Positive Psychology and the Body

The Somatopsychic Side to Flourishing
by Dr. Kate Hefferon, PhD | Open University Press © 2013 · 274 pages

"Positive Psychology and the Body." Unfortunately, those two subjects are rarely connected--which is why I was so excited to get this book when I saw the title. It's actually a *textbook* not a normal book. It provides an overview of research on a range of subjects including: “Positive Psychophysiology,” “Positive Neuroscience,” “Positive Sexuality” and “Positive Nutrition.” Big Ideas we explore include a quick look at Martin Seligman's PERMA approach to eudaimonic (vis-a-vis hedonic) happiness, your nervous system (flip the switch!), longevity and positive emotion (some astonishing stats), diet and wellbeing/depression (sugar begone!), and physical activity (science says: it does a body good!).

Positive psychology is defined as the ‘scientific study of virtue, meaning, resilience and wellbeing, as well as evidence based applications to improve the life of individuals and society in the totality of life.’
Dr. Kate Hefferon, PhD
Did you know? We take 10,000 blinks, 20,000 breaths, and 100,000 heart beats a day.
Dr. Kate Hefferon, PhD

“As positive psychology continues to make leaps and bounds in terms of scientific advancement, the focus on the importance of the body within optimal physical and psychological functioning is still lagging. There are 7,626 books written about positive psychology on amazon.co.uk. Not one of them focuses on the body and its role in the facilitation of wellbeing. Indeed, within major textbooks (excluding Hefferon and Boniwell, 2011), there are only brief references to physical activity, touch, nutrition, etc. which leaves one of the most fundamental pieces of the happiness puzzle missing—the body.

This book aims to provide a glimpse into the vast amount of scientific research completed on the physical mechanisms which assist either momentary experiences of pleasure or longer-lasting feelings of meaning and self-development. The approach to this book is a critical reflection on the omission of the body in positive psychology as well as a critical review of the literature to date. This book spans topics such as physical activity, interpersonal touch, sexual behaviors, nutrition, and many more, from a phenomenological to a more psycho-biological approach to happiness. Some of the topics covered in themselves are contradictory to the concept of wellbeing, hence the criticality stems from the reflection on their potential role in flourishing.”

~ Kate Hefferon from Positive Psychology and the Body

I got this book after reading a testimonial by Kate Hefferon in Character Strengths Matter.

When I saw the title of this book in Kate’s micro-bio, I thought to myself, “Aha!! FINALLY!! Someone is talking about positive psychology and the body!!”

(Yes, that’s how I talk to myself.) (And, yes. This is the kind of thing that gets me fired up. :)

So, of course, I immediately got the book. Read it. And, here we are.

This is actually a *textbook* not a normal book. It provides an overview of research on a range of subjects including: “Positive Psychophysiology,” “Positive Neuroscience,” “Positive Sexuality” and “Positive Nutrition.”

If you’re looking to make sure you’ve read everything you can on the subject, I think you’ll enjoy it. (Get a copy of the book here.)

Otherwise, you’ll probably be better off checking out our Notes on the authors mentioned in the book, including: John Ratey’s Spark, Richard Davidson’s The Emotional Life of Your Brain, Dan Siegel’s Mindsight, Tyler Graham and Drew Ramsey’s The Happiness Diet, Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion, Barbara Fredrickson’s Love 2.0, Martin Seligman’s Flourish, Authentic Happiness and Learned Optimism, Carol Dweck’s Mindset and Self-Theories, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow and Creativity.

Although not mentioned (as they were written after this textbook was published), also check out Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker and The Joy of Movement by Kelly McGonigal.

It’s packed with Big Ideas and I’m excited to share some of my favorites so let’s jump straight in!

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About the author


Dr. Kate Hefferon, PhD

Chartered Research Psychologist