Meredith Ricketts: Positive University

This week’s article about implementing positive psychology into a university’s framework was a really good read for me! Throughout the entire semester one thing that has been really consistent has been the concept of positive psychology, which is something I really agree with. Being able to look on the less negative side of a field of study that historically has focused on people’s weaknesses is something refreshing and effective. The study this week focused on fusing concepts of positive psychology with five areas of the university’s framework which included classroom and formal learning environments, social environments, local community, faculty and administrative work environments and residential environments.

I think that using positive psychology and applying it to the categories above is a great way to promote overall wellness inside the college community as well as surrounding areas to these schools. College is a time in many people’s lives that is stressful and can even sometimes be the time when someone develops anxiety or depression. Instead of adding unnecessary stressors, school could be the place that helps to manage those types of things. Education is important, but what most schools lack are teaching their students how to really care for themselves outside in the real world. Having positive education could really be the difference between if someone understands the importance of their own personal well-being.

University’s can often be important parts of the overall community they share with the outside world, like VCU for example. If positive education was implemented at VCU then chances are that the city of Richmond would also feel the effects of this new type of learning as well. These positive institutions could be the start to having a more connected and informed nationwide community as well. I hope more research is done about the benefits of positive education because it would be great to see schools adopt this style of learning. I know I would really enjoy some change that would help people build their careers after college while still understanding and focusing on their mental well-being.

Do you like the way schools are run now or would you like to see the positive education framework adopted by colleges?

Meredith Ricketts: Social Interactions and Well-Being

This article was a really great read for me! I think most people would agree that when they have interactions with close friends and family they are often left in an elevated mood, but most of us overlook the small day to day accounts we experience. When I take into consideration some of my happiest days though, they are usually when I am out and about in the community, which does allow me to interact with strong and weak social ties alike. Even if is is a quick conversation with someone like a barista or just smiling at someone down the sidewalk I feel a sense of warmth with those small interactions.

I think this article also sheds some light on the importance of having a sense of community wherever you may be in life, whether it is the city you live in or your lecture class with hundreds of students.  Being able to read that these weak ties interactions can have such an impact on well-being, for both myself and the other individual, makes me more excited to give and receive even the smallest of smiles or a passing-by hello.

I thought it was great that the study expanded past college students as well. There is no doubt in my mind that college has been filled with the most amount of social ties in my life so far, so getting to see that these small interactions with others will expand further into my adult life gives me a lot of comfort. I think it is important to have those strong social ties that you can always depend on like family and friends, but this reading really makes me appreciate all the smaller ties because they add up to a happier and healthier me. When I am going about my daily activities I will remember this article and how even the smallest of things can contribute to myself and those in my community’s well-being!

Meredith Ricketts: Forgiveness

Upon looking at the title of the article, I thought I was going to think the idea of using psychotherapeutic interventions for forgiveness was going to be a silly topic. I have always thought the concept of forgiveness was to let something go, but after reading the article my my idea of the term has changed a bit. Instead of just moving on from an unpleasant or painful thing that has happened to you, forgiveness can help to strengthen an individual as well. Carrying around grudges against others can really weigh on a person, so it didn’t really surprise me to learn that there is a correlation between anxiety/depression and forgiveness. Being able to understand forgiveness entirely and learning how to utilize it could really help people with the burdens or hard feelings they carry with them.

One thing that I really liked about this study was that the authors pointed out that forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean you have to reconcile with the other person. It is mostly about finding that inner peace with yourself and becoming stronger in the process. At first when we learned about our strengths in class, I didn’t understand why forgiveness was on there because it seemed like such a straight forward concept. I see now that it has different layers to it that really play a role in having strong mental health. I suffer from anxiety as well so I am definitely going to look more into this subject because maybe having a stronger understanding of it could help me in every day life.

I know that I have a hard time with forgiveness and sometimes catch myself holding a grudge. What do you guys think about how easily you forgive others and would you ever consider therapeutic techniques to help it?

Meredith Ricketts: Character Traits

After reading this week’s article I was happy that we were back in the realm of positive psychology. I think this perspective of the science will be so beneficial once it is used more commonly in the world. As the article was saying, positive psychology focuses on all of the things that a person can become, it doesn’t examine the negative aspects of a person such as illness. In a world where people are brought down for the things that are wrong with them, positive psych could help build stronger, more resilient individuals.

I thought the idea of using the VIA-IS in a college sample was a good idea and a really good start to what testing character traits could bring to science. Even though there were no other college studies to compare it too, the authors did show a comparison to the previous study held by Park. Seeing the similarities and differences between age groups showed that some character traits are more life long and some are utilized based on where a person is in their life. Karris and Craighead had said that character traits are stable, but malleable and I couldn’t agree more. Testing a group such as a college students really helped distinguish the differences between males and females as well and can help correct some stereotyping that is still out there, like the idea that females would not be good leaders.

Overall, I think the idea to test character traits based on the VIA-IS is good, but more needs to be done. If testing were to start to be a more regular thing for all different types of age groups, then we could really start visualizing all of the different things that happen during a specific age that shape character and use that to our advantage. I am glad to see positive psychology come up again though. I think anything that focuses on strengths and  potential rather than susceptibility and weakness should be in the spot light.

Meredith Ricketts: Substance Abuse

As somebody who grew up with a group of friends who were particularly known for engaging in risky behavior, this article really touched on a lot of the stuff I saw happening with drug use and abuse when I was in high school. One major point that the article wanted to bring up was the fact that adolescence is a key time in development when drug dependence and abuse can form and become habitual. I agree with that because it was during my early teenage years that I saw a lot of my friends start to engage in a lot of dangerous experimentation and when I look at them now, unfortunately, most still have problems with drug abuse. Adolescence is a time when our brains are still not fully developed and we are quite impressionable, so it makes a lot of sense that its a time where kids can be easily one over by substances that make them “feel good.”

Growing up with that same group of kids also gave me some perspective on how predisposed genetics and family life can effect adolescence and substance abuse. I used to not understand how some of my closest friends that I shared so much social environment with could be heavily addicted to drugs, yet I and many others were not. We went to the same parties and  a lot of people even experimented together with drugs and alcohol, but only a handful of kids grew to depend on it. This article helped to connect the dots that family life and genetics could greatly impact the chances of someone developing issues with abuse. A person’s sensitivity to drugs is amplified during that adolescent time, so if an environment is unfavorable to them it could introduce them to those risky behavior patterns and genes that will lead them down a dangerous path as the grow older.

It is hard keeping teenagers safe from the dangers of drugs and alcohol because for them that can be a time of freedom. A friend of mine recently passed away from something drug related and he had been struggling with substance issues for a long time. It is a hard thing to watch someone go through and I really encourage anyone who is struggling or knows someone who is, to get help. It is never too late to try and turn things around, even if you do develop dependence at a young age!


Meredith Ricketts: Relationships

I really enjoyed the things being explored in this article because I really think that relationships (romantic, family, peers) are one of the most important things that people can engage themselves in and being able to have a healthy functioning one is important for personal well-being. Life can already be unpredictable and hard and it is important to surround yourself with people that will benefit you instead of hindering an individual. From what I have seen with myself and close friends, the article makes good points about how past relationships can effect future ones. It makes sense because when you have just get out of a bad relationship, people are often nervous that the next will be similar. I think that is part of the reason people put up walls as a way to protect themselves from being hurt again.  And, as the article was saying, I think part of the reason some relationships are destructive is because of the type of environment and parents children grow up with. Being surrounded by loving parents who treat each other with respect will probably help a person to have higher standards for their own future relationships and vice versa.

One thing that I really took away from this is the fact that all people grow up with a different variation of how relationships should be and how people should treat one another. I think we can generalize a good and a bad category, but even then what one person thinks is normal will be different for the next. I think that is why it is important to understand your own standards for how you would like a relationship to be and how you should be treated. A person’s partner should be complimentary to them so that they both thrive and make each other better people. I am really excited to learn more about relationships because they are such an important part of us that we will need to understand for our whole lives.

Meredith Ricketts: Mindfulness

Before reading this article, I thought I understood what mindfulness was and that I was just going to be reading about a bunch of stuff I was already very familiar with, but that wasn’t the case. I initially thought being mindful was very simple and that most people were naturally that way. The article really opened my eyes up to the fact that having mindfulness is an active process though.  And even though this reading was centered on benefits in a work place environment, it was nice knowing that with mindful practice we can benefit various aspects of our physical and mental health.

I think I would really benefit from taking a more active approach to being mindful because I’ve noticed there are days when my mind can wander for ours without really absorbing anything that I am doing. I haven’t ever really heard of any of the ways to practice mindfulness, but one thing that I am doing that I think helps is yoga. When I am doing yoga is really helps me center my thoughts and be aware of myself. There aren’t a million things racing through my mind, I am completely present in the moment, which I feel is a big part of being mindful.

One quote that I really enjoyed from the article was,  “each of us gets the same twenty-four hours a day . . . we fill up those hours with so much doing that we scarcely have time for being (Kabat-Zinn).” To me, that summarizes what I would really want to get out of learning to be more mindful. We only get one life, and I really want to be present for all of it!

Meredith Ricketts: The Role of Positive Emotions in Positive Psychology

As we learned earlier in the semester, Positive Psychology is an area of the science that focuses more on finding the strengths of individuals rather than focusing on their weaknesses. In short, a previous article we talked about focused on how having a positive mindset can really  be a defining factor in good mental health. With this week’s reading, I think that idea was taken a step further in explaining the effects of positive and negative emotions on affect. For me personally, this article was really helpful because I often find my emotions can have a snowball effect which either benefit my life is make it much harder than it needs to be.

The broaden-and-build theory was something I have never heard before reading this article, but really liked the concept of it. I think it is important to understand that positive emotions help in areas of being creative, wanting to take part in activities, and expanding social aspects. This theory also talked a lot about how emotions can build personal resources, which can be linked to helping people survive throughout the years. If emotions do have adaptive qualities, they are probably important to keep around! It was good for me to understand that just by having more positive emotions that it could help in the long run by opening my mind more, getting me interested in certain things, and helping to grow my social and personal resources.

Knowing that positive emotions have long lasting effects on people such as strengthening individual growth, social connections, and even physical health is definitely a good incentive as well to try and stay positive. I really hope that this movement with positive psychology keeps moving because it is awesome to learn about ways that people can make small changes with themselves to help benefit the bigger picture of their personal well-being.

Meredith Ricketts: Sleep and Other Behaviors

This week’s reading was very interesting to me, but also kind of familiar. A lot of times, a person’s academic success is not based solely on how smart that person is, but also things that happen outside of school. The study conducted from the research tested several common health related behaviors that could possibly interfere with GPAs. Things such as nutrition, work, exercise, and time management were tested, but none compared to the affects that sleep has on someone’s GPA.

This didn’t really surprise me because I notice almost immediately when loss of sleep is interfering  with school. Even if I only have a few hours of sleep that night I will notice how hard it is to concentrate, retain information, and even want get out of bed and go to class. The point about exercise and school was interesting though. I think it is great if people establish good exercise habits, but it does make sense to make sure you don’t over-exercise as it can hurt GPA averages according to the reading. With everything people do, there is a fine line between too much and too little and it is important to understand that even if something is a “healthy habit” too much of it can negatively effect you.

It is also good that light is being shed on the outside variables that can effect school and GPA as well because maybe students and university administers can work together to solve health related issues that correlate with bad school performance. Even if that weren’t the case it is good for people to know the types of behaviors that will hinder their education so that they can make smarter choices in the future!

Meredith Ricketts: Silver Linings with Patients with Depression?

Before reading the article, I thought there would be some information that I would be familiar with because, I personally, have struggled with depression for the past few years of my life. The article does make a lot of really good points though that I never really have thought of.  One thing that really stuck out to me was the point they make out depression not occurring as much in pre-industrial cultures.  It is the the stressors of modern society and capitalism that play a large role in depression. Places, like America and similar countries, are independent and competitive. People have to go out into the world and fend for them self in order to be successful with life and sometimes that can prove to be a lot for individuals.  It can sometimes be easy for these big capitalist countries to be breeding grounds for negative thoughts because people can dwell on their own failures. financial situations, and compare themselves to others who might be more successful. And, if a person is predisposed to depressive disorders it could eventually be a trigger for them.

I did like that this article really did shed some light on depression because I feel that it has such a negative stigma. People are afraid to talk about it, admit they have it, or get help for it. With more and more research about depression out there though I hope people with depressive disorders understand they are not alone. By putting it out there that things such as drug therapy and psychotherapy in combination would work better than alone, it might help people realize there is help out there. It is also important to remember that  no matter what area of the spectrum a person falls into, depression is serious and should be treated as such. It can happen to anyone and is nothing to be ashamed about.

Meredith Ricketts: Positive Psychology

After reading this week’s article I think the authors are really going in the right direction with the idea of positive psychology. Personally, I have struggled with depression for the past two years and it was only when I decided to change my attitude about life that my mental state actually improved. I didn’t ever really notice that counseling or depression medication worked for me, but the moment I committed to  embracing a more constructive way of living my life drastically improved. I think it is often really easy for people to play victim to their own weaknesses and sometimes that can lead to a very destructive life mentally and physically. Developing a positive mindset can also benefit others by portraying the idea of hope, change, and new possibilities if one works hard enough.

The authors also brought up a very important question  of if psychology can be more than  the idea of mental illnesses and their victims. If the science could be expanded past the universal idea of curing sad and miserable people from their own minds then I think positive psychology could play a major role in establishing the practice of self awareness and improvement in order to maintain healthy mindsets. Of course, it wouldn’t always be as easy as trying to stay optimistic through every rough patch life throws our way because yes, sometimes it is too hard to handle. But as the article was saying positive psychology is something that would have to be looked at as life-long process. If this view were more widely accepted then it could give people hope that even through difficult times life can get better, instead of worse.

If focus was shifted away from negative aspects of psychology then society could reinforce cultural virtues and practices that historically have shown up with people living quality lives such as focus on creativity and thirst for knowledge and wisdom. As the article was saying though, the idea of positive psychology has been around for a long time and still has not overshadowed the negative. Hopefully people who continue to practice positivity will inspire those around them to do the same and this moment will eventually take full effect.

Meredith Ricketts: Response to Genetic Influences on Genetic Behavior

After reading the article, my immediate thoughts went to the discussion of “nature vs. nurture.” It isn’t an unfamiliar area for me, as I have taken numerous psychology classes that often bring it up. It is no surprise that many people are often a product of their environment, but I also believe that underlying genes play a major role in the actions people take and the lifestyles they live. Environments can also manifest subconscious behaviors without people realizing it. The Twin Study is an excellent example of raising awareness that children will absorb life in their adolescent years and mold into adults because of it. It also helps to target the genetic side because it is not easy to zero in on something you cannot actually see.  Though it is easy to argue that one could have more importance than the other, I believe that might play equal roles in the development of adolescents.

A lot of times people who suffer from things such as alcohol dependence or drug abuse start exhibiting risky behavior early in life. If we had a better understanding of how the environment can manifest genes linked to negative behavior, or how genes can influence an individual in different areas of their life it might help with avoiding those types of situations in the first place. This really hits home with me because I have several loved ones who have struggled with drug addiction and I always wished I could do more. I know deep down that it is hard  to change something that their bodies genetically desire, but its difficult none the less to watch other’s struggle through it.

Of course, I still have my own doubts that being able to manipulate an environment or how someone shapes them self in their environment can necessarily help those who participate in risky behavior. Our genes are permanent after all and we can only suppress them for a time. Unfortunately, I sometimes think if someone is genetically predisposed that danger can find them even when in a healthy setting.  It might not be in the form of drugs or alcohol because there are so many forms of unhealthy actions. Hopefully, research will continue and more information can be discovered because being able to find a concrete connection could bring some many new possibilities for people.

Response: Promoting and Protecting Mental Health as Flourishing

The topic of mental health is always a bit difficult, as mental health is something that is felt, but not always seen. This article pointed out many of the obstacles that must be accounted for in order to improve mental health and overall vitality in one’s life. A main point that was brought up during this article was the questioning of whether being free of a mental illness made an individual mentally healthy. Before reading this I might have assumed that was true, but Keyes brings up so many excellent points that I now have to agree that one can be considered free of an illness, but still suffer from poor mental health. Keyes’ article also brings attention on just how important it is to have a strong understanding of mental health and illness in order to help society function to the best of it’s ability.

Often times mental illnesses can go overlooked or be hidden due to the stigma that these diseases are not a real problem with an individual’s health. Many don’t consider how problematic a mental illness/disorder can be on someone when it comes to functioning in society or being physically healthy. As the article points out too, only completely mental healthy individuals have the strongest success to function in society and have strong personal well-being.  This doesn’t necessarily mean someone is free of an illness, and they can still suffer from similar things.

A better understanding of mental health and illnesses is needed in order to help those in society who don’t fall into one category or another. If mental health was something that was more openly talked about in society, those who suffer in silence could get the help they need in order to have personal happiness and benefit in society.  A person is not just healthy or sick, there are levels that anyone can fall into and move up or down from. Breaking away from this idea of being “one or the other” could be what helps move overall health forward!