Week 14: Positive University

This article talked about applying the topic of positive education to the institution or university. “This should be done in such a way so as to increase positive emotions, meaning and engagement and decrease mental illness.” Spreading well-being across campuses is something that is very necessary but something that is not always acted upon. Positive education among college students will encourage them to be “more engaged, make greater use of their strengths, experience more positive emotion and, just as importantly, achieve higher levels of academic success.” The article said how positive mood produces broader attention which is important especially in students who are here to learn.

Before taking this class I have never practiced mindfulness in my daily life let alone any class I’ve ever taken. Walking into class and doing a 3 minute calming video makes such a difference and you wouldn’t know that until you try it. Being more social and spreading kindness is something critical to do well and be happy in life especially in school. I think bringing positive education into universities is awesome and important. The Science of Happiness is a simple yet straight forward way to improving your mood and becoming aware of so much about yourself which is great. If positive education was implemented into VCU in more, bigger classes like this one I think it would be beneficial to the community as a whole.

Week 13, Social Interactions and Well-Being

I found this article rather interesting! Before reading it I had never really thought about the impact others had on you, who may no be in your close circle of friends/family. A study was conducted to find out the relationship between interactions with weak ties (as opposed to strong ties) and your overall well-being/happiness. In study one they  focused on the classroom context, examining students’ daily interactions with classmates. In study two they broadened it to ask students and community members to track all of their daily interactions.

“People who, on average, interacted with more classmates than other people reported greater happiness.” This did not surprise me because if you think about it talking to other students in your class gives you a sense of belonging and joy even if they are not people who you are friends with. If you sit in class alone everyday and don’t say a word to anyone, chances are you are less likely to be as happy as someone who interacts with others, even if that interaction is just saying hi or asking a question about the class.  Both strong tied and weak tied interactions have a different yet positive effect “each type of interaction has an independent effect on social and emotional well-being.”

This results were constant across studies, so whether the interactions were in the classroom or the community people who interacted more with weak ties had a higher sense of belonging and well-being. I think this is important to remember and practice. I think individuals can definitely learn from these findings. Whether you are shy, outgoing, or in between it’s good to understand that interactions have a positive impact on you because it may encourage you to be more social. Well-being is important and feeling a sense of belonging is necessary to your happiness.

Week 12, Psychotherapeutic Interventions to Promote Forgiveness

Before reading the article I had never really thought at all in depth about forgiveness. After taking the strengths survey though, I learned forgiveness fell 8th on my results list. I have always been told to “forgive and forget” and for the most part I do. I think that by holding on to that anger or grudge you aren’t allowing yourself to move past it. You need to understand your feelings and then whoever it is that did you wrong, try to see their side as best you can and hear them out in order to maybe be able to forgive easier.

If people have these issues bottled up and are trying to forgive and move on by themselves yet can’t seem to be able to, I can see how psycho-therapeutic interventions would be able to help them achieve that. I found it interesting that the study found that forgiveness interventions resulted in reductions in depression and anxiety, and increases in hope, although it didn’t surprise me. I think by forgiving something you are likely to have less anxiety/depression because you are no longer dwelling on it.

I personally am a pretty stubborn person but I would say that I forgive people pretty easily and I try not to hold any grudges. I think by allowing forgiveness and closing the door of whatever that situation was, you are closing the door on all the doubts and stress, and possibly any trust issues that may have went along with it. Sometimes forgiveness is definitely harder than others but I think it is something that is very important to your overall well-being.

Week 11, Differences in Character Among U.S. College Students

This article was interesting and cool I think how it had a way to measure 24 different character strengths. It stated that the “weighted mean scores demonstrated that the most endorsed character strengths, in order, were: kindness, fairness, honesty, gratitude, judgment, love, and humor. The least endorsed character strength was self-regulation, followed by modesty, prudence, zest, religiousness, industry, and hope.” I agreed with this and didn’t find it all that surprising. However I found it somewhat surprising that “females scored higher than males on gratitude, kindness, and love”.

I love focusing on the positive side of psychology as stated in the beginning of the article more often than not we only pay attention to the negative aspects of it.  It was a neat study and I think it was very true and important that they mentioned “with a few exceptions, endorsement of the character strengths generally did not vary based on age, ethnicity, relationship status, or work status, but did vary based on gender.” It doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from, it’s just that males and females have different strengths. One more thing I found interesting was “a notable difference was that the adult internet sample had relatively higher endorsement of fairness and gratitude, and relatively less endorsement of love and humor than the college sample.” I think the whole study was great and the article did an alright job of summing things up and explaining the results of the study.

Week 10, Substance Use Disorders

This article is something that hit home for me because I have many people close to me that suffer from a handful of addictions. Going through adolescent life there may be new things that may come around you, like drugs, and depending on both your genetic makeup and your environmental influences growing up people may be more or less likely to try these things and become addicted. It makes sense that adolescence is a time where many people first try drugs because it’s a time in your life that can be pretty confusing, your brain is changing, you are trying to figure out who you are, be accepted, etc.

The article talked about how if you start drinking and doing drugs at a younger age you are more likely to have an addiction as you are older and I totally agree. Many of my friends started doing hard drugs coming out of high school  and became addicted pretty quickly, though they thought they would just be able to try it a few times and then stop. They unfortunately learned the hard way that addiction is a disease and it’s easier said than done to just stop after a few times. The article broke it up into three stages and it makes perfect sense having seen people go from trying it once to completely stuck on it. I think people need to be more educated on the topic of addiction because right now there is a very big stigma/stereotypes that are associated with it and many people are really unaware or misinformed of how things truly are. I recently lost a close friend to addiction and it’s sad to see/hear some peoples uneducated comments and opinions on how they think addiction is.

Week 9, Interdisciplinary Research on Close Relationships

This was a really interesting article to me because it made a lot of sense. I was somewhat familiar with how past relationships effect future ones just based off what I have observed in my life thus far. I definitely agree that your parents relationships have an impact on your future spouses and stuff because they are what you grew up knowing and observing. For example my parents have a healthy marriage and have been together for more than 30 years, seeing that through the phases of my childhood to adulthood leaves me with high expectations when it comes to my personal relationships and partners whether I am conscious of that or not.

The same thing on the opposite side of the spectrum, if you didn’t grow up surrounded by good functioning relationships you may be less likely to have a healthy future relationships yourself. Of course there all always the exceptions on both ends but it makes sense that this is usually the case. The author also talked about the different stages of age and how they related to different behaviors. Do you think further research could figure out ways for people to try and change this outcome so that more people would end up in healthy relationships despite what their parents had?

Week 8, Contemplating Mindfulness at Work

Before reading the article I had some ideas about mindfulness from being to yoga classes and focusing on being present in that moment. As said in the article, mindfulness is all about attention and awareness, and it has a broad positive impact on human functioning. Practicing mindfulness has been shown to improve three qualities of attention, which are stability, control, and efficiency.

It related mindfulness to the workplace and how important it is in that environment.  This was something I am somewhat familiar with as I am taking Industrial and Organizational Psychology this semester which is all about the workplace. It talked about that while mindfulness is individual it affects relationships. This is big in work environments as teamwork and leadership play key roles.

“Research in such disciplines as psychology, neuroscience, and medicine provides a wealth of evidence that mindfulness affects attention, cognition, emotions, behavior, and physiology in positive ways.” I think this is a topic that should be more focused on, I am glad that there is a lot of research out there about it since it is so influential on your overall well-being.  “Mindfulness is related to numerous neurobiological mechanisms involved in stress regulation.” I think it all comes back to having your attention focused on being present and aware. Not only is it good for your overall well-being but it plays a big part in how you perform at work which all in all leads to your success.

Week 7, The Role of Positive Emotions in Positive Psychology

This weeks article was interesting. I was familiar with the idea of it since we have been talking recently about positive psychology and how much it effects your day to day life. The author talked about how positive emotions signal and produce flourishing, and not just in the present, but long term as well. They explained the difference between affect and emotions, which was new to me I always just thought they were both your feelings.

The broaden-and-build theory makes sense in how if you have positive emotions like joy, interest, love, etc. then they broaden your momentary thought action repertoires, widening the array of the thoughts and actions that come to mind. Whereas if you had more negative emotions you would have a more narrow outlook. I thought it was interesting that they stated positive emotions might correct or undo the after effects of negative emotions.  Also I am interested in the question about how positive emotions foster physical health.

“By building people’s personal and social resources, positive emotions transform people for the better, giving them better lives in the future.” I liked this quote because it tells us that emotions influence way more than just how you feel that day. Having positive thoughts and emotions help you to have an all around more positive life. I think that is something that sounds like commonsense yet isn’t always something we think about or recognize. I think positive psychology is excellent and important.

Week 6, Health-Related Variables and Academic Performance

Before reading this article I knew that there were different components that went into how well you perform in school, but never really thought about how important each one was. I was aware that GPA was more than just how intelligent a person is, there are other factors that go into it. The study tested a handful of things such as exercise, breakfast, and amount of sleep. The study found sleep to be the most important thing!

I wasn’t too surprised by this finding because I know that for me personally, I cannot function at my full potential if I don’t get enough sleep. I have always been told how important a good nights sleep is. If I don’t get enough sleep it is harder for me to pay attention and remember information that is being taught. I thought breakfast was going to have more of an impact, but it makes sense that is related to sleep as well because you have to get up early enough to have time to make something to eat.

I think it is important to know how different things can affect others. For instance too much exercise may hurt your GPA, which shows that something that may be helping you in one aspect may be hurting you in another without you even realizing it. I think the study was nice because it teaches people that much more goes into your GPA than just the number of hours you spend studying.

Week 5, Silver Linings for Patients with Depression

Much of the information in this weeks reading wasn’t too surprising to me, as I know a handful of people who suffer from depression. And with the rate now twice as high since 1980 I’m sure if you are not suffering yourself, you at least know someone who is. I personally think there needs to be more of an attempt to get to the root of the issue rather than just prescribing someone a pill to take every morning, whether that is through counseling, therapy sessions, or whichever. I did find it interesting how the author stated that more wealthy people are more depressed which goes to show “money can’t buy happiness”.

For people who don’t have a mental illness (it might not come as easy since they have never been there) but it’s important to remember that it is just as much a thing as a physical illness is. After reading the article it reminded me that depression is not something you can just simply “get over” and also that people may be suffering without you knowing since it is not something you can just see like you could a broken arm. I found it interesting that they related mental illness to capitalism. I think more research should continue to try and figure out the cause for depression so there may be an easier prevention or solution to the issue.


Week 4, Positive Psychology

Positive psychology is not something I was very familiar with before reading this article. However, after reading it I think it totally makes sense and is a great area of study. I definitely agree with the idea that not only do we need to focus on what needs to be fixed, but we also need to focus on making the already good things better. I loved that they said “treatment is not just fixing what is broken; it is nurturing what is best.” Rather than directing all the attention  to mental illness and how to treat that, work more on promoting mental health and flourishing.

I found it interesting how they talked about how you have to look at positive psychological processes over a life span, “call no man happy till he dies”. I understand this argument yet don’t know if I personally agree. I think positive psychology is something that should be talked about more to remind people like the article said that psychology is not just the study of damage and weakness, but is the study of strength and virtue. I think that’s something that is often forgotten.

Week 3, Genetic Influences on Adolescent Behavior

I have taken psychology classes in the past which have given me some insight into this topic. Growing up we are shaped into who we are as people through a number of different factors. Things like alcohol use and problems become a part of peoples lives usually pretty early on. There are two main components that effect this, and it is the idea of nature versus nurture. One component is the kind of environment you grew up in, for instance if you had strict parents and a well behaved group of friends. Or, if you had parents who didn’t really have rules, who drank all the time, and friends who did the same. The second component to it is if you were already genetically predisposed to having some sort of drinking issue.

I think it is definitely a mixture of the two, and this is always something I have found interesting. I know many people with alcohol or drug problems yet they grew up in nice families and had friends who didn’t do those things. It makes me wonder why then it was they started. Was it just because they were genetically more prone to having an issue or was it due to choices they made and where they hung around? Again I guess maybe a combination of the two.

Of course peer pressure is a thing at some point. But where does someone being able to have a few drinks here and there turn into someone who is an alcoholic/addict? Addiction is a crazy sick disease. I am interested in further research about genetic effects versus environmental factors and am curious about people’s different opinions on which aspect has more of an effect on an individual.

Week 2, Promoting and Protecting Mental Health as Flourishing

Before reading Promoting and Protecting Mental Health as Flourishing, I had never really thought about the overall importance of mental health, although I had a pretty good understanding on the topic, and I knew it was a big issue for a lot of people. I found it interesting, and agreed with the fact that the author stated, there is a difference between not being mentally ill, and being mentally healthy. I was surprised to find out how many people actually suffer from a mental illness each year, opposed to how many people are “flourishing”. Although I have had a handful of friends suffer from things like anxiety and depression, I guess I never really thought in depth about how many other people mental illnesses could be affecting as well.

I believe the overall population of the US is under-educated on the whole discussion. In school it was never a class topic, and not something we learned about like I think we should have. I think we need to spread more awareness about mental health and continue research, especially because the same illness could affect different people different ways because no one person is alike. The article talked about ways we try to control or prevent mental illness which I think is something that maybe difficult but also possible and necessary. I know there are certain symptoms that people have to have to actually be diagnosed, so what about the people who have say, four out of the five symptoms for a certain illness? Are they just put in the group of people not considered having a mental illness, but also not mentally healthy? I think in today’s world individuals are under a great amount a stress which has a big impact on their overall well-being. What can we do to help spread the world and educate more people on the importance of mental health?

This article opened my eyes to how much the government spends researching mental health, as well as how much goes into actually being mentally healthy. Before reading I figured you were either ill or healthy, but I soon realized that was not the case, which now makes sense. I wonder how other illness not mentioned fit into everything, and exactly how often is it that you find someone with a mental illness that is flourishing?