Chapter 45The Role of Embodiment in Optimal Functioning


The body may be a “marvel of nature,” but it is the one marvel of nature that we “least stop to observe” (Aldersey-Williams, 2013, p. xviii). This is no more so than within the area of positive psychology. Despite rapid growth and advancement over the past decade (Rusk & Waters, 2013; Wong, 2011), the body is still overlooked within positive psychology, which tends to be a “neck-up focused discipline” (Peterson, 2012; Seligman, 2008) preoccupied by cognitive and emotional phenomena. This lack of interest in the physical self has been a critique of positive psychology since its conception (Anderson, 2001; Resnick, Warmoth, & Serlin, 2001). Furthermore, most of what we do know about the body and its effects on well-being has been from a pathological perspective (e.g., anomalous bodily experiences, disorders of self-image; MacLachlan, 2004). Thus, the aim of this chapter is to introduce the concept of embodiment and to argue that positive psychology has an opportunity to go beyond this deficiency in research and practice toward a more holistic, embodied approach to human flourishing. Indeed, how we “treat our body; move our body; soothe our body; feed our body; dress our body; decorate our body and connect to our body, all have an impact on our hedonic and eudaimonic well being” (Hefferon, 2013, p. ix). First, I discuss the research area of embodied cognition and its effects on emotions and overall well-being. ...

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