I’ve recently returned from a wonderful two weeks in Canada. The main purpose of the trip was to attend and present at the International Positive Psychology Association World Congress in Vancouver.
A second and equally important goal was to have a much-needed holiday with my husband. The trip included cycling around Vancouver; being immersed in breathtaking views of lakes, rivers and mountain landscapes. Seeing a Grizzly bear, Elk, American bald eagles, osprey (I just thought that was a back-pack brand!), big horned-sheep, and salmon in a river. Mountains for days, (some snow-capped), glaciers and waterfalls such as I’d never seen before. We flew in a seaplane and saw seals playing. We hiked, cycled some more, danced at an art gallery, ate great food, drank great wine, and laughed – a lot.
Then there was the conference: for me, an IPPA World congress is my absolute Happy Place. The opportunity to nerd-out and hear from some of the leading researchers and practitioners from around the globe, AND to catch up with some of my favourite colleagues and people I’ve worked or studied with, AND to meet and make new friends. This is just an absolute recipe for Angelina-bliss! I got to present at this congress too and that gave me a great sense of accomplishment (even if the voice in my head is giving me pointers on how I could have done better and wishing I’d worn different shoes!).
The trip far exceeded my imaginings of just how great it would be and I left Canada feeling sated, connected and renewed.
However, on the return flight home I felt the beginnings of a sniffle, (which has now converted to a heavy head cold), and travelling back one sentence got stuck on replay in my head: “the come down is going to be BRUTAL”. Several days on, and oh yes it is!
So I am reaching into my positive psychology kit bag and liberally applying some of my favourite, evidence-based tools, and thought I’d share three of my them below.
Savouring is the process of looking back at, forward to, or being present to, events and finding ways of generating, intensifying and prolonging the enjoyment of that experience (Bryant, 2003).
1. Savouring – Savouring is the process of looking back at, forward to, or being present to, events and finding ways of generating, intensifying and prolonging the enjoyment of that experience (Bryant, 2003). There are many different ways that we can savour past, present or future. If I take the example of the conference: approaching the conference, I was reading through the schedule and submissions to work out who I wanted to listen to; and going through the attendee list to see who was there that I wanted to connect with. At the conference itself, I made sure that I had a notebook and kept notes of not only what was said in sessions I attended, but also small magical moments, for example, an unexpected opportunity to connect with someone I hadn’t known very well from my own hometown. I also took photos, lots of photos and shared them with other participants and on socials.
Returning home, my savouring strategies have included reaching out to people I connected with at the conference to let them know how they helped make my experience a positive one. I have also been posting and re-looking at photographs and re-reading the notes I took. Importantly, I’ve been sharing what I’ve learned with my university class participants, colleagues and friends. I’ve also been journaling thoughts and interactions as I remember them.
2. Meaning and purpose – I actively seek out a meaningful life. I want the work I do to add value and make a difference to people’s lives and I want the things that I engage in to be meaningful. My coach, Belinda, is exceptionally good at helping me tap into my own sense of meaning and purpose. Belinda has worked with me over 20 years and knows me very well – she’s really good at picking up when I’m being evasive or slippery. She asks me great questions that help me think about who I want to be in the world. She’s also an incredible support – I sometimes think she believes in me more than I believe in myself. On that bus trip back between Sydney and Canberra I felt the ‘brutal Post Conference Come Down’ starting to hit, so I messaged her and booked a session. We discussed my experience of myself in Canada & at the conference, some of the ‘aha’ moments I’d had, my learnings and of course, we ended on what actions I wanted to take resulting from my trip. This conversation helped me to savour and celebrate my time in Canada, and it also helped me to start to make sense of my experience, what I’d learned and could do as a result of that.
Relationships and social connections are good for our physical, mental and emotional health. They are stronger predictors of longevity and life satisfaction than any other factor (including diet and exercise) and predict the quality of our life into old age.
3. Relationships/Connections – relationships and social connections are good for our physical, mental and emotional health. They are stronger predictors of longevity and life satisfaction than any other factor (including diet and exercise) and predict the quality of our life into old age. My biggest take aways from my trip were about high quality connections. The first being with my husband – through our shared experiences, I fell even more in love with David during our time away together. The second being the people I was at congress with – especially my work and my study colleagues. The fun I have had with these people, the incredible generosity and support they have shown, the laughs, the shared learning: that energy is uplifting, life-affirming and unforgettable. My pattern is often that when my work is busy, my relationships are the first things I side-line. I will be putting more energy into changing this.
Post holiday (or event or conference) come down is very real. Positive Psychology is the science of wellbeing and flourishing. Rather than having that great holiday or event and then bracing ourselves for the real world and adopting coping strategies to do so, let’s start to think about flourishing strategies: what actions can we take that will help us to savour, relive and integrate the best parts of our experiences – the feelings of connection, awe, gratitude, aliveness, learning – and consider how we can take those into our day to day.
How do YOU deal with the brutal post holiday (event or conference) come down?
Bryant, Fred (2003) Savoring Beliefs Inventory (SBI): A scale for measuring beliefs about savouring, Journal of Mental Health, 12:2, 175-196, https://doi.org/10.1080/0963823031000103489
Prof. Michael Steger from the Laboratory for the study of meaning and quality of life, University of Colorado has a range of helpful resources on meaning and purpose here: http://www.michaelfsteger.com/
Waldinger, Robert, and Schulz, Marc (2023). The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness. Simon and Schuster.