The Power Of Positive Psychology In The Military:

RAF Cosford Case Study


RAF Cosford is home to the No 1 School of Technical Training and provides world-class training to military personnel posted to the front line. The school has a well-established coaching culture, with a strong focus on developing leadership, communication skills and personal resilience.

Flt Lt Tom Smith is the Station Training Officer and oversees the generic professional training for the 800 personnel on the unit. It was whilst researching resilience that Tom found ‘Positive Psychology’ to repeatedly show up in his online searches. Positive Psychology is a relatively new and rapidly developing field, which focuses on the study of the factors that contribute to optimal functioning, honing in on ‘what is right’ with people and how we can apply these principles to enhance our everyday lives.

Tom was keen to find out more and got in touch with Positive Psychology Learning. Established in 2015 by Lesley Lyle and Dan Collinson, Positive Psychology Learning provides a variety of training workshops and coaching sessions, which draw on the latest research findings in the discipline of positive psychology, Their interactive workshops enable participants to overcome challenges and develop new ways of functioning that enable them to thrive.

Tom arranged for a 2-day Introductory course to be run at the base for himself and ten of his colleagues which was found to be enormously beneficial. As Tom explains: “My greatest insight was that if I apply a small amount of conscious effort to what I’m doing, I can be disproportionately happier, more engaged and focussed. The power of being ‘in the moment’ and allowing my emotions to circulate without judgement has literally changed my outlook and ability to be more compassionate with others.”

Tom continues: “The course was absolutely fantastic. The areas of Gratitude, Strengths, Resilience, Happiness and Growth Mindset are so key to what we do in the military. Our understanding of how easy it is to integrate and create positive working environments really hit home. The exercises we did around negativity bias and the happiness formula really compounded the massive effect positive psychology could have on our culture in the military.”

Despite being a relatively new organisation, Positive Psychology Learning is fast becoming a leading authority in the area of Positive Psychology and has built up a strong international presence, running courses in the UK as well as a Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Oman, Egypt, and South Africa. It is the only Positive Psychology company in the UK to offer a university accredited course and it’s co-founders Dan and Lesley have also set up The Positive Psychology People, an informative website which now boasts over 29,000 followers.

Sgt Nicola Tait works in a HR administrative role at RAF Cosford, which oversees the recruitment and training of part-time reservists. Nicola also attended the course, and commented that the relaxed and open style of the training encouraged people to contribute: “People felt safe enough to have an open discussion …that kind of environment means people are a bit more open and honest”. Sgt Brooke Thomas is RAF Cosford’s Organisational Development Team coordinator and agrees with Nicola commenting further that: “… because it was fun, it piqued your interest more and you wanted to get involved. You weren’t just there being lectured at, or informed … there were a lot of discussions that took place which I liked because you got more out of it.”

But be warned – attending a Positive Psychology Learning Workshop may change more than just your work life! For Brooke, as well as learning how to make changes to alter her thoughts and reactions to situations in the classroom, the benefits have been more wide reaching. She has been enjoying using what she learned at home, successfully opening up conversations with her young son, in a new and more fulfilling way: “We have a lot more conversations, he’s more engaged and he feels that I’m more interested. He’ll actually expand on things, tell me things and give me examples … little things that I wouldn’t have even asked him about in the past, which has been has been nice for me to hear as well as for him to talk about. He’s opened up a lot more”.

Nicola also commented that one of the many benefits she noticed was an improvement to the way in which she communicates with her family, particularly being able to reframe potentially negative situations in a more positive way.

But the course is not just about ignoring the negative and focussing on the positive. As Nicola explains, one of the exercises within the workshop has helped her plan more effectively for when things might go wrong, giving her a greater sense of control: “I’ve used the catastrophising exercise at work, and it has worked out really well … it’s about saying – Yes, things do go wrong – and if you can prepare for it before it goes wrong, then you have a plan and you feel like you’ve got something in place to help you respond to it more effectively”.

We asked delegates what they would say to somebody considering attending on of these courses. As Nicola sums it up: “I would say that it’s well worth doing; you might learn something about yourself, you’ll certainly learn something about other people – not just the people on the course, but people in general – and it can only be an enhancement to any other personal development you do because it links in to other subjects. There are huge benefits to attending, both personally and professionally”.

If you would like to find out more about how you can increase your own sense of happiness and wellbeing, arm yourself with some simple techniques that can really make a difference in your day to day life as well as to those around you, then why not contact Positive Psychology Learning? It could well be the best thing you ever do!

This case study was researched and prepared independently by Emma Newman Consulting Ltd, a UK based organisation that specialises in training evaluations and market research.