Positive Universities and Learning

I liked that this article also focused on learning environments. A lot of time, emphasis is placed on learning, but there isn’t really much concern about learning environments. Do you guys think that the learning environment plays a role in the amount and quality of learning a person achieves? It would be interesting to have a class discussion on ways a university can become a positive university and contribute to positive emotions and help decrease mental illness. The article pointed of that evidence is starting to suggest that cultivating well-being could be something that universities could benefit from. In what ways could well-being be cultivated? The article also mentioned 5 factors in well-being. Meaning and positive emotions were the ones that stood out to me. I saw that it listed the use of student suggestions and ideas in the development of the curriculum under the meaning category. I think this would be awesome. We do get to give our feedback on classes, but this is after they are over so it really doesn’t help us much. Do you guys think it would be nice to be able to contribute ideas for courses prior to them being finished? I also liked that it mentioned the use of music at the start of classes under the positive emotions category. I have a professor that sometimes plays music before class and I really enjoy this. It does help with relaxing and just putting me in a better mood.

Social Interactions and Positive Affect

It was interesting to read an article about social interactions. Especially for me because I tend to be a very shy person. I try to avoid most social interactions and don’t really go to places that require a lot of them (parties, clubs, etc.). The first point the article made that caught my attention was where it mentioned that social interaction and positive affect reinforced each other. For me, social interactions mostly just give me anxiety so I couldn’t really see how it could contribute to positive affect for me. However, after thinking about it a bit more, I do enjoy spending time with my family or friends that I know really well. And for example, when I do spend the whole day in the house without actually talking to anyone I do feel kind of down or like something is missing from my day (sometimes). Do you guys feel that social interaction and positive affect reinforce each other in your lives?

The article also talked about weak-ties (the people we don’t see to often like the cashier at our local grocery store). Do you all think that these interactions though they don’t play a huge role in our lives, contribute to how we feel throughout the day? It would be nice to have a class discussion on how we think our lives would be like without the interactions we have with weak-ties. I found it surprising that the results from part of this study showed that people who interacted with more classmates reported greater levels of happiness. Knowing that, could group discussions apply to this? If so, should they be done more often in every class?

Character Strengths

This week’s reading focused on character strengths in college student. As a college student it was interesting to learn more about what types of character strengths are favored by students. The article pointed out that character strengths are consistent, but are capable of change. Did you find that you possessed many of the 24 character strengths they came up with? If so, how do you think your character strengths have changed over time? Humor was one of the more favorable character strengths according to the results. I am not really surprised by this finding. I think that a lot of people consider humor to be an important characteristic of someone. Love, kindness, and integrity were also seen as more favorable which again is not surprising. It was interesting however to see that social intelligence was listed as one of the character strengths participants favored. How important is social intelligence to you all?

It would be interesting to have a class discussion about what character strengths we personally find more favorable. I also found it interesting that people who were in a relationship endorsed having more character strengths like love, gratitude, and hope. Why do you guys think that this association was found?

Substance Use and Neuropsychology

This weeks reading focused on substance use and neuropsychology. It mentioned how adolescence is an essential part of our lives and is key for progression into becoming an adult. According to the article, experimentation with drugs and alcohol increase during adolescence. I definitely think this is true. During adolescence, especially the teen years, for some reason we become interested in experiencing things. Why do you guys think this is? Is it because we start becoming able to make our own decisions? I found a few points this reading made to be interesting. It talks about how neuroscience views substance use disorder/addiction as a chronically relapsing brain disorder. This involves the transition from voluntary to habitual and uncontrolled drug use and the overall process of it. I didn’t know much about how neuroscience viewed drug use compared to psychology before this reading.

I also liked learning about the “reward prediction error signal” concept. This suggests that dopamine neurons give information about events that are rewarding and drugs can exaggerate the value of these rewards or outcomes because they affect dopaminergic signaling. What do you guys think about this concept? Had you ever heard of it before this reading? The article also talked about the differences in vulnerability to drug addiction or substance used disorder. It gave three factors that play a role in this which include environmental, genetics, and the individual’s personality and psychopathology. What do you all think are some personality traits that could make someone vulnerable to drug addiction? Or what are some environmental factors that could play a role in this?  This article suggested that universal programs that help reduce social norms could help lower the likelihood that those with risk profiles will be exposed to drugs. Do you guys think this could help? I think it could definitely help , but I’m not sure to what extent.

The Effects of Early Caregiving on Romantic Relationships

This week’s reading was particularly interesting as it focused on romantic relationships. Romantic relationships are very important to most of us as humans and from personal experience they can have a huge impact on our lives whether it be negative or positive. Before reading this article, I would have said the most important factors for having a successful relationship would be trust and communication. I think a lot of us feel this way. I also knew that our developmental history played a part in our romantic relationships, as I did learn about this a bit in a psychology class. The article mentioned how our thoughts and behaviors we experience in close relationships have a strong ground in our early experiences with our parents or caregivers. Do any of you guys particularly remember your early experiences with your parents (although some were before we could speak)? Do you think these experiences have had a great influence on you and your close relationships?

The article also mentioned what successful relationships are composed of. It defined successful relationships as relationships that help promote a positive sense of self and your partner. It also mentioned that high levels of trust, sensitivity, and intimacy are present in a successful relationship. I think it would be interesting to have a class discussion on what we personally consider a successful relationship. However, I do agree with what the article mentioned. I also found the longitudinal study they conducted interesting because they were able to follow everything overtime. I’m not too surprised that the results of the study showed that how we experience relationships as adults are grounded in early caregiving.

 

Mindfulness

The concept of mindfulness is definitely becoming more known. Before this class I did know a little bit about mindfulness and how it is used. I believe I learned a bit about it in my stress management class, but I’m not fully sure. When were you guys first introduced to the concept of mindfulness? Did you know much about it before this course? I know that mindfulness can be used in a variety of situations, but it was very interesting to hear that the U.S. Army is using mindfulness to help in the workplace. I think this is great, and I think that mindfulness is a type of therapy that everyone could benefit from. I don’t think you necessarily have to be mentally ill to benefit from practicing ways to be more mindful.

The article mentioned how mindfulness can improve attentional stability. I think this is definitely one of the hardest things we come across when practicing mindfulness. Since this class, I have been trying to practice being more mindful sometimes throughout the day. However, often times I find my mind wandering, but I do think this will began to happen less the more a person practices mindfulness. It was also mentioned that mindfulness can have some positive cognitive affects. Do you guys think mindfulness could really be beneficial in improving cognitive capacity? It would be interesting to have a discussion on this.

The Influence of Positive Affect

I like that this reading mentioned the differences between positive affect and emotions. Before reading this article, I never actually thought about the difference between the two. I knew that they were not exactly the same thing, but I never thought about how they may or may not be connected to certain things. The reading mentioned that positive affect influences individuals to engage with their environments and to participate in other adaptive behaviors. This made me question my own level of positive affect and whether or not it influences me to become more active and involved. What do you guys think? If you have experienced or are experiencing positive affect, how do you think it has influenced you? What about those who are not experiencing positive affect, how does lack of positive affect influence their engagement in their environment?

I found the broaden-and-build theory to be a very interesting concept. As mentioned in the reading, this theory says that certain positive emotions like joy or interest can broaden people’s momentary thought action repertoires. I was surprised that those who had positive affect, their thought patterns were significantly more flexible, creative, and unusual. It would be interesting to have a class discussion about certain positive emotions during positive affect and how we think they could help with building enduring personal resources.

Health Behaviors and GPA

This weeks reading was particularly interesting because it made me think about my first year here as a college student at VCU. I have to admit that is was one of the roughest times so far in college. As far as my gpa goes, it definitely reflected that I was having a hard time. This study mentioned the possible health behaviors that could affect a college student’s gpa. Among the list are exercise, sleep, nutritional habits, use of social support systems, stress management techniques, and time management. I did not exercise at all my first year of college and I definitely had poor eating habits. However, personally I don’t think that is what contributed to my low gpa. For me, a lack of mental health and stress management was a really big issue. I was overwhelmed with anxiety and I believe during that year I found out I had an anxiety disorder. I was constantly worried and upset and I hardly put in any effort into my classes as a result. Most days, I didn’t even go to class. What do you guys think was the biggest factor that could have helped or hurt your gpa during your first year of college? It would be interesting to have a class discussion on what you guys think is the biggest health behavior that affects a college student’s gpa?

I was really surprised at a study mentioned in this article that included 891 upperclassmen and graduates and showed that students who exercised for seven hours or more received lower grades than those who exercised less or not at all. I think that exercising helps in dealing with stress and I would think that somehow that would positively impact gpa. Although they mentioned that there is little information on how nutrition affects gpa, I was not surprised that there was a study that showed an improvement in immediate recall and spatial memory as a result of eating breakfast, as we have always been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.Another study that did surprise me was the one that found that a depressed mood had no impact on medical school grades. I kind of find this hard to believe , but I think it would be interesting to read more studies on depressed mood in relation to gpa.

 

Depression and Misconceptions

This weeks reading focused on depression, which I think is so important for many reasons. Although depression is a common mental illness, there are still so many people suffering from it that do not receive help. I like that this article pointed out that misconceptions about mental illness play a role in whether or not a person seeks treatment. In your opinions, what are the most common misconceptions about mental illness? (specifically depression) I think that often times people think that people with depression should just get over it, or I hear people say a lot, “ it’s all in your head” when talking to someone with depression. As if saying, “it’s all in your head” makes it less real to the person suffering from a mental disorder. I also think many people believe that those who are suffering from depression are just lazy when lack of a desire to do things could be a symptom of the disorder and not a component of their personality. A lot of people do not take mental health seriously and several do not even believe it is real. I found the study that this article mentioned which showed that depression was diagnosed more in the wealthier parts of the country very interesting. What do you guys think was the reason? Was it that it was fertile grounds for doctors or that residents couldn’t keep up with other people’s happiness as mentioned in the reading? I am not sure, but perhaps being wealthy gives more access to physicians, which leads to more diagnoses.

 

I also found it interesting that Oliver James argued that “affluenza” could be a cause for depression along with inequality holding people back. I could definitely see this as playing a role in depression, but what about those who are extremely wealthy? And also those who are not necessarily being held back by inequality? They do not seem to be immune to depression. The article also mentioned the debate about whether patients should be treated with psychotherapy or drug therapy or a combination of these two. I think it depends on the person. Some people my respond to just drug therapy while others may not. Some patients may benefit from psychotherapy alone. I definitely think that it depends on the patient and what disorder they have. It would be interesting to have a discussion about psychotherapy versus drug therapy as a form of treatment. Before this reading, I did not know much about TMS. I think that it’s great that it is a non-invasive form of treatment and that it has less major side effects. What are your opinions on TMS?

Positive Psychology vs. Pathology

I really enjoyed this week’s reading. As a student studying to possibly become a psychologist it really touched base with me. It made me think of what my focus would be as a psychologist. I had already decided to study clinical psychology with the hopes of treating those with mental illness. However, after reading this article, I thought a bit more about what my focus could be on. I do agree with the article that Psychology is more exclusively focused on pathology. There are other types of psychology such as health psychology however that too tends to focus on physical illness and how psychological factors contribute to them. So I found it interesting that this article mentioned that there should be a psychology that focuses on human strength and providing a framework for getting the most out of life and not just on pathology and weakness. It mentioned that mental health practitioners go about treating mental illness by repairing everything that’s damaged like childhoods or habits, which is something I never thought of before. After reading that, I could see how it’s possible that psychology is too focused on pathology and not on finding out what makes life more fulfilled and how anyone, not just those who are mentally ill, can make life worth living. Do you think psychology should also focus on creating positive qualities or continue to mostly focus on the pathological aspect? I also like that the article talks about prevention. It mentions that there are certain strengths that act as buffers against mental diseases. Do you think the disease model has moved psychology closer to finding the solution for preventing mental disorders? Could positive psychology be the answer to prevention? After reading about how studies have shown that optimism acted as a buffer against symptoms of life threatening diseases and helped those suffering from them live longer, do you think that focusing on strengths could actually help prevent disorders such as schizophrenia or PTSD? I am not sure, but I definitely think it is something that should be tried. It would be interesting to have a class discussion on some techniques that could build positive traits or strengths.

Genetic Factors vs. Environmental Factors on Behavior

I like that this week article focused on genetic and environmental factors and how they influence behavior. Before reading this article I was aware that behavioral traits are indeed inheritable, but I never really thought about the role they play in behavior in comparison to environmental factors. If I had to guess which had the stronger influence in general, not just in adolescence, I would have guessed genetic factors as environmental factors can change. As the article mentioned the results from the Finnish twin studies showed there was an increase in the importance of genetic factors in association with the use of alcohol during adolescence, but a strong decrease in the importance of environmental factors. As patterns of drinking became more evident, genetic factors took over in importance. I could definitely see how environmental factors could have a big influence on when someone starts drinking, and not how long they continue it. And I definitely feel that adolescence is the best stage to study genetic influences, as it really is a significant stage in our lives. Do any of you agree that this is the best stage to study genetic influences? If not, what do you feel is the best stage? Personally, I have found many characteristics about myself that are very similar to my mom during adolescence and even now. What about any of you?

I also found it interesting that the article pointed out how genetic factors can influence environmental factors. It would be interesting to discuss in class some examples of how this occurs. For me, it was true that during adolescence I gained a bit of freedom to make some choices for myself, as the article mentions, like who I hung around, places I decided to go, etc. So were these decisions based on genetic predispositions? I think to some extent yes.

The article mentioned that in a parental monitoring study, results showed that as monitoring rose, genetic influence decreased in significance and environmental influences rose. What are your thoughts on this? I found it interesting that this article pointed out how changes in genetic influences and genetic risk were parallel to changes in the body. The change in relative significance of non-specific genetic effects aligned with changes in brain development during the developmental period. Could changes in the brain have affected the role nonspecific genetic influences play? Also it mentioned that genetic risk declined earlier in females which cortical maturation occurs earlier in females as well. Could the two relate? It would be interesting to have a discussion on this.

Should the Mental Health Policy Focus on Flourishing Too?

I really enjoyed this week’s article, as there was a lot of information that I learned for the first time. There was a lot of information that I found surprising, but the most surprising was the statistic regarding the prevalence of the flourishing individuals in the US being only 1/5 of the population. Previously, I would have believed it to be a lot higher as I figured the amount of people suffering from a mental disorder was not the majority of the population. I was making that assumption based on the belief that those who are not mentally ill must be mentally healthy. However after reading that article, it is clear that that is certainly not the case. I am now aware of one of the major points of this article, the lack of mental illness does not guarantee mental health. After thinking about it, this really makes sense and I can’t believe that I unintentionally viewed mental health not as a complete state. It is not just about not having a mental illness, but it is also about an overall positive state of well-being. Personally, I know of a few people who have not been diagnosed with a mental disorder, but aren’t what I would consider mentally healthy. So then that brought me to question how is it determined whether or not someone is flourishing. This article did provide the criteria they used to determine whether or not an individual is flourishing. However, out of curiosity, what would you all consider as characteristics, traits, or behaviors of someone who is flourishing?

This article expressed that flourishing individuals function best in life. After reading this, I do see why it is important for the mental health policy to not only be focused on treating mental illness, but to also include finding ways to promote flourishing in those who don’t suffer from a mental disorder, but are not necessarily mentally healthy. The overall all goal should be to reach a state of complete mental health which is a result of a lack of mental illness along with a state of flourishing. This is important because as the article mentions, curing mental illness won’t necessarily result in a mentally healthy population. Do you agree that the whole state approach should be used when regarding mental health? I was also surprised to read that mental illness is one of the three most expensive conditions. It’s not necessarily because I don’t believe mental illness occurrences are common, but I don’t know of more than a few people who have them. I think that has to do with a lack of knowledge about mental disorders and also willingness to disclose.

I found the study on the differences in complete mental health depending on race, gender, or education really interesting as well. I would have assumed that women and those with lower education would be least likely to have complete mental health. So I was not surprised that as years in education went up so did the level of overall mental health or that men (although black men only) had higher mental health than (black) women. This study only focused on race, gender, and education so I think it would be interesting to see how the difference in other factors contribute to mental health. What are some other factors that could be studied in relation to mental health?