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Prescribing Happiness in a Community Pharmacy Setting

Over the past few months we have joined our friends and ACTNow campaign partners from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Mental Wealth Academy for a series of bi-weekly Facebook Live wellbeing chats. For this weeks chat – themed around leadership – we wanted to introduce some new faces and voices into the mix. So joining the Facebook LIVE conversation this week we invited along Jennifer Ward – a final year PhD student at Cardiff Metropolitan University and Ali Sparkes  – Pharmacist and founder of The Health Dispensary  who have been working in collaboration to develop a Positive Psychology Intervention called ‘Prescribing Happiness’. Here Jennifer tells us a little more about the research.

My name is Jennifer Ward and I am final year PhD student at Cardiff Metropolitan University School of Sport and Health Sciences. Originally, from the beautiful West Coast of Ireland, I moved to the United Kingdom nearly eight years ago to complete my undergraduate degree in Sport and Exercise Science in Cardiff and a Masters in Psychology specialising in Mental Health at Edinburgh University. Three years ago I was very fortunate to be awarded a KESS2 Scholarship to start a PhD at Cardiff Metropolitan University under the expertise and guidance of Professor Delyth H James, Dr Paul Hewlett and Dr Amie Louise Prior and Ms Ali Sparkes Pharmacist and founder of The Health Dispensary who is the collaborating company partner.

Prescribing Happiness in a Community Pharmacy

The title of my PhD is “The Design and Delivery of a Positive Psychology Intervention in a Community Pharmacy Setting: A Feasibility Study”. So for the first time, anywhere in the world, we are researching the delivery of a ‘PERMA’ based positive psychology intervention in a community pharmacy setting at The Health Dispensary, Neath, South Wales, UK. PERMA is the latest wellbeing model and is underpinning the design of the intervention. The intervention is called ‘Prescribing Happiness’ and is designed as a six-week course delivered as a one to one consultation with a Wellbeing Facilitator. With the recent impact of COVID-19 restrictions, we adapted the course delivery to be available online via Video Call. To date, we have had a total of 21 community members go through the course.

At session one, participants are introduced to an evidence-based approach called ‘Character Strengths’. The following five sessions are focused on one element of the PERMA model. All PERMA elements can be related to different areas of life like personal, work, hobbies, health or social interactions. They are effective in buffering against stress, managing daily challenges, building resilience and positive wellbeing.

Positive Emotions refer to encompassing emotions such as contentment, joy, gratitude, hope and comfort.

Engagement is related to the absorption in an activity, the loss of awareness and track of time. It can also be referred to as flow.

Relationships refers to feeling connection, integrated as part of a community and feeling cared for and loved for.

Meaning is related to leading a meaningful life consisting of serving, belonging and being part of something much bigger than oneself.

Accomplishment (or achievement) is the perseverance towards a goal.

How can we use PERMA to look after our own mental wellbeing?

Here are some of the practical tips and techniques that can be used to support you and your colleagues.

Positive emotions: What Three Things you are Grateful for? And, Why? Gratitude can be a powerful technique to build resilience, wellbeing and healthy immunity. It can be easy to take things for granted in life and it is important to focus on what we do have rather than what we don’t. The expression of gratitude is a powerful technique to support our wellbeing and support us to feel calm, grounded and focused on the good. Practical suggestion, before you leave work or at the end of your day, write down three things that went well and why.

Engagement: What activities support you to feel engaged, absorbed and help you lose sense of time? Engaging with simple breathing techniques can help to calm the mind, focus and concentrate. Spending too time much time watching the news can send our brains into information overload. Mix your day with activities which you enjoy doing, which challenge you and support your wellbeing. A practical suggestion, try listening to a podcast, cooking or doing a creative activity.

Relationships: Take time to reach out to your loved ones or neighbours and this also includes checking in with yourself. We never know what anyone is going through. Human connection supports us to feel loved, cared for and appreciated. A practical suggestion, send a message or catchup with someone you haven’t seen in ages.

Meaning: Meaning helps us to feel connected to something larger than ourselves and gives us a sense of belonging. Living a meaningful life has been found to be more important than seeking pleasure or happiness. A practical suggestion, try making a meal for your family, writing down your future aspirations or simply taking time caring for a loved one.

Accomplishment: What goals are you working on? What do you do every day to achieve your goal? It has been shown that the small steps we take help us achieve a longer-term goal. Goal setting helps us feel aligned and purposeful in what we do. A practical suggestion, write down one small weekly goal in each of the following areas – personal life, health (physical and mental), and work.

The next phase of the research will focus on running Prescribing Happiness with healthcare professionals to gain their perspectives on the intervention. This will include General Practitioners, Community Pharmacists, Practice Nurses and Pharmacy Technicians in the South Wales region.

To hear more from Jennifer & Ali on prescribing happiness and their tips on leadership behaviours that can help improve the wellbeing of pharmacy teams, join us at 1pm, Wednesday 1st July on Facebook LIVE.