Since the Langley Group Institute launched the Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing in May 2013, we have been approached by people from all walks of life who want to learn how to apply positive psychology in their life and work. We’ve also had some great interest from the media, who are starting to pay more attention to the impact positive psychology is making in workplaces. Perhaps most importantly, we’ve been inspired by what our students are saying about the Diploma and how committed they are to start making a positive impact in the world through positive psychology.

So why do people choose to take the course? What do our students experience and learn? What positive psychology approaches and applications do they feel will make the most difference to the people they work with? And in their own lives?

I joined the Sydney course, which kicked off with a six-day core intensive. Here’s my first person report.

Who participated and what were their impressions?

The Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing, created by Sue Langley and her team, is the first government-accredited course of its kind in the world. We designed it to offer inspiring, practical and credible training for coaches, psychologists, human resource practitioners, business leaders, educators, health professionals, community builders and anyone who wants to help individuals, business and communities flourish. The course offers university-level content in practical contexts, blending high quality face-to-face training with online classes, personal coaching and workplace practice.

“I loved the integration of theory, discussion and experiential exercises,” said management consultant Elspeth Hendrey, who is helping launch the Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing in the UK through the British Psychological Society. Teacher, Kesh Pillai, who is looking to apply positive psychology in schools, was very impressed with the high level course content and said he found the experience humbling.

Megan Hingston, a registered nurse who was looking for career change options and to get to the next level in her personal development, said of the course: “It blew my socks off in an amazing way! It offered such richness and quality.  I am going to use positive psychology every day!”

Positive psychology is powerful stuff; practical, essential and learnable. The world needs it. This course brought that home for me more than anything.

This echoed the commitment of another participant who was thrilled to have found the right tools to get out of her ditch. Inspired by the knowledge, experience and personal support offered by Sue and Mel, she left the course brimming with enthusiasm to learn to harness her strengths and live her values daily.

The deep personal learning many experienced and walked away with was surprising for some who took the course to learn tangible evidence-based theory and tools to help other people achieve greater wellbeing, engagement and results in the workplace.

“I came to learn the science and have come away with a far richer experience and one that can only improve my wellbeing and those around me,” said HR Advisor at leading charity Camp Quality, Vanessa Rider. “We had two magnificently talented facilitators with a wealth of knowledge, passion, energy and commitment to ensuring every participant got the most out of the course.” Another participant thanked them for their amazing support and unconditional acceptance of who she is and is not at this watershed moment in her personal and professional life.

What did participants learn?

The Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing opened with an introduction to positive psychology’s leading lights, widening the window into an enormous and diverse field. Many people have recently been inspired to learn more about positive psychology by reading Flourish. This book is a great introduction to the key concepts of positive psychology by Martin Seligman, its instigator and most recognised figure. The first day introduced us to many researchers and thinkers who have made a critical contribution in the science and practice of positive psychology. We learned about the work of Chris PetersonMihaly CsikszentmihalyiBarbara FredricksonSonja LyubomirskyEd DienerRobert Biswas DienerAlex LinleyCarol Dweck and Ellen Langer to name a few, as well as the field’s origins in ancient cultures. This really showed how much robustness there is behind a field often portrayed simplistically as a ‘happy clappy movement’.

Positive psychology is a rich field of research and practice that focuses on what is right with people rather than their deficits, what makes them flourish and grow.

The course leaders dispelled common myths about what positive psychology is and isn’t to give us a clear understanding. It is not about being happy all the time, removing negative emotion, or simply applying positive thinking. It is a rich field of research and practice that focuses on what is right with people rather than their deficits, what makes them flourish and grow. As such it has moved psychology out of clinical settings and traditional treatment-based approaches toward an holistic focus on mental health, wellbeing and optimal performance.

Over the course of six days we covered core aspects of positive psychology such as optimism, resilience and strengths. A thorough sampling of the major wellbeing inventories across six main areas of positive psychology – positive emotions, engagement, meaning, relationships and goals – gave people a personal insight into each construct and anchored our learning. Delving into the science of positive emotions, we explored the effect of affect on mind and body. (Did you know that anger can not be present when you are feeling grateful and curiosity is an antidote to anxiety?) Every day we were guided through mindfulness practices, which tapped all our senses and were relaxing and focussing.

We explored classic positive psychology interventions such as savouring, gratitude and the reflected best self activity, along with creative and novel experiences that brought home the key concepts and practices in a very powerful way. This saw participants strongly impacted with the meaning and potency of positive psychology principles, opening us to question some of the behaviours and norms society often accepts which hinder us. For example an activity demonstrating the sting of social rejection showed how critically important even the smallest gestures of social connectedness are to our wellbeing.


What were the highlights and takeaways?

Sue Langley’s research on positive emotion and its impact on creative output was dramatically illustrated, showing how simple guidelines, mindfully applied, can significantly increase creativity in groups. We also explored Marcial Losada and Barbara Fredrickson’s striking work on the optimal ratio of positive to negative comments in high performing teams.  I have applied this principle in many communication and executive team programs before working with the Langley Group; it wasn’t until I participated in a live simulation and was guided by the facilitator’s insightful interpretations that I fully understood the nuances of how this works in practice. We also discussed the latest controversies around Losada’s research methodology and the implications for practice. It was good to know that students are encouraged to critically evaluate what they learn and keep abreast of changes in the field.

We explored positive psychology interventions along with creative and novel experiences that brought home key concepts and practices in a powerful way.

Working with strengths was a highlight of the course. Before starting, each person experienced a R2 strengths assessment and debrief session with a qualified coach. Bringing their strengths into the room, learning to articulate, appreciate and lead with them, and to spot strengths in others was an enriching experience for everyone and saw us bonding strongly as a group. Watching individuals in creative activities and working in teams shine when they were fully using their strengths was personally inspiring for me. There were many such experiences that touched, challenged and got to the heart of people.

Positive psychology is powerful stuff; practical, essential and learnable. The world needs it. This course brought that home for me more than anything.

The Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing is run throughout Australia, New Zealand, UK and Canada. If you would like to join the next course or how someone who might benefit, please contact us.