My Positive Psychology Journey (Anna Hatchard)
This guest entry is from Anna Hatchard, a PPG Fellow Member and chartered state registered neurological physiotherapist. She tells us about her journey through Positive Psychology, from studying for her MAPP degree at Bucks New University to laughter yoga and her present day practice.
A bit of background
I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but one of my strengths is a love of learning. I have been very fortunate in my career that I have spent over thirty years working in the field of neurological physiotherapy. There is a strong culture of continuous professional development, and in working both for the NHS and in private practice I have been supported and encouraged to seek out opportunities to improve and broaden my skills and knowledge.
I met Lesley Lyle on a course and she told me about her studies as a MAPP (Masters in Applied Positive Psychology) student and her work applying what she’d learned. I went on a two-day Introduction to Positive Psychology course she was running and found it fun and fascinating. The fit for me was perfect. Having spent so long working with people with disabilities, mainly stroke, and their families and carers, I had over the years marvelled at how some people coped so cheerfully and resourcefully with seemingly impossible situations. I had worked with the physical side of disability and wanted to know more about the psychological side of people rising to real life challenges. I signed up for the MAPP course and remember sending my children a proud photo of my Bucks New University ID card on our first day with me sporting a smile from ear to ear.
Life as a MAPPster (Student of Applied Positive Psychology)
It was a bit daunting, having to do assignments, writing essays, searching the literature, making the time to sit and read (I hadn’t then invested in my wonderful standing desk). It was thrilling. I felt energised, curious and excited. More than that, I felt this was absolutely up my street.
Lesley Lyle was an Associate Lecturer at Bucks and gave a session about laughter and laughter yoga. She has written a book, Laugh your way to happiness: Use the science of laughter for total well-being, and I became fascinated by her gentle passion for the subject. I went along to a monthly laughter yoga group she runs in the New Forest and four of us from the MAPP course subsequently trained as laughter yoga leaders with her.
I then decided to study the laughter club as my dissertation subject and interviewed nine participants in the Spring of 2019. Having finished the MAPP course, I decided to extend my study of laughter yoga and travelled to India in January 2020 to study under Dr. Madan Kataria, the medical doctor who invented laughter yoga as an intervention for complete physical, mental and spiritual health. The five-day course was a blast. There were around forty people there, 20 from Japan with an interpreter with excellent English and a fabulous sense of fun. An enduring memory is performing a duet with an impressive young Japanese violinist, bearing witness to the unifying magic of music. I spoke no Japanese and he spoke no English. A moving example of music and laughter transcending barriers of culture and language.
Lockdown laser focus
Just a few weeks later we were plunged into lockdown. As someone who tends to be distractable, a naturally curious person, lockdown was a gift. Staying at home gave me the opportunity to write up my dissertation findings under the wise guidance of Dr. Piers Worth and submit it for publication. My first attempt was met with possibly the fastest rejection in history – just a couple of minutes. I was told that the subject matter was not of interest. Fortunately, the European Journal of Applied Positive Psychology disagreed and published our article in January 2021.
My passion for serious study of laughter has led me to found laughter-lab, a company dedicated to taking laughter seriously and spreading the word about the power of laughter. It is great fun and a privilege to be working with Jane Dennis, a fellow MAPP graduate and laughter yoga leader. We spark off each other and have really enjoyed developing and delivering webinars and now workshops sharing our passion and harnessing appropriate levity to build better connections, buffer stress and bolster resilience. Another opportunity presented during lockdown was that we were able to reach over two hundred people with our twice weekly free laughter yoga sessions. It was wonderful having such a wide range of participants, from babies to nonagenarians, all over the world. Since then, I have been working with several groups within the NHS and in the voluntary sector on bringing more laughter to healthcare professionals, carers and those coping with health challenges and disability. I feel incredibly fortunate to have found an area of serious study in which I feel I am well qualified to make a valuable contribution.
Applying Life Skills
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to complete a Positive Psychology Coaching course with Dr. Ceri Sims whilst doing my MAPP. This was another energising and inspiring learning opportunity and provided a strong theoretical foundation for our work. Composing a reflected best-self portrait was an incredibly powerful and positive experience. This course also cemented some valued friendships. My Positive Psychology journey has definitely been one of forging many new and hopefully lasting friendships with some exceptional people who most definitely make a positive contribution to my life as well as to the lives of many others.
Reflecting on the myriad of learnings I have been lucky enough to have been exposed to over the past four years, I tasked myself with choosing three seminal ones which have shaped my life positively and which I continue to practise.
First, I prioritise investing in high quality relationships. I work harder at keeping in touch and listening.
Second, I challenge myself to be and become more and more self-aware.
Third, I work at being kinder to myself speaking to myself as I would a dear friend.
Anna Hatchard is a chartered state registered neurological physiotherapist. She has a background in neurological rehabilitation in the NHS and in private practice. She is passionate about taking the study of laughter seriously and published an article (link here) with Dr. Piers Worth, Visiting Professor in Psychology at Bucks New University “No laughing matter: Qualitative study of the impact of laughter yoga suggests stress inoculation”. She set up laughter-lab ltd. (www.laughter-lab.com) as a consultation service based on harnessing the power of laughter in the workplace to optimise emotional, psychological and organisational resilience.
Twitter: @lab_laughter | @annaneurophysio.