Substance Use

This was a sad article to read.  I haven’t known many people my age that have had experience with substance use other than alcohol, but the horror stories from teens who have overdosed or lost their lives over drugs remind me that it is a very real thing.  Most teens don’t see it as harming themselves, they’re just trying new things and being rebellious.  My sister is in this stage and has been experimenting, but I believe she won’t get as far as the definition of the Substance Use Disorder.  She hasn’t been spending an excessive amount of time on obtaining it or using it and her tolerance has not increased.

I hope my sister will learn from my father’s mistakes.  He displays all the symptoms of SUD.  He smoked cigarettes and drank constantly throughout my childhood and teen years.  He continuously built up a tolerance and smoke more and drank more every year.  I don’t know the specifics of his adolescence, though I do believe he experimented quite a bit.  The article stressed the importance of these habits being reduced so that adults such as him don’t begin to experience SUD.

Character in College

The article discusses a study done to measure the strengths of character traits of college students.  There are 24 character traits and the article concludes that college students have all of them.  Certain ones came up more often then others.  Also, nearly half of the character strengths varied by gender, but that was the only variation found.  I am somewhat surprised by this.  On one hand, most people I meet have similar interests and goals so their character strengths are probably similar.  On the other hand, people are very different and their test results must vary greatly depending on what they think of themselves.  Either way, I think character strengths are a great thing to know about a person and have them know about themselves.  It allows them to strengthen their weaknesses and acknowledge their strengths.

I thought the most interesting point that was made was that assessing character strengths is the newest form of positive psychology.  I’m fascinated by positive psychology so it was wonderful to find out they are just as interested in character strengths as I am.

Forgiveness

The article implies that forgiveness is when a person no longer feels angry at the other person and when they start to feel somewhat positive feelings too.  It discusses the benefits of forgiveness and how it changes the forgiver.

At a church conference a few years ago, the theme was forgiveness.  I chose to forgave everyone who ever made fun of me or made me feel bad.  It was relieving to finally let go of the grudge I had against them.  I had the same results that the article states are common among those who forgive; they have hope, it helps with mental illness, and it enhances human functioning.  After the conference, the feeling lasted a long time.  It has since faded and I need to focus on forgiveness again.  I’d point out that the effects only last if forgiveness is practiced often, it cannot be expected to be a one and done solution to depression and anxiety.

Positive University

Before reading:

A positive university sounds to me like a university where a student can feel a positive energy and have a lot of emotional and educational support from the institution and it’s employees.

After reading:

The article defines a positive university as being a place where positive education is used.  Positive education focuses on “emphasiz[ing] the importance of learning environments.”  Students will not do well if they are not encouraged or given a positive environment to learn in.  This includes acknowledging mental illnesses and helping people who have them as well as teaching well-being exercises.

After reading I found that my prediction for the definition of a positive university was very close.  This will help students of all types to succeed during their university experience.  VCU has done a great job of being a positive university in my experience.  I haven’t used all of the amenities it offers, but I have known people who have and they love them.  The counseling services offered helps students who don’t have a regular therapist and may need short term help.

Social Interactions

I am an extrovert, so social interaction comes easy to me.  I’ve never had a problem with being able to talk to people, which is important since I work in sales.

In Study 1, the data reflects that people are happier on the days they talk to people than on the days they don’t.  This applies to most people, though mostly extroverts.  I have experienced this, I am at my happiest when I am around people, especially close friends.  I hate being alone, I feel less energized and I don’t get much done.  I feel like the data doesn’t accurately represent the differences between introverts and extroverts though, because introverts needs that alone time to recharge, therefore they’re happier when they’re alone usually.

The second part of the article discusses the difference between interacting with close family members and friends and interacting with people who we have “weak ties” to, such as acquaintances and strangers.  There are many benefits of talking to such people, such as social networking and the bridging of relationships between weak ties and your close relationships.   I have experienced this, especially in sales.  I talk to a random customer and I find out new information every day.  I don’t usually interact with customers who know people I am friends with because of my age group and where the shop I work at is, but the people I work with usually know someone I’ve known.

It’s interesting to think about the ways that my social interactions influence the way I go about life and the people I’ve met and who I will meet.   The article made me realize how many weak ties I have and how most of them are associated with other people I know.

Relationships Response

I always enjoy reading article about relationships on social media platforms, so a legitimately scientific research article was an engaging read for me.  I agree with the article, that your past relationships with family and friends determine the success of your adult romantic relationships.

Just as with nearly every college student, I’ve had relationships in my past.  I’ve only been in two long term relationships, one of which I’m still in now.  I’d like to think I know a bit about relationships, though.  In my experience, if you don’t respect yourself enough to stand up for yourself with your friends, then you certainly won’t with your significant other.  Thought this isn’t necessarily what the article meant, I still think it holds true.  The way you treat your family, your friends, and even random strangers could also predict how you will act with your significant other when no one else is watching.

I would like to ask the class what other kinds of examples they can think of for how the way people treat their friends and family could also be an indicator of how they treat their significant other.

Mindfulness Response

I had heard about mindfulness, but what comes to mind is this picture:

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I had understood the dictionary definition of mindful, but hadn’t thought about possibility of mindfulness as a way of life.  I have a friend who uses Buddhist lessons to help with her anxiety, such as meditation and calming coping methods, but hadn’t heard her use the term mindfulness before.  I think it has definitely helped her, but I haven’t really gotten the hang of it.  I’m too scatterbrained and I hate having my eyes closed if I’m not trying to go to sleep.

Mindfulness kind of reminds me of prayer, but instead of focusing on a deity, you’re focusing on the world around you and your breathing.  I find that prayer calms me down sometimes, but I can see how those who aren’t religious would find this soothing in the same way.

I thought the most interesting influence mindfulness has on an individual is their interpersonal relationships.  It’s intriguing to me how focusing on yourself could also help you be better at listening and being quick to judge.  The article also said that it helps with “favorable subordinate attitudes and behaviors via improved relationship quality”.  I feel like that would greatly help in my work environment, sales.  If the boss was better at her relationships with her employees, the employees would like her more too.

Overall I think mindfulness is an interesting way to think and it has it’s benefits.

Positive Emotions Response

Positive psychology has always been interesting to me, I love that there is a study of our mind that focuses on the positive aspects of life rather than focusing on the reason we have mental disorders and issues.  I was hoping to read about what else positive psychology has done, so I’m very glad we were assigned this article.  I enjoyed reading about how a positive way of life could affect your well-being.

I have always tried my best to be positive, even though sometimes life makes it extremely hard to keep doing.  I was delighted to read that being positive can also affect your health later in life, in a good way.  I think the information would benefit more people if they new that their negative attitude could shorten their life.  It would definitely change the attitudes of many adults and elderly people.

I was also surprised to see that “people who consistently experienced positive emotions” throughout their lives were more likely to be healthier later in life.  It would help if parents were discouraged from being judgmental or negative around their children too, since that affects the positive attitudes of children.

What if a positive attitude was given as a prescription for a health issue and it ended up actually helping?

College Student Response

The information discussed in the article accurately represents what I considered would be good habits to ensure higher GPA.  I do think there are outliers in the data though, at least in my case I would be.  I have a good standing GPA, but I work every weekend, I volunteer with Girl Scouts every other week, I wake up late-ish (around 9 usually, because I chose to have later classes because I commute), and I don’t eat breakfast.  These are all factors that the article considered habits that would correlate with a low GPA.

I have been told many times, though, that habits such as waking up earlier, working less, and eating breakfast would improve grades.  Schools constantly encourage waking up early and eating breakfast, but some students cannot make this happen.  I never ate breakfast in high school and always slept in as late as possible.

I enjoyed reading the article though and hopefully it will encourage those with lower GPAs to change their habits to improve it.

Depression Response

 

I have a limited understanding of depression.  I haven’t been formally diagnosed, but this past year I had depressive episodes for about 6 months that were caused by starting birth control. They went away after I switched prescriptions, but those 6 months were awful.  I was either crying or angry because I didn’t know why I felt like crap all of the time.  I’m not claiming I have depression or anything like it, just that I base my understanding of what it feels like to be depressed on this experience.

Right before this time, my sister was admitted into a psychiatric unit because she was at high risk for suicide.  My mom and I were terrified and that was the only way to keep her safe over the weekend because we both had to work.  Since then, anti-anxiety and anti-depressants combined with weekly individual and group therapy, she is doing much better.  The article’s data seems very accurate to me based on her experience, that medication combined with therapy helps individuals the most.  After going through the experience with her, it helped me through my episodes for the time they were affecting me.

I feel like the reason that most severe depression cases go undiagnosed and untreated is because there is such a stigma surrounding psychiatric disorders.  Moderate depression has become slightly more mainstreamed in the past few years, but people still aren’t as open about it.  Most people I meet seem ashamed to admit that they’re on anti-depressants or are in therapy.  I only find this out after I open up about my own experiences with counseling and depression.  One of the best ways to ensure that severe depression is treated is to discourage the negative thoughts that most people have about it.

 

Positive Psychology Response

In the tenth grade, I randomly made this decision to try my best every day to be happy.  I thought that since I didn’t have any reasons to be sad or angry, I should instead be happy.  It worked wonders for a long time.  I was positive about nearly everything that came my way (which wasn’t much in high school, honestly) and wasn’t very stressed at all compared to my classmates.

When I learned about positive psychology in my AP Psychology class in high school, I thought it fit my philosophy perfectly.  I loved how there was an actual sect of psychology dedicated to the positive aspects of our lives and studying how we react to them.  Too many people around me focused on the bad parts of life and complained about their stress and issues, but for me it was just easier to focus on the bright side of every situation.

Reading this article, it was encouraging to know that positive psychology is growing and has been since after WWII.  Most psychological studies are on suicide rates and mental disorders, but positive psychology focuses on the healing of such things, not just the study.

I was surprised to find that, historically, positive psychology has grown and wavered, but still continued.  It meant to me that no matter how bad the world got (the philosophy survived the dark ages, guys, and that was an awful time), there would still be people that chose to focus on the virtues that make humanity flourish.

Genetic Influences Response

My understanding of genetics is rudimentary; the basics that I’ve learned from my high school and college science classes.  To me, genes basically controlled how you looked and the conditions you had, not your habits or personality.  I have heard tidbits about how your parents’ behaviors can affect yours as you grow up, but that would be based on circumstance.  I had never questioned the possibility that your genes could affect your actions as you grow up.

I’m still not entirely sure I’ve even witnessed the influence of genes on a person’s personality.  In my experience, I’m not very much like my parents other than in appearance.  My dad is a stubborn, hot-headed alcoholic.  I am stubborn at times, but I’m not an innately angry person and I have never had an interest in drinking or using any other substances.  Most studies would suggest that I should have a heightened risk of becoming an addict or have anger issues, but I seem to be the complete opposite.  This could be situational, though.  I have seen the way anger and alcohol affected him, so I choose to do neither.  Is this me overriding my genetic disposition?  I believe I decide how to present myself and control my emotions, so I don’t think my genes had very much to do with my being other than how alike I look to my mom.

I understand the information presented in the article, but considering I haven’t seen it very much in my own experience, I believe there could be information presented to defend the opposition: that your experiences and environment shape your behaviors and substance abuse risk, not your genetic code.