A Ripple Story…

Gemma Sandwell

Gemma Sandwell

Chief Happiness Officer at The Happiness Branch

Alumni: London 2014

In our 10653NAT Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing we always talk about the ripple effect; starting with self and creating a ripple out there in the world - whatever that may mean for each person.

In this interview, one of our Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing graduate shares her completely life-changing experience of the course, and how it set her up to do a TedX talk!

What drew you to complete the Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing?

I studied psychology as my degree and I always wanted to do something that helped people, yet I had a real disconnect between my vision and my reality. I was working in an IT role at the time and didn’t see many opportunities to use my degree –  I just didn’t know how. Whilst my degree gave me loads of knowledge about the brain it didn’t give me practical tools I could use with people and organisations. So when I discovered positive psychology I was pleasantly surprised by the recent science and research behind it, and its positive perspective i.e. focusing on what is right with people rather than what is wrong. This was the opposite of what I had been exposed to in my psychology degree.

I was drawn to the course because of a) the recent research, knowledge and tools it would give me b) the inspiration I felt reading through the course guide and c) the fact that I really wanted to continue my studies further. This just seemed to fit perfectly with what I needed and wanted to do.

What was your experience during the Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing?

It was really eye-opening for me how much I needed to apply the tools to myself before I could go out and help others. In particular, the focus around my strengths and how I could use these more enabled me to think differently about everyday situations. It made me reflect on the ways I could achieve my goals and be my best. These were the ‘aha’ moments for me.

There were then loads of tools I could use to help others and implement within my organisation.

The structure of the course was great as after the initial 6 intensive days, I could complete the rest of the course in my own time and this fitted my busy schedule.

The team at the Langley Group Institute were also really supportive all the way through.

How are you spreading your positive ripples, and how has the Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing helped you achieve this?

The biggest and most impactful thing I did after going on my own journey was exploring my strengths and I then used these strengths to make a shift in my career. I moved into Wellbeing and Leadership coaching and ultimately set up my own business.

This initially started when I was working for Aviva, and I got everyone in my department a Strengths Profile report. This helped them think about their development in line with their strengths. It also enabled talent in our department to progress forward and perform even better. I was particularly passionate about the positive leadership content in the Diploma, and I did this as one of my two electives. I, like many people, had experienced uninspiring leaders in my career journey and this really motivated me to pursue my mission to make sure everyone in my business had an exceptional leader.

A role came up at Aviva in Leadership development, and in my interview, I spoke about how I was going to use positive psychology in the role. The interviewers were blown away by how recent and up to date my research was and the difference I could make, as opposed to traditional skills development models.

Throughout the two years that I was in the leadership role, I helped countless leaders find their strengths and apply them to be an exceptional leader. We also incorporated things like gratitude practices in the call centres which really motivated and inspired the teams. I became an ICF accredited coach in 2019 and I was also able to champion bringing strengths more fully into Aviva. I took this with me as I worked on different Leadership and Wellbeing projects across the organisation for another two years including the rollout of Mindfulness into the organisation.

These days I have been successful in doing a TEDx talk on Positive Psychology and Mindfulness and have set up my own business (The Happiness Branch). I have now left Aviva to work on this full time. The Happiness Branch helps people and businesses flourish through positive psychology and mindfulness.

After doing the diploma I think I was still addicted to learning, so I went and did some mindfulness teacher training following the mindfulness activities in the Diploma – it was life-changing for me! I now use a combination of the diploma learnings and my mindfulness training and ICF coaching in the tools I offer in my business and the people I work with.

The Diploma was a completely life-changing experience for me personally and professionally.