Positive Education

This week’s reading was obviously very applicable as it talked about implementing well-being and positive psychology into the large scope of a university. Before reading, I was already familiar with the fact that often universities focus on fostering students with high GPAs and neglect ensuring the student’s well-being, mental state, and integration with their  environment. However, I was interested to learn the details of why and how this happens: educational institutions emphasize critical, rather than creative thinking, secondary schools have already applied concepts of positive education, and that research has been conducted that teaching well-being in secondary schools increases life satisfaction.

While I do believe VCU does a sufficient job of implementing the teaching of positive psychology through different classes (our Science of Happiness class, The Honors College’s flourishing class), specific Welcome Week sessions, and yoga meditation classes at the gym, I do believe that there is still a lack of appreciation within the general student body about positive psychology and well-being. For example, a lot of times group assignments in different classes are dreaded by students because there tends to be group members who slack in the work and fail to communicate with the group. In this case, the focus is not strengthening weak ties in the class or learning to work with people from diverse backgrounds but rather just getting the work done to get the grade. Additionally, SOH is the only class where we even do a mindfulness practice before class.

Nonetheless, there is hope and great development towards a positive university as VCU does have events that promote kindness and unity in the community such as the Unity Project that was next to the library this past week. One thing I found interesting about the table of different activities was that the author suggested activities teaching diversity, cross-cultural awareness, and national holidays to encourage relationships and engagement within the residential environment. Why do you think this is so? How have you seen elements of positive psychology promoted on campus?

Social Interactions and Well-Being

Upon reading the title of the article, I found myself thoughtfully agreeing with it as I have seen the power of weak ties play into my own life. Being an introvert, I find it awkward and difficult to solidify strong interactions within my social network of family, friends, teammates, roommates. Nonetheless, small talk with the janitors, people at dorm’s security desk, random students on the street, or unexpected greetings from acquaintances while walking to class always seem to make me feel better. It makes me feel more connected with the university and like I have something to offer in the world. Like the article said, having interactions with weak ties creates a diverse social network and allows an individual to partake in a diffusion of information, a variety of perspectives, and greater creativity.

One aspect of the article that was new to me was the discussion of the socio-emotional selectivity theory which argues that “people retain fewer weak ties as they age is because they find these relationships less fulfilling” (Dunn and Sandstrom 919). It’s interesting that people tend to underestimate the power of weak ties in emotional benefits and feel the need to create an isolated social circle to protect their feelings.

The article also talked about the power of weak tie interactions dependent on the environment. Do weak ties only benefit in the population of a university or can they also apply in a community/neighborhood as well? How can weak tie interactions help those with social anxiety or extreme introversion?

Forgiveness

This week’s reading was intriguing as it explored different forgiveness models and moderators that can affect the forgiveness process such as treatment duration, the specific model utilized, and whether it’s conducted for an individual, couples, or a group. I liked how the reading defined forgiveness as an experience that may not always accompany reconciliation with the offended person. Through my own experiences of doing wrong to others and having been done wrong, I’ve learned that forgiveness is mostly a complex battle within yourself. It’s not telling yourself that what a person did to you was okay or that you need to forget what a person did to you in order to move on. I’ve seen it as being able to think or see the offender and the wrongful action not through a hateful, vengeful, and bitter perspective but with a heart of compassion, strength, and humility.  So yes, while happened to you was unjust, morally wrong, and painful, you’re not going to let it weigh you down and hold a grudge against it for the rest of your life, but you’re going to use it to treat others better, to utilize the lessons learned in other parts of your life, and persevere through what happened and come out of it as a stronger individual.

I know the article briefly mentioned the debate about whether process-based or decision-based models were more effective in treating forgiveness. Honestly, I believe both elements are needed to order to address forgiveness within all levels of severity of the wrongful action. The offended need to understand that developing forgiveness takes time and is a conscious choice, not influenced by pressures of his or her society.

In your own experience, would you prefer to forgive an offender by understanding forgiveness as a process that takes time or a conscious choice only you, the offended, can make?

Character Strengths on Positive Psychology

This week’s article was interesting as it focused on the relatable demographic of college students and how they endorse different character strengths. Measuring character strengths was a method I didn’t know exist in positive psychology. The results presented a lot of room for interpretation as well. I thought the similarities between ethnic backgrounds about the strengths endorsed says a lot about how it doesn’t matter where we come from; we all have the potential to be positive, effective humans in society and we all share similar traits and characteristics within us. I also thought it was worth noting that non-Caucasian participants endorsed higher levels of spirituality, which shows the influence of upbringing and culture on one’s personality. The fact that more college students endorsed more “humanity” strengths such as kindness and generosity and endorsed a love for learning the least also shows how college is often more about the experience, rather than the knowledge you get out of your classes.

I think learning about what character strengths we possess can motivate us to become better people and see ourselves in a more optimistic and positive light. It also can show what factors affect what strengths we endorse such as gender norms and upbringings. My question why do you think college students least endorsed traits such as modesty/humility and self-regulation? How we do we see these strengths lacking in our peers in our daily lives?

Developmental Neuropsychology of SUD

This week’s read was interesting because there always seems to be a focus on the impact of the use of drugs on one’s external actions and behavior and not what happens in the brain, which actually determines how we act and behave. It intrigued me that the article brought up that a reason for the vast amount of policies and laws set in place in the Western world to criminalize and punish youth for drug use is due to studies that have been done that show the medical consequences and risks associated with drug use at a young age.

The figure that displays the different steps in the developmental process of addiction was helpful in understanding that actions should be taken at every step in order to reduce the risk of substance use in vulnerable adolescents such as decreasing their exposure to culture influences to use drugs and address personality traits and neurological factors that are somehow connected to SUD. For example, the personality trait of impulsivity can make the transition from controlled to compulsive drug use much more easier and make it more different for an individual to give up substance use.

My question is what does evidence imply for criminal sentences due to the use of drug use? Should they be taken with more leniency because an adolescent’s drug use could be triggered by their neurocognitive factors, certain genetic markers, and personality traits?

Also, is the issue of substance use in adolescents, especially if it continues in their adult years, caused by something by nature or nurture?

Romantic Relationships

The most prominent piece of knowledge I got out of reading the chapter was how early childhood relationships can influence the outcome of adult romantic relationships. This has always made sense to me, as what happens in your past can affect how you handle and maintain events in your present and future. However, I think the article tackled this idea in an interesting way by talking about the organizational-developmental perspective, bringing up gender differences, and talking about the effect of current relationship circumstances.

What was new to me while reading the chapter was how there are different, important socioemotional tasks to be accomplished at each developmental period of a person’s life. It shows how the significance of the different decisions the parents make when they determine their child’s social life. For example, as an infant a child can either be babysat by the parents’ close family members and friends or interview a nanny outside of that circle. In early childhood, a child can either be homeschooled where they mainly stay in contact with family and teachers, go to private school with more regulations and unanimity, or go to public school with a diverse background of students and faculty.

Additionally, reading the chapter made me think about my friend’s romantic relationship with a boy who has abandonment issues within his family. Because of it, he is dependent on my friend to the point it can be seen as “clingy” and gets angry and upset when she doesn’t have time to be with him and shows defensiveness toward minimal comments. Basically, his difficult upbringing has affected his emotional reactions and intimacy in his current romantic relationship. That is why I think before a person needs to focus on themselves and truly find their identity and worth before committing a relationship.

Is it more common to give blame for negative relationship dynamics to past attachments and interactions or current circumstances? Can a person still have positive relationship interactions even if they had a difficult upbringing?

The impact of mindfulness

I first heard about mindfulness during Ram Camp session and believed to simply be a way of meditation and to be present in the moment you are in. However, I was not aware of the whole movement about the benefits of mindfulness in leadership, in the workforce, in personal relationships, and restructuring the brain tissue.

I was surprised that near the end of the article the author talks about the borderline chance of mindfulness being a means of passitivity in negative or stressful events in the workplace, since mindfulness leads to reduced emotional activity and increased resilience and can hinder adaptive responses. I never thought of that opportunity to happen because I don’t think of mindfulness as the opportunity to tell yourself “Hey, this is happening right now, but it’s okay no matter what” but rather telling yourself “Hey, this is happening right now, but I just need to take a step back and see the big picture.”

When reading the part about how mindfulness can foster high quality relationships, I felt familiar with the content since that’s what we learned this past week. That being intentional and more aware in listening to what the other person has to say and having less judgement about that person can improve communication quality and lead to greater empathy and compassion towards that person.

Being an athlete, my coaches always tell me during practice that my body is always going to want to say no and to stop moving forward, but I have to put myself in the mentality that I can push myself to reach my goals and take a moment to not resort to automatic responses of giving up when the workouts get super intense.

But I do have some questions: Are there different of forms of mindfulness? I kept seeing terms such as “trait mindfulness” and “dispositional mindfulness” in the article. How can mindfulness techniques be implemented in programs to give up smoking or alcohol? Should they be used for those kinds of programs?

The power of positive emotions

Just by reading the title of the article, I thought the topic would be about how optimistic thinking plays a role in positive psychology like in flourishing, focusing on strengths, and living a satisfactory life. But after reading the article and learning about the broaden-and-build theory, I now view positive emotions in the way that it branches out to personal resources, thought-action repertoires, and even how an individual feels in the future.

Personally, I support the broaden-and-build theory because it calls for an individual to take a moment to ponder on the good, positive, and joyful things that has happened in their life and draw on the fundamental human strengths of love, interest, and contentment. In this, people can have hope for what’s happening in their lives at the moment and find the will to be resilient and face adversity. I think broad-minded is an important concept to be practiced within positive psychology as well because our emotions and personal opinions can drive to think about situations very narrowly, but by being proactive in looking at a situation in different ways not only can we be more aware of the situation but also realize our problems are conquerable.

I liked how in the conclusion, the article addresses how positive emotions can impact physical health because this past week we learned about how physical health can lead to positive emotions such as a greater self-esteem and less risk for depression. So my questions to take away from the article would be in what ways do physical health and mental health go together? As a soceity, how can we instill programs that would help someone both flourish and be physically active?

How health-related behaviors can affect GPA

Before reading this article, I could tell that it would talk about how eating, sleeping, and exercising behaviors can influence a student’s grades and what kind of habits we should instill as college students. However, after reading the article I learned that the random sample study done on the 200 students investigated variables involving spirituality, mood, and organziation skills. This made sense to me because people are multi-faceted in the way they think and behave which influences how we act in school. I thought it was interesting that people who exercised more than 7 hours during a week displayed lower GPAs than those who exercised less than 7 hours or not at all. I thought that by engaging in physical exercise would help one’s mental state be more focused and decrease stress that can come from studying and working in school so often. Perhaps exercising so often simply takes time away that could be used for studying.

I definitely feel like there’s a mentality among students where if you’re able to pull all-nighters to study for exams or you’re able to only sleep for a short amount of time, from 4 hours to even like 15 minutes, then you’re a really tough person or you’re in control of your life.

Depression is a real thing

Reading the article hit home for me because this weekend, I found out two of my friends were struggling with depression and it really made me rethink how I viewed mental illness. I agree when Michael Gross talked about many cases of depression have risen from the “selfish capitalist” countries of the US and UK. The adversiting industry stresses in the media and Internet that if you don’t have a specific product, you must not be good enough or you’re missing out on something good. If you don’t meet the standards upheld by celebirties to reach success (who are also driven to stress, anxiety, and depression by the materialistic Western lifestyles they are forced to promote), then you’re worthless. While people who are aware of this backward thinking know that you just have to ignore this shallow mentality, it’s easier said than done. I thought it was interesting that Gross brings up the physiological side of causes of depression such as a shortage of serotonin and dopamine because it further proves how the debate of nature vs. nurture for many concepts in psychology is simply a myth.

I definitely think a combination of drug therapy and psychotherapy can help people struggling with depression and/or considiering suicide. But then again, every individual’s case is different and worth analyzing to truly figure out what they need to heal. Additionally, I thought it was interesting that for the experiments to test the effectiveness of the TMS treatment, even patients who recieved the placebo subsided their suicidial thoughts and did not commit suicide in the following 6 months. But I would like to pose the following question: Is it enough for a patient struggling with severe depression to get mentally healither just by believing they are taking steps to do so?

Going above and beyond

I liked this week’s reading as it made me notice and question why positive psychology has not been a popular field of study and the reason why society works in certain ways. I had never taken the time to realize that for a long time, psychology primarily focused on healing processes, how to correct weaknesses, and how to combat mental illnesses. We never though about addressing mental illnesses simply by looking from the different perspective of how to flourish and strive to keep a positive well-being with optimism, self-determination and happiness. I think the common mindset of people is that we have to help those who are mentally struggling and disabled; however, once an individual is happy and positive we assume that he or she will just remain in that state for a long time and so we don’t have to worry about them. It’s a sad realization that rings true: most people won’t care about you until something bad happens to you. To address the enjoyment vs. pleasure problem, I think that as humans we crave instant gratification and often chose that over seeking things that foster personal growth and long-term happiness. I think there a lot of distractions in the media, in our cultural norms, and our demand for people to meet certain standards that limit a positive subjective well-being. I want to relate this to a personal experience I had today: my Uber driver this afternoon talked about his job on the staff of a wilderness therapy organization in Utah. They basically take adolescents or young adults who are mentally struggling and take them on a very crude form of camping (no tents or cabins, just a tarp for shelter when it’s raining or snowing) for about 8-10 weeks and isolate them with no phones. They all encourage the patients to talk about their feelings and help them endure or solve their struggles. I thought of that while I was reading this article because it shows how deep and intense we must go to bring about a positive well-being and how qualities such as hope, joy, and optimism must be addressed as much as the methods to combat mental illnesses.

The time of my life: adolescence

Having already taken an IB psychology course in high school, I assumed from the title of the article “Genetic influences on adolescent behavior” that there would be discussion about the naturally rebellious and risk-taking behavior that comes with being an adolescent. However, the focus on alcohol dependence and whether that stems from genetic or enviornmental factors was truly intruiging. I found it surprising that disinhibitory, sensation-seeking factors influence early substance use as an adolescent; however, once substance use becomes more permanent, genetic factors associated with drug response start to kick in. That being said, enviornmental factors still play a part as the range of influence from one’s parents growing up can determine how significant these genetic factors are. This topic made me think about stories I’ve read online or in high school about children who turn to alcohol and drugs in rebellion to the poor upbringing from their parents. On the other hand, I have a friend who is a pastor’s kid and also engages in risk-taking, dangerous behavior despite having what I would believe to be loving parents. The outcome of adolescent behavior all feels very relative, but the constant discussion of nature vs. nurture throughout the article brought up some questions for me. How would one explain alcohol use at an adolescent age despite having a positive enviornment growing up? What do you assume to be other gender differences besides the fact the externalizing genetic risk declines earlier in females?

Mental Health: A Gray Area

Upon reading the title of the post, I thought the article would address  the stigma in today’s society towards mental illness and how it shouldn’t be considered as serious of a disability as a physical illness. After reading the article, however, I felt that Keyes shaped my understanding of mental health by discussing the economic, political, and statistical aspects involved with it. For example, the information regarding how life expectancy fails to be an indicator of population health and rather a longer duration of dealing with chronic mental disorders surprised me. I never stopped to think that a longer life span also means a person has live with a chronic disease or disorder longer if untreated. Keyes stressed throughout the article about how the absence of mental illness is not the presence of mental health. I felt that I could relate to this because there are times when I struggle with social anxiety and insecurity, often compare myself to others, and think of myself negatively whenever I make notable mistakes. I wouldn’t say I have a mental illness, but I also wouldn’t say I have the most complete mental health.

That is why I would call mental health a gray area. It’s not the absence of mental illness, as the article mentions studies in which adults with flourshing or complete mental health still could have had a form of mental illness. I suppose a question I would like my classmates to answer in the comments or talk about in a small group discussion would be: What do you think a person of flourishing mental health with a mental illness would think and act like?  How do social and economic pressures that come from striving to live “The American Dream” have caused barely 1/5 of the U.S adult population to have flourishing mental health?