A Ripple Story…

Josephine Opie

Josephine Opie

Head Teacher Special Education

Alumni: Sydney 2018

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 explains how the course has helped her make change across the beautiful Illawarra region of Australia.

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

I had been interested in positivity ever since finding “Learned Optimism” by Martin Seligman in my late husband’s library. I was curious as to why some people were “glass half full” and others “glass half empty”. I have always been very positive yet wanted to know why or how others weren’t, or if it could be changed.

I had also become disillusioned with education, as we seem to be heading towards a more punitive approach to education. All this results in a trickle-down to students, sending a message of “you are not enough” and it concerns me greatly.

After undertaking the Strengths Profile Accreditation with the Langley Group a few years ago, I met a graduate who had completed the Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing (DPP), Sharon Stone, and she became my coach. She has been inspiring me with positive psychology ever since!

During my one-year contract as Deputy at Moonta Area School in South Australia, I had the opportunity to visit a school that embedded positive psychology in everything they did. This visit changed my thinking!

The Principal ‘lived’ positive psychology and everything about the school was based on positivity and wellbeing. Mindfulness activities in every corner. Meetings that always began with a mindfulness activity. Gratitude trees, walls of compliments, walls covered with positive quotes and inspiration. The most impressive and long-lasting impression was that throughout the whole school, without exception, I saw smiling, happy, cooperative and enthusiastic students.

On questioning the Principal, she explained that positivity had to start from the top and if you didn’t live it, it can’t possibly trickle down to the students.  The minute I returned to my office, I removed all the timetables, policies and admin from my walls (placed in folders, so still available), and put up quotes, PERMA explanations, added a Gratitude Tree to my door and asked all students, teachers and parents to add to it, the idea being that people should always leave the Deputy’s office on a positive.

I had a large poster that said, “Before you tell me your problem, give me a speck of gold.” Everyone knew that I lived by this and no one started a conversation with me in my office, without giving me a positive. Some teachers even called into my office just to give me a speck of gold, without a problem! It was fantastic!

Yet still, I wanted more.  I needed to know all the theory behind it so that I could continue to spread my positivity wider. When I returned to NSW, I enrolled in the DPP course.

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

I enjoyed the DPP course immensely and it has (as I’m sure it has for most people) changed my life!

To this end, I have been pursuing avenues to satisfy my need to send out ripples of positivity!  My first points of call were the wonderful women I had met on my course, through the Facebook page we had set up, as well as the Facebook DPP Alumni page, which has turned out to be an amazing source of inspiration and resources.

Since the course, I have joined forces with another student from my course (Robin Mitchell) to develop Strength-based Parenting and Kids, where we have been running workshops for parents around focussing on kids’ strengths.  We have been successful, with many parents enjoying their new quest in strength spotting for their children and the joy that brings.  Our focus is now going through local schools P&C’s. We have an awesome website and have developed a number of useful resources including fridge magnets for parents as a reminder of character strengths. We have a long way to go, yet the journey is exciting.

I reached out to the Alumni group and connected with two ex-graduates of the course who live locally. One, Kristy Duffy, is in the HR business.  Her new business embraces everything positive psychology and we spoke about my involvement with helping out with Strength Profiles. She also encouraged me to offer Parenting workshops to local businesses who are looking for ways to tick off their Staff Wellbeing goals.

The other ex-graduate, Raelene Redfern, is a local Principal and we connected over our passion for working with parents, providing them with skills and knowledge around wellbeing for their children. We will continue to work together to see if we can come up with the most appropriate avenue for this and look forward to watching the growth for our students.

We are planning further get-togethers, as we all love to talk positive psychology, coming up with ideas, suggestions and visions for sending ripples of happiness across the Illawarra!

In April this year, I attended the Positive Education conference in Brisbane. Brilliant! So inspiring. I connected with the Action for Happiness group from the UK and bought their GREAT DREAM resources for primary students. I am looking into accessing some grants to run these for schools in poverty across the Illawarra, as I firmly believe that these schools are by far the neediest when it comes to student wellbeing and yet may not have the funds to access them.

In conjunction with a masseuse and a Naturopath, we opened the Shellharbour Village Health and Wellness Centre. This is where I practice my positive coaching for individuals and teams.  Another way to spread my ripples of happiness!

I continue to work fulltime (for now!) at my school where I also spread as much happiness as I can!

So, you see, the Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing course has inspired me to start ripples wherever I can, and wherever possible collectively with other DPP Graduates.  I’m just one student, working with others to increase our impact on our beautiful Illawarra region. Imagine how many other ripples are happening around the country!!