Positive Psychology

I think it is fantastic that there a push for universities to promote positive psychology on their campuses. This not only benefits the mental wellbeing of students and their teachers, but it also encourages community support and destigmatization. I also really enjoyed the fact that the authors of this week’s article included a detailed table (table 1) that outlined how positive psychology could be implemented in the university setting. They designated 5 areas of interest: classroom, social, local community, faculty/administration, & residential.

I feel like VCU is actually a great example of a university which seeks to promote positive psychology and mental wellbeing for its students and faculty.

What do you all think about this week’s readings? Do you think more classes should incorporate positive psychology into their curriculum? How could VCU’s campus improve in its effort to promote positive psychology for its students?

Social Interactions

The article by Sandstrom and Dunn entitled, Social Interactions and Well-Being: The Surprising Power of Weak Ties was very interesting and actually surprised me quite a bit. I have always assumed that the relationships closest to a person  would be those that had the most significant impact on a that person’s happiness. It was interesting to find out that the simple interactions we have our acquaintances actually has a much more profound impact on how happy we are when compared to the interactions we have with our family and close friends. I suppose this makes sense if you think about it. I tend to feel more happy when I interact with more people. It gives me a sense of support and community.

What did you all think about this week’s reading? Did you agree or disagree with Sandstrom and Dunn’s findings?

Forgiveness

Before this weeks readings I knew what forgiveness was, however, I did not know that there were specific therapies that could help an individual forgive more easily. Forgiveness by definition is not easy in my opinion. It is always something I struggle with as many of you all probably do. That is why I find it so great that we are going to be talking about this for the next week.

I find it interesting that individuals who go through forgiveness “treatment” are shown to be more prone to forgiveness than those who do not participate in the aforementioned treatments. I suppose that this makes sense though.

What do you think about this week’s readings? How can we apply this knowledge to our science of happiness class to promote better mental health?

Differences in Character Among US College Students

Prior to this week’s readings I did not know much at all about the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS) questionnaire, and I also was unaware that there were even studies out there that were attempting to analyze college students character. However, I think that it is an interesting study and in time, when more of these studies have been completed, I think it will yield greater knowledge and understanding of this particular subject.

Karris and Craighead’s study entitled, “Differences in Character Among U.S. College Students” found that overall the college students who participated in the study scored high in characters such as: humor, love, kindness, integrity, & social intelligences. I think that this makes sense when I consider my own character and the character of my friends. College is typically an environment in which humor, love and social intelligence especially is held in high regard. I think it is easy to see how college students scored significantly lower in regards to self-regulation, humility, and prudence. I found it interesting though that college students scored low in love of learning. I would have thought the overall score would have been higher.

What are your thoughts on this week’s readings? In your experience can you see how these results are possible?

Addiction

Prior to this weeks readings I already sort of had an idea of how a person became addicted to a harmful drug or habit. I think that as I grew up it was always emphasized that I should be wary of who I decide to spend my time with and that I should try my best to surround myself with people who push me to become a better person.

I think it is easy to see how experimentation in our adolescent years could potentially lead to continued use during our college and young adult years. Eventually, this could potentially result in addiction. I liked how they included the role of genes and the environment around us as adolescents as factors that influence and have the potential to predispose us to addiction.

What did you all garner from this week’s readings? Do you think that genes and environment are as influential as this article stipulates?

Week 9 – Relationships

I feel like prior to this week’s readings I already had a sense of how significant one’s childhood relationships impacted their future relationships. However, I enjoyed the aspect of the article where it discussed how even if a child grew up in an environment with positive relationships, it is not set in stone that they will necessarily have the most healthy relationships in the future. For instance, they may have an experience in middle school, high school or even college that negatively influences the way in which they approach and interact with significant others. I guess I never fully realized how much of an impact this could have on a person’s life in regards to relationships with family, friends and significant others. I also enjoyed how the author went into detail concerning the types of relationships we have throughout our lives.

What is your perspective on this article? Do you think that they are correct in their research findings? Do you disagree with their predictions in any way?

SOH – SOH at VCU 2016 2016-10-09 16:09:06

Prior to this weeks readings I had already learned what mindfulness was and how it related to our wellbeing due to a few of the in-class lectures we have had in the science of happiness class. I find this knowledge so relevant to my life personally because I am in VCU’s nursing program and mindfulness is something that is heavily emphasized. Mindfulness is one of the key concepts that most positively impacts the wellbeing of the patient in the nurse-patient relationship.

I liked the statement on page 5 of Darren J. Good’s article, “Contemplating Mindfulness at Work: An Integrative Review“, when he said:

“Mindfulness has been shown to improve three qualities of attention – stability, control, and efficiency”

Good also mentioned later on in the article that mindfulness improves our level of self-regulation, and our ability to control our emotions and the way we react to stimuli in our environment. I can see after being in the science of happiness class as well as my nursing class how this would be true and how this would promote a positive, healthy, and effective work environment.

What thoughts do you all have on this week’s article? How can we absorb this knowledge and apply it to our own lives?

Positive Thinking

Before taking this Science of Happiness class I can honestly say that the concept of “positive psychology” was something that I rarely thought about. Now that we are nearly halfway through the semester, I find that I ponder the effects of positive psychology in relation to happiness more and more.

In Fredrickson’s 2001 article entitled, “The Role of Positive Emotions in Positive Psychology: The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions“, she addressed the beneficial connection between positive emotions and mental health. Fredrickson “Broaden-and-Build Theory” discussed how a positive thought can result in multiple positive actions and that these actions have the potential to elevate a person’s level of happiness. Two examples of this were given on page three and four when Fredrickson discussed the beneficial after-effects of the positive emotions joy and interest stating:

Joy, for instance, broadens by creating the urge to play, push the limits, and be creative. These urges are evident not only in social and physical behavior, but also in intellectual and artistic behavior (Ellsworth & Smith, 1988; Frijda, 1986).Interest, a phenomenologically distinct positive emotion, broadens by creating the urge to explore, take in new information and experiences, and expand the self in the process (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990; Izard, 1977; Ryan & Deci, 2000; Tomkins, 1962).”

It is truly remarkable how one emotion could produce so many positive outcomes! What do you all think of Fredrickson’s findings? How might we apply her research to our daily lives?

College Student Health

Throughout my years of living there are a few things that I have always been told are important: eating breakfast, exercising, and getting a decent amount of sleep. Though these things may be common sense to most people, I find it ironic how it seems that we as college students tend to bypass these helpful tips when the semester begins. We tend to get in the habit of staying up late studying, (or Netflixing…), and then around 3 AM we remember we have that dreaded morning class to go to the next day. So we get a few hours of sleep and skip breakfast because we want to make the most of those precious 20 minutes of extra sleep. After struggling to get through the day’s classes, we grab maybe a quick cup (or two) of coffee to keep us from passing out on the way back to our homes. Now the night begins all over again because a discussion board post is due tonight, or a presentation is coming up, or maybe Netflix has just added the next season of Gotham. We then choose not to exercise because we can not spare those 30 minutes to exercise when so much else needs to be done. While this overly dramatic example is not relevant to some students, it is easy to see how some of these choices could potentially have an affect on someone’s GPA and even on their degree of happiness.

In the article titled, “Health-Related Variables and Academic Performance Among First-Year College Students: Implications for Sleep and Other Behaviors”, authors Trockel, Barnes, and Egget discuss how time management, nutrition habits, exercise and sleep patterns effect college students’ academic performance. They noted that there was a positive correlation between the following behaviors and academic performance in table 2 on page 128:

  • Social Support (both by family and professors)
  • Eating Breakfast
  • Using a Planner
  • Study of Spiritual Oriented Material
  • Strength Training
  • Aerobic Training

I found it interesting how these are associated with student’s doing well in college. I suppose I can see how this would be true. I have recently started working out and I already notice how much this relieves my stress and gives me energy.

What do you all think about their findings? Do you agree with them? Disagree? Do you have any other suggestions as to how to succeed in academia?

Depression

Prior to reading Michael Gross’ article concerning depression I did not know the quantitative statistics regarding how many struggle with this mental illness. I did, however, know what depression is characterized by before this week’s readings for SOH. Not because I myself struggle with it, but because my Grandmother on my father’s side as well as a few of my friends battle depression. I think that a lot of times people will experience bad days or a bad week and flippantly say things like “I’m depressed now” or “That was depressing”. This misuse of the term “depressed/depressing” is I think a large reason why people tend to respond in the manner of “Oh, just get over it” to those who actually struggle with this mental illness. That is why I enjoyed the fact that Gross included US Psychiatrist Allen Frances’ definition of clinical depression in that it “must be dense (i.e., present for most of the day, almost every day); must last at least a few weeks; and must be severe enough to cause clinically significant impairment” (qtd. in Gross 2).

In the 2014 magazine article titled, “Silver Linings for Patients with Depression“, I found it extremely interesting when Gross addressed the correlation between depression and what James Oliver termed “selfish capitalist countries”.  I was rather skeptical of this until I read his reasoning behind this claim. He said that people who lived in countries (such as the UK and the US) where a person’s value was determined by their material possessions, and socioeconomic status, were more likely to struggle with mental illnesses like depression. I can see how this could be true when I think about how much emphasis is placed on getting a great post high school education and having a well paying job so that you will “succeed in life”. Not that being educated and working hard and being prosperous are negative things, but I think that often times we assume that those things are what make life worth living and that is so far from the truth. I understand now why this could potentially be a reason why there is such a large population in the US that struggles with depression.

My questions are: How can we as a nation eliminate the materialistic ideology so that the rate of depression lessens? How can we try to encourage people to refrain from misusing terminology like the word “depression”, so that those that are clinically depressed will be supported instead of disregarded?

***Positive Psychology***

Before I read this article I already had prior knowledge regarding the claim that a optimistic outlook on life had a positive impact on physical wellbeing. I learned this during my anatomy and physiology classes as well as my nutrition class. It is a known fact in the medical community that a patient that remains optimistic throughout their medical treatment typically has a better prognosis than someone who focuses solely on the negative aspects of the situation.

In Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi’s article “Positive Psychology: An Introduction”, they promote the opinion that the field of psychology is shifting its focus. For too long the prevention and treatment of mental illness has been the main focal point of the psychological community while all too often the emphasis on how to promote mental wellbeing has been greatly disregarded. I am happy to see that both are beginning to be recognised and studied with equal fervor and I am interested to see how this will change and grow this field of study.

A question I have is how will this emphasis on the promotion of mental health effect the medical community?

Do Genes Determine Your Outcome?

When I began reading this article I was already relatively familiar with the highly controversial “Nature vs. Nurture” debate due to prior psychology courses. Before this class my opinion concerning the matter was that we as humans are shaped and molded by a combination of both our genetic makeup, and the environment in which we live. After completing this week’s readings I still am of the same opinion.

In Dick, Adkin, and Kuo’s scientific article titled, “Genetic Influence On Adolescent Behavior“, I found it interesting that there was a positive correlation between  parental monitoring and environmental influences and a negative correlation between those two factors and genetic influence (fig. 2). I then compared fig. 1 and fig. 2 and came to the realization that the genetic and environmental factors are represented as being inversely proportional. In other words, as one increases the other decreases. While I am not entirely sure if that was the point they were trying to make, that is the conclusion I reached. I can see how this may be true when I look at my own life and my family history. My extended family (particularly on my mother’s side) has a history of substance abuse, namely alcohol. Due to the potential genetic predisposition I may have, I have made a commitment to myself not to drink alcohol before I am 21 (and possibly even later) so that I can ensure I will not abuse that privilege. I am, in a way, attempting to shape my environment in efforts to counteract my genetic influence.

I am wondering though, how much of our personality is really determined by our environment? How much is determined by our genes? What is the ratio between the two?

 

SOH- Week #1 Post Concerning Mental Health

Before I read this weeks assigned reading I suppose I knew a fair amount of knowledge concerning  mental health and mental disease due to taking 3 psychology courses previously. I had learning about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and his theory of self actualization and about certain mental illnesses that plague the human population such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. In Keyes’ 2007 article titled, “Promoting and Protecting Mental Health as Flourishing:  A Complementary Strategy for Improving National Mental Health” I  found it interesting that he noted that the absence of mental illnesses is not proven to result in a healthy mental status. I have always assumed that mental disease and mental health are connected sort of like the example of light and dark. I have heard the saying, “darkness is the absence of light” but I suppose it is quite possible that mental health and illness are two separate issues.

Of the three psychological approaches to achieving a “flourishing” state of mind that were presented: pathogenic, salutogenic, & complete state model, I must say that I agree with Keyes in that it would make the most sense for a “flourishing” individual to be a combination of the salutogenic and the pathogenic approaches. That is that an individual would be both focused on the positive things in life  and striving to achieve Maslow’s concept of “self actualization”, but also to be void of mental sickness. Something I found thought provoking but not entirely clear was the correlation between the average american’s increased lifespan and the upsurge of mental health diseases that followed.  I  am wondering if the apparent increase in cases concerning mental illness and disease is a result of the problem actually growing more prevalent, or if maybe we as a society are just paying more attention to this field of study? Could it be that our increased observation of the human mind has lead to us finding results that have always been present in our culture but that maybe we have not been aware of until now?