Sanchez and Professor Richard Craig at the University of Pennsylvania, within the horticulture department. The researchers designed their Plant Systematics course around a cooperative learning module.

Can a lack of sleep cause Psychiatric disorders?

Almost all psychiatric disorders show some problems with sleep. Recent research shows that a lack of sleep can cause psychological disturbances, rather than the other way around.

Oxytocin reveals why we are generous

Researchers have shown that oxytocin, otherwise known as the love hormone, is associated with increased giving. Neuroeconomist Paul J. Zak of Claremont Graduate University has previously shown that oxytocin increases trust. His most recent study shows that oxytocin has an even bigger effect on generosity, than on trust.

Thought control and chocolate consumption

Research from the University of Hertfordshire has found that deliberately suppressing the thought of eating chocolate has the ironic effect of causing increased chocolate consumption.

Bringing parenting classes to the football field

An Assistant Professor at the University of Buffalo has been using football to help fathers get interested in, and understand, their children?s attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder(ADHD). The researcher suggests that this type of intervention leads to improved success on the field, which translates into success at home and school.

Optimism and the brain

As humans we have a natural tendency to be optimistic. A recent study has shed light on the relationship between optimism and the brain. They found that people generally tend to be optimistic and that there are specific areas of the brain involved in positive future thinking. This study offers a possible mechanism mediating the observed optimism bias. The research has implications for depression because we know that depressed people tend to be pessimistic. It also has implications for the effect of interventions on the brain. People can learn to be optimistic and it may be that this could positively impact on the brain; further studies would need to examine this.

Happiness and recovery from negative events

A recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology has found that while European-Americans claim to be happy in general - more happy than Asia Koreans or Japanese - they are more easily made less happy when faced with negative events and recover at a slower rate.

Health and economic impact of reducing class sizes

A longitudinal randomised study conducted in the U.S. has found that a simple intervention i.e. reducing class sizes from 22-25 pupils to 13-17 pupils in kindergarten, has a positive long term effect on health and achievement. The study suggests that reducing class sizes is more effective in generating more quality adjusted life-year gains per dollar invested than the majority of medical interventions.

Some things get better with age

While there are certain realities of getting older such as physical and cognitive decline, the research is finding that older people are happy and content, and happier than their younger counterparts. Psychologist Laura Carstensen calls this the paradox of aging. The explanation seems not to be biological but experiential


One of the,many, themes which emerged during yesterday's conference on 'Wisdom and Flamboyance' was that mental health is not just the absence of mental illness. Though they are closely related, they do not lie on a continuum with mental health at one end and mental illness at the other. Instead we need to create the conditions which promote flourishing. In the older years this means not only boosting positive emotion but also looking at things such as creating meaning and purpose in life.

Body-mind techniques increase performance

A recent study shows that a short term (5 day) course in body-mind meditation training improved attention control and reduced stress in undergraduate students, compared to those students who undertook a relaxation training course. In addition, those people in the meditation course showed lower levels of anger, depression, anxiety and fatigue

Learning beyond the classroom

Learning is a lifelong process: It doesn't stop when we leave school. Psychology has made major advancements in what is known about learning across the lifespan. A group of more than 30 researchers are brigding the gap between the ivory tower and the mainstreet by disseminating this knowledge and carrying out research.

Resilient parenting

There are some people who thrive and do well in life despite having experienced poor parenting and parental bonds. A recent study has focused on two groups of mothers who report poor bonding with their parents, one group that is predictably vulnerable and one that is functioning adaptively and providing good parenting to their own infants. The findings show that individuals who report poor bonds with their parents can overcome their experiences to become resilient individuals and successful parents.

Predicting Health vs. Predicting Disease

Corey Keyes is one of the keynote speakers at our event on the 11th of October, Corey was part of the Predicting Health Symposium, at Emory University last year.

Raising Grateful Children

People who model gratitude will be more likely to elicit it in others, according to Professor Jeffrey Froh.

The brain's response to a growth mindset

Recent neuroimaging studies support Carol Dweck's theory of intelligence. Brain imaging experiments illustrate the benefits of adopting a ?growth mindset?. Adopting a belief that people can increase their ability through hard work and effort has been shown to have a positive impact on a persons learning and success. In contrast, adopting a ?fixed? mindset, leads to decreased performance and feelings of helplessness after failure as well as anxiety after success.

The impact of loneliness on health and well-being

A recent study reveals that loneliness may have a long term impact on health and well-being. According to this study loneliness can take its toll as life progresses.

Self regulation is important for academic success

A study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania has found that a child?s ability to regulate their behavior (e.g. paying attention to a task, delaying gratification or inhibiting impulsive behavior) was more important than intelligence, for academic success.

Simple Interventions can reduce achievement gaps

Simple psychological Interventions, which do not cost much in time or money, can be effective in reducing the achievment gap and raising performance in marginalised groups.

Good lives don't need to cost the earth

Europe is less carbon efficient now than 40 years ago says new index of carbon efficiency and human well-being. Europe-wide research by nef (the new economics foundation), using a new measure of carbon efficiency and real economic progress reveals that Europe is less efficient today at delivering human well-being than it was 40 years ago.

Is depression overdiagnosed? yes.

The number of people being diagnosed as suffering from depression has been rising. According to Professor Gordon Parker, from the University of New South Wales, we are misdiagnosing unhappiness.

The impact of well-being on health outcomes

Researchers in California have carried out a meta-analysis to examine the effects of well-being (e.g. positive emotion, happiness, life satisfaction, optimism) on health outcomes (e.g. objective physical outcomes such as stress levels and longevity).

High hope and problem gambling

A recent study conducted at the University of Western Sydney has revealed that having high levels of hope may have a downside. In relation to gambling, the research has revealed that problem gamblers have higher and more enduring levels of hope that they will win, compared to other people.

Gratitude is good medicine for organ recipients

A recent study has found that, after the effects of immunosuppressant drugs, gratitude may be the best medicine for organ transplant patients.

Talking about problems is not always a good thing

Recent research published in the Journal of Developmental Psychology has found that girls who excessively discuss problems and who constantly vent over personal problems, show increased levels of anxiety and depression ? this was not found for boys.

Resilience: build skills to endure hardship

People who are resilient rebound more quickly from setback or challenges compared to those who don't utilise resilient characteristics.

Mindset website

Here is a website which has everything you might want to know about Professor Carol Dwecks work on mindsets. It has some useful articles, tips and information for those who want to apply her theory.

Moving from good to great

How can good companies become great companies?

The myth of the teen brain

We blame teenage turmoil on immature brains. But did the brain cause the turmoil, or did the turmoil shape the brains?

Young people can change the world

City Year is an American national organization? based on the belief that young people can change the world.?

Brain's response means that we learn from mistake

Researchers at the University of Exeter have identified, for the first time, a mechanism in the brain that reacts in just 0.1 second to things that have resulted in us making errors in the past.

Virtual 'Vital Friends'

?Vital friends: the people you can?t afford to live without? a book by Tom Rath, explores the positive difference it makes to people?s professional lives to have ?best friends? at work

Leave No Child Inside

'Leave No Child Inside' is a growing movement, in the States, which wants to get children out of the house and back to nature

The Effort Effect

According to psychology Professor Carol Dweck overcoming failure is important for success.

Educational site which shares good practice

This seems like a good way of sharing practices.

Children are not mad or bad, they are just scared

Child expert Dorothy Rowe has suggested that the increasing number of children diagnosed with ADHD and Bipolar disorder has arisen as a result of experts misdiagnosing fear and anxiety.

There's much more to a walk in the park

Researchers at the University of Sheffield have found that parks rich in species are not only beneficial for the environment but also for people's general levels of well-being

The science of team success

'A growing body of research shows that groups can systematically enhance their performance'

The biology of charitable donations

Humans often sacrifice material benefits to endorse or to oppose societal causes based on moral beliefs

How children use their local environment

A recent study, at University College London, has found that children's spatial behavior changes depending on where they are, who they are with and what they are doing.

This is your life (and how you tell it)

Researchers have found that the brain has a natural ability to create stories

The Older-and-Wiser Hypothesis

What does it mean to be wise? can wisdom be measured and studied? Are older people wiser than the young?

The (other) Secret

The Secret, a 'positive thinking' book and DVD, distorts science and may be undermining for various groups of people

Motivation and positive relationships

Research from the University of Rochester has shown that people who do something for a partner,

Country walks can help reduce depression

Research from the University of Essex highlights the need to reconnect with nature

Learning from Malawi

Children in Malawi have been taking pictures of their experiences in the environment they live in.

Handicapping with optimism

Optimism has been shown to predict a candidates success in political elections

Coaching interventions in educational settings

Coaching interventions with ?normal? high school students can increase hope and cognitive hardiness.

Want to achieve something - like voting tomorrow?

Researchers have found that taking a third person perspective when visualising doing something raises the likelihood of going on to perform the desired behavior

Learning about positive psychology

If we want Positive Psychology to stay then we need people to learn about this subject

Mellowing with age may help you live longer

Mellowing with age can help you to live longer.

Job vacancy for lecturer in Positive Psychology

Why societies should pursue happiness

Is pursuing happiness a good thing? according to Professor Barry Schwartz it depends on how you define it.

Is it wrong to teach children about feelings?

concepts such as 'emotional literacy' and self-esteem have been challenged by researchers in the UK and the US.

How not to talk to your kids

85% of Americans think that telling their kids that they are smart is important.

How to beat the genetic set point for happiness

According to happiness expert, Sonia Lyubomirsky, happiness is partly genes, a small amount of circumstance and about 40% of intentional activity

Mental health, blood pressure & happiness

Researchers from Warwick University have found that measuring mental health and blood pressure is a better indicator of happiness than Gross Domestic Product

Positive ageing

A study conducted at the University of Colorado has revealed that some things get better with age.

Jennifer Aniston to play Harvard Professor.

Jennifer Aniston is to play Harvard Professor Ellen Langer in an up and coming movie called 'Counter Clockwise'