Feature: Eye on Toronto for The 1st Canadian Positive Psychology Conference & 7th Biennial International Meaning Conference

Toronto took on a smaller, more intimate feel than the large, Moscow conference. The event took place at the University of Toronto’s Victoria campus, which was an excellent choice to host the first Canadian Positive Psychology conference (CPPA) http://www.positivepsychologycanada.com/

Although this conference was shorter in length than its European cousin, it was highly organized, efficient and felt very inclusive. The two days were packed with wonderful presentations and keynotes and it felt like everything had been thought through from start to finish. Similar to the pink and purple Olympic volunteers seen everywhere here in London, there were always several volunteers in bright green t-shirts ready to help usher, time-keep and answer all your questions. In addition to this, the majority of rooms had a member of the CPPA board of directors present to introduce each and every presenter- a nice touch indeed.

The days started a little earlier at this conference with breakfast and registration kicking off at 7:30. After something to eat, each day commenced with a sharp and witty keynote speaker (e.g. Robert Vallerand, Gary Latham, Greg Wells). Then, over the day, the conference put on several concurrent sessions with individual presentations and/or workshops. Jen Rolfe and James Butcher had the crowds enthralled as they discussed their research and experiences in flourishing and engagement in work. Likewise, Dr. Ivtzan had delegates fighting for floor space (once chairs had been snapped up) well before he even started! It was safe to say that UEL MAPP represented well!

If you are interested in highlights of the conference, Chair Lisa Sanstrom has written out a review at


Details regarding the time and place of the next conference are yet to be determined, however, I would highly recommend attending the next session if you can.

The next section will review the contributions from MAPP UEL to Toronto CPPA, 2012.


Title: Flourishing at Work

Name (s): Jen Rolfe and James Butcher

Association: Practically Positive and Work Without Walls

How can we boost the motivation and performance of people at work? We might want to turn around a struggling organisation, or make the shift “from good to great”. We might hope to transform people’s experience of organisational life, generating greater employee engagement. What can employees and employers do to create more positive institutions, and what contribution can positive psychology make? We’ll share our research findings and our experience of applying those insights with our organisational clients. We’ll offer practical interventions to try out, so that everyone leaves with ideas about how to help themselves and others flourish at work.


James Butcher runs Work Without Walls, a consultancy specialising in appreciative learning – helping people learn from their strengths and successes. James helps his clients develop positive organisational cultures, high value collaborative relationships, and resilient leadership. James recently completed an MSc in Applied Positive Psychology at University of East London.

Jen Rolfe runs Practically Positive, a positive psychology learning and development consultancy. She’s a group trainer, coach and learning designer. She completed her MSc in Applied Positive Psychology whilst working at The Mind Gym, where she worked for a number of years designing programmes for many FTSE 100 companies.


Title: Mindfulness meditation: A contributing factor to wellbeing and the process of closing the self-discrepancy gap

Name (s): Itai Ivtzan

Association: University of East London, UK

Actual/ideal self-discrepancy is the measurable difference between an individual’s beliefs about who they think they are (actual self) and their image of the person they would ideally like to be (ideal self). When the self-discrepancy gap is small, higher psychological wellbeing exists. Mindfulness meditation, by means of greater awareness of the continuous fluctuation of thought from one point to another, has been shown to increase self-acceptance, which can lead to minimizing self-discrepancy. This oral presentation will introduce mindfulness meditation as a positive psychology intervention as part of a study which hypothesised that mindfulness meditation reduces actual-ideal self-discrepancy. There are two possible links between mindfulness meditation and self-discrepancy. The first is that instead of trying to change and experience conflict through cognitive processing, mindfulness meditation invites practitioners to observe their thoughts in an open, accepting, and non-judgmental way. By doing this, mindfulness meditation protects the practitioner against over-engagement with their potential self-discrepancy and therefore reduces the accessibility of self-discrepancy in challenging experiences. The second is that practitioners focus on self-acceptance and self-kindness whilst removing the need to change. This attitude encourages them to re-evaluate problematic or perfectionist goals thus reducing levels of self-discrepancy. Over time, the practice of mindfulness increases dispositional openness, through receptivity and curiosity. Although mindfulness meditation is reported as having a powerful impact on the participant’s attitude towards himself and others only a few studies have dealt with its influence on the self-concept – the current study was aimed at evaluating the impact of mindfulness meditation on self-concept as a potential intervention to increase levels of wellbeing. One hundred and twenty participants took part in a 3-days residential mindfulness meditation course. Before and after this, participants completed a Selves questionnaire. To test the difference in self-discrepancies, pre-meditation and post-meditation, a paired samples t-test was computed. The difference between scores pre-meditation (M = 11.00, SD = 3.06) and post-meditation (M = 7.70, SD = 3.11) was statistically significant: t(19) = 3.18, p < .005. The findings support the claim that mindfulness meditation can effectively reduce the gap between actual/ideal self attributes and indicates that the practice of meditation had a salutary influence on a subject’s psychological state as measured by the Selves questionnaire. This study advocates that mindfulness meditation can effectively reduce the gap between actual and ideal self attributes, leading to potential greater wellbeing. Such data illustrates that mindfulness meditation could be used as a potential therapeutic positive psychology intervention as part of one’s journey towards higher levels of wellbeing and satisfaction in life.


Title: Challenging the neglect of the body in positive psychology

Name (s): Dr Kate Hefferon

Association: University of East London, UK

To date, Positive Psychology has positioned itself as a primarily ‘neck-up’ focused discipline. However, wellbeing is much more than how we think; it is also comprised of how we treat and utilise our bodies in a healthy manner. This talk will offer a critical reflection on the lack of the body and its role in flourishing within positive psychology. More specifically, issues such as embodiment, touch, physical activity and transformation from physical illness will be addressed in relation to their role in both hedonic and eudaimonic well being. Furthermore, stigmatised topics such as sexual behaviours and body modification will be reviewed in relation to their role in meaning and authenticity.



Toronto (X 2)

7th Biennial International Meaning Conference

Although I did not attend the International Meaning Conference (2 back to back conferences is enough!), the line up of the International Network of Personal Meaning Conference was exceptional and very tempting indeed http://meaning.ca/conference/

The conference took place at the Delta Toronto East Hotel, from Thursday July 26th- Sunday, July 29th. The days ran from 8am to 7 pm with 4 concurrent presentation sessions throughout the day. In addition, each night hosted an event, film screening or award ceremony for the delegates. The speaker list was world class with presentations from such speakers including Paul Wong, George Bonnano and, of course, our very own Itai Ivtzan.


Title: Meaning

Name (s): Dr Itai Ivtzan

Association: University of East London, UK

Questions answered:

1)    Tell us why you are going to the conference.

I am going to the conference to inspire and to be inspired.

2)    What you are looking forward to the most?

Meeting other positive psychologists. It’s a great pleasure to sit and communicate with others who are fascinated by the same questions that keep me awake at night.

3)    What you hope to get out of the conference?

Recharging my mental batteries so that I could be back to MAPP with renewed enthusiasm and passion.


Dr Itai Ivtzan is a chartered psychologist and holds a position as a Positive Psychology lecturer in UEL (University East London) as part of the MAPP (Masters in Applied Positive Psychology) programme. Itai’s PhD thesis was on altered states of consciousness while focusing on the experience of meditation. His main areas of research are personal meaning, eudaimonic happiness, self-actualisation, spirituality and mindfulness.

Email: ItaiIvtzan@AwarenessIsFreedom.com


In sum, it was a very successful summer with 10 presentations by MAPP UEL at 3 different conferences on two different continents. In terms of upcoming events, the next major conference will be held by IPPA in Los Angeles from June 27th- 30th, 2013. Abstracts for this conference will open in September and close December 2012. Students who have recently completed their dissertations should think about submitting for the conference. For example, at the ECCPP in Copenhagen (2010), previous students put together a symposium of their theses, surrounding the area of positive psychology in organisations. There is also the option of presenting your individual work solo or as a poster. I would suggest discussing with your supervisor to see what the options might be. Also, students should look to funding organisations that provide support for Post-Grad research travel. Finally, students can contact SIPPA to determine reduced rates at these conferences, in terms of registration and accommodation.

International positive psychology association

Dates: June 27th- 30th, 2013

Location: Los Angeles, USA

Website: http://www.ippanetwork.org/world_congress_landing_page/


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