Positive Education

This week’s article talked about incorporating positive psychology into university environments. It describes how beneficial this can be for students, teachers, and the community as a whole. Its focus is to increase well-being in the university as college can be a stressful place. The goal is to incorporate well being practices in all aspects of a univesity- the classroom, socially, local community, faculty/admin., and residential housing with the PERMA model. I think this is a great idea and would be beneficial to all colleges. I have seen myself slowly transform into a more positive person from taking this class and definitely more satisfied with my life. I also see myself encouraging positive psychology to others around me. Recently, I became VP of Academics for my sorority and one of my goals for this position was to incorporate mindful activities and well-being practices before study sessions. I thought this would allow for them to feel better about themselves and create a positive environment before everyone starts studying. It could also relieve them of the stresses they might have beforehand.

Forgiveness

Before reading this article, I never really thought about forgiveness as an aspect that could be affecting your mental health. I just thought about it in the way that affects your relationships with people. This article was interesting in that it describes forgiveness as “NOT the reconciliation with the offending person, but that may accompany it.” It’s more about becoming at peace with yourself. It also states that it’s not about reducing the problems, but more so building up the strengths. This sort of ties in with the mental health and mental illness article we read, stating that mental health isn’t necessarily the absence of mental illness. The goal of mental health is to flourish and build more positivity in your life. This is also the goal of forgiveness; using it as a psychotherapeutic technique that helps to build up that positivity. I can see how this technique can also help to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Holding a grudge is more draining on your character and causes more harm than good. Without the negative feelings of hatefulness consuming you, you are better able to feel at ease and less worried about that person or the thing they did.

Substance Use

The article talks about substance use in adolescents and how easy it is for them to become addicted because their brains are still developing. My mom was so persistent about never doing drugs starting at such a young age so I never really had the desire to do them myself or surround myself with people who did them. I remember when I got to high school and so many people were experimenting with drugs and I was so surprised. I guess I just thought of people as too young and innocent to be doing them going into high school. Most of these kids had older siblings or friends though in which they were being exposed by. I never noticed or heard of anyone getting addicted to any drugs in high school though so I guess it couldn’t have been too bad of a problem. I do think that there are many factors that go into this and can especially have huge effects at the prime age of adolescence. Going back to our genetics and environment lesson, I think both of these play a part, but not one without the other. I think some are predisposed to drug addiction through genetics, but don’t necessarily have to be as a result of good choices and not being exposed to them, especially at a young age. I also think that the environment and people you surround yourself with has a huge role as well. Being exposed in your environment or having friends that do drugs only makes you more vulnerable to do them too. There’s also the factor of a traumatic event occurring and that leading to drug abuse as well. I see that often on the show Intervention where teens become addicted so young because of something that happened to them as a child. I know in college doing drugs is more for the experimentation factor or for “fun” or to seem cool (maybe more so in high school), but soon it doesn’t become so cool or fun when it becomes a serious problem. I think the best way to prevent addiction and drug abuse at such a young age is to just educate kids about drugs and the detrimental effects that can have on lives in the long run. I also think making sure kids are surrounding themselves with the right people is important too.

Relationships

My only scientific thought about relationships prior to reading this article had been the sociological view that people choose partners that tend to share the same characteristics as their parent of the opposite sex. I always found this to be weird because I never went for guys that looked like my dad or really shared the same values/views he did. Then again, I hadn’t been in a serious, long-term relationship until now (age 20) so this article made more sense to me, scientifically. The fact that our future relationships are evidence of our past relationships and that our environment growing up influences our relationships now was quite interesting yet completely understandable to me. My parents have been together for 22 years and have always shown love and compassion towards each other and to my brothers and I. There’s always been that joking around with each other all the time to knowing when it’s time to be serious too. It might be because my parents are young that we have that parent-friend relationship, but I think it can be really successful if it’s a good balance between the two. I have found that to also be true with my relationship now and I think it’s one of our strongest qualities (besides trust). Just the perfect balance between friendship and relationship is key and makes us such a happy couple. I also think that it’s very true about past and future relationships depending on each other. I know that I am happier now and have a more successful relationship because my boyfriend now is completely opposite of the guy I was previously with, who was nothing like what I had wanted to have in a relationship, but I kept going back to. Why do you think we tend to get involved with with people who, we don’t know at the time, aren’t the type that we want to be in a relationship with?

Contemplating Mindfulness at Work

Prior to reading this article and this class in general, I’ve always thought of mindfulness as the article states-just Buddhist philosophy. I thought that you could reach mindfulness through things like meditation and yoga. I now understand the definition of mindfulness is much more open than I thought it to be. The article states that mindfulness is “receptive attention to and awareness of the present and experience.” This makes a lot more sense, but also is mind-blowing just how broad it is. I found that the fact that we spend about half our day wandering very interesting. I often find myself with a wandering brain more often than not, but then I catch myself and start thinking about how I wasn’t paying attention so that leads to more wandering. I think that using mindfulness techniques could definitely improve this in many areas of our life. Going back to last week’s lesson of active listening, a wandering brain prevents us from focusing our attention on the person we are talking to/listening to because we are so worried about all these other things (past or future events). Sometimes I catch myself just nodding my head or saying yeah a bunch, but really thinking about other things in my head and not really listening. It’s almost as worse as scrolling through your phone while someone is talking to you, because you are so distracted in your mind. I think that using these techniques will help build up your relationships with others, especially in the workplace when talking to your coworkers or your boss. Being present gives you the sense of awareness around you and can lead to less mess ups. If you are actively listening to people, I feel like you are less likely to get things wrong about the person or situation. I keep thinking about people who work in the food industry who deal with customer service on the daily and there is definitely all types of mess ups because of miscommunication which I feel has a lot to do with wandering minds from both the employee and customer (sidenote: I do not and have not worked in the food industry, but just from being the customer and having friends in the food industry I get a sense of the chaos that it is). I feel like incorporating mindfulness into these workplaces would prevent a lot of that from happening. Just even taking a breath before reacting could prevent a lot of unnecessary dissatisfaction and tension in places like fast food or restaurants. Just as an ending remark, do you all think that mindfulness can be used in every workplace or should there be different techniques for different workplaces?

Positive Emotions

In Fredrickson’s “The Role of Positive Emotions in Positive Psychology,” she explains how positive thoughts can elicit happiness over a lifetime. This is explained by the broaden-and-build theory which suggests that positive emotions like joy, interest, contentment, and love on a daily basis allows for other traits to progress and improve overall wellbeing. I already knew this in a simpler context, but learning about it more in depth was very interesting. I liked that it says how positive emotions broaden people’s attentions span and lead to more creative, open-minded thoughts. I’ve never really thought of it like that, but it definitely makes sense. When you have an optimistic mindset, you believe in all the good and are more open to different perspectives and ideas. I think that’s one of the best qualities a person can have and try to be that way myself. It’s so easy to drown in negative thoughts and let it take over your being, but we have to try to step away from that and live a more fulfilling optimistic life. All it takes is baby steps such as one small positive thought a day.

Health variables related to GPAs

This article discussed how health related variables could have an effect on students academic performance. Of the set of variables they tested such as exercise, eating, sleep, moods, stress, time management, social support, spirituality/religiosity, work hours, gender, and age, the most significant to effect students GPA was sleep. I do not find this surprising at all, considering my own experience with not getting enough sleep and how it can affect my performance in school. I have made it a habit these past two years to make sure I get enough sleep considering my busy schedule with school and a job. However, I see how this can also be an issue in academic performance. If you’re making sure you’re getting enough sleep, you could be skipping over the work you need to do to get to sleep on time. So in this case, I feel as though other factors play into sleep which affects your academic performance. For example, better time management allows for proper sleep which in itself affects better academic performance. Or waking up at a decent hour allows you to eat breakfast in time and be productive throughout the day, overall affecting your GPA. So while sleep may be the primary variable in higher GPAs, these other factors must play into sleeping habits, not necessarily cause better academic performance on their own. At the same time, the article poses multiple contradictory/weak study correlations to all variables in which kind of throws everything off. I think a lot of it has to do with the student as an individual and their ability to somehow get by in school, not necessarily depending on any significant factors.

Depression

Before reading this article I never realized just how many people suffered from depression, but it honestly makes so much sense considering just the amount of people I know that have/had depression. Depression is such a serious issue and yet it is taken so lightly or just thrown around like it’s the “cool” thing to have (referring to people who think that having depression creates an image for themselves). People don’t realize how much it takes a toll on a person and doesn’t just go away whenever you want it to. This subject is a bit close to my heart because in my senior year of high school my next door neighbor committed suicide after struggling with depression. She was only 14. She had been getting help, but it had already been so bad that the medicine/therapy wasn’t helping and it was already too late. Since then, in her honor her family has created an organization called the Sarah Peterson Foundation that helps prevent adolescent suicide by educating people about depression. I didn’t know her that well, but from what I had seen/heard she was a sweet, bubbly girl involved in a multitude of activities and had a great home life. That’s how easy it is to misinterpret people with depression though, so like the article said its very important to be educated on the subject and to encourage/seek help for yourself or others that may be suffering from depression. The hard part is that it’s not always so easy to recognize nor may the person want to talk about it as in the case such as Robin Williams. A question I keep asking myself is if I were to ever get depressed, even if it were only for a couple days, would I reach out to someone or seek help right away? I would like to think that I would, but at the same time I feel like it’s not so easy when you are stuck in that mindset. I want to ask you all the same question: how many of you can say that you’d reach out to someone, no matter how big/small your level of depression or the length of time you’ve been feeling depressed?

Positive Psychology

In the article, “Positive Psychology” Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi discuss the change in focus of psychology from prevention to the treatment of mental illness in history. This still focuses on the negative of psychology rather than looking at ways to flourish. I found that this article falls along the lines of the first article we read that sought to promote mental health and well-being rather than looking for ways to treat mental illness. The two do not necessarily equal each other, but can lead to happier, fulfilling lives if moving the attention away from the negativity of mental illness. Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi suggest the movement towards positive psychology that seeks to find ways to flourish in life and an optimistic view on life.

I liked the point that we often strive for short spurts of happiness rather than long-term happiness. This is discussed in the paragraph about pleasure and enjoyment. We try to reach things that are more pleasurable like watching tv instead of things that could help us/make us happy in the long-run like reading a book. This is so true, especially for Americans. We’re so quick to get a temporary “high” of happiness, rather than search for ways to remain happy over our lifetime. It’s seen so often whether it be something small like retail therapy or something serious like doing drugs to literally get that high. It masks the problems that still remain. I think it’s important to look for other ways that will keep you happy long-term, while still acknowledging the problems that inevitably remain. A question that could go along with this I guess is what are some examples of things that could help happiness last long term? Is it realistic to think that you can be happy for all of your life?

Genetic Influences on Adolescent Behavior

Just by reading the title of the article, I automatically thought about the Nature (biology) v. Nurture (environment) debate in psychology. I am actually taking a Human Development class this semester and it was one of the first things we have talked about. We read an article about a family in Texas who have generationally found themselves in prison for criminal behavior and drug abuse. Out of the 30 of them, only one ended up being good (but still found herself in 2 abusive relationships like she had seen her father beat her mother). We looked at how this could be based on the Nature v. Nurture debate and as a class unanimously agreed that majority was environmentally influenced (seeing/growing up with their parents beat/get beat, steal, and abuse drugs), but that there still had to be genetic evidence of mental illness or genes that carried drug addictions in the family for it to be a generational phenomenon. The debate is a push/pull factor-you can’t really have one without the other because then it doesn’t make sense. Our professor used the example of carrying an alcohol addiction gene, but if you were stranded on an island with no alcohol then obviously you’re not going to become an alcoholic. This article states that as well saying that evidence of things like substance use varies based on their environment (home, friends, and family influences) that could bring about or weaken the genetic predisposition (Dick, Adkins, Kuo 5). It is difficult to say that something will come of it because it is biologically there, but may not necessarily because of the environment they grew up around. Then again, it’s important to know that it COULD come about if growing up/put in a situation that allows for the gene to generate.

I really liked this article because it has always been a subject that I’ve been curious about-how much influence does genetics have on adolescents and how much does the environment play a part. Sometimes it’s pretty obvious when you see a kids behavior spiral downhill because you just look at their parents/environment and understand where its coming from (poverty stricken, family of drug abuse, etc.). In other cases though it can be difficult to understand why a child may be the way they are if they grow up in a great environment (ex: wealthy neighborhood, private school, caring parents etc.). I also liked the twin studies because it’s cool to see when twins grow up in the same environment and have the same genetic makeup, but have completely different personalities and interests, etc. I have twin boy cousins and while they look the same, they are nothing alike. I guess one thing that would be interesting to find out more would be if someone were to give birth to twins but give them up for adoption and they end up going to two different families in different environments and how that would effect who they were and if their genetic makeup would still be strongly influential or not. (I think this question might be influenced by all the TV dramas I watch)

Mental Health-SOH blog post 1

Prior to reading this article, I too have fallen for the societal view that mental health means lack of mental illness. I’ve always associated the two terms in negative ways, just because of how I’ve learned about them in school. After reading, however, I understand how this isn’t necessarily true. Just because someone isn’t suffering from a mental illness, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are happy with their life (flourishing). I think the problem lies within society and it’s ¬lack of promoting a happier, healthier life. We are so focused on fixing the problem (mental illness) instead of working towards educating people about the issue at hand and focusing the attention on ways to live a happy life. As Keyes suggests, we are just throwing money away trying to find a cure for mental disorders that may never be curable. I think in order to see a change in mental health, we must start with educating everyone. So many people lack the information on mental illness and health, that it is often pushed to the side and given negative connotations. Also those with mental illness are just given pills or told to go to therapy to solve the problem rather than being informed on how they can be happier in life. By advertising flourishing to all, the outcome could help those with or without mental illnesses. It’s beneficial to both sides and requires less focus on the negative.

A few points that caught my interest were the statistics behind mental health. The fact that only about 20% of people are completely happy with life was quite upsetting, but not shocking. Too many people let the chaos and stresses of life affect their well-being and react negatively. If there were more advocacy towards flourishing, then this number could hopefully increase significantly just as people’s positive mentality should. I also liked the point that while American’s life expectancy has increased, so have the amount of years people are living with illnesses. Just because they are living longer, doesn’t necessarily mean they are actually living a fulfilling life. That’s why I feel it’s important to start rearing positive mental well-being in children so that they can live life to its full potential as they carry on. If we ingrain it into their little brains at a young age, it will hopefully stay with them as they age.

Q’s that popped in my mind prior to, during, and after reading:

Why has it taken so long to see that mental health needs recognition as well?
What are ways we can flourish in life? Will they be universal solutions or will it vary by the individual?
How can we convince/push society to move towards promoting mental health as flourishing? How long before we actually see a change?