My student-collaborators in the undergraduate course, Positive Psychology: The Science of Optimal Human Functioning are active learners, responding to the course philosophy summarized in the syllabus:
I see learning and teaching as fundamentally collaborative processes, in which we must all participate actively. My hope is that you will learn at least as much from discussions with your peers both in and out of the classroom as you will from the readings, videos,
and from me.
These students did not just read books, listen to my mini-lectures, participate in discussions, and write papers. They conducted class-based research projects to contribute to our collective knowledge.
Acknowledgment: We extend thanks to the study participants for their interest in positive psychology, the time they volunteered to complete repeated surveys, and all other ways that they helped the class learning process.
We thought the readers of Positive Psychology News might be curious about our research findings! These research summaries were written by the 5 teams that worked on separate projects. The outcomes of three projects are in this article; the final two projects will be published tomorrow.
THE EFFECTS OF GRATITUDE IN A TIME OF THANKFULNESS
By Maddie Baker, Emma Cole, Perry Dickson & Railey White
Taking time to remember what you are grateful for can do more for you than it seems. In a recent study, we looked at how these feelings of thanks affected our daily lives. As undergraduate students in a Positive Psychology course with Dr. Barbara Fredrickson at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, we administered a series of surveys to volunteer participants to test the effects of a gratitude intervention on participant’s emotions.
Specifically, we were interested in the relationship between gratitude and meaning in life. Meaning in life is important because it fills you with a sense of purpose and value. For this study, we assigned a number of participants to count their blessings in a gratitude journal throughout a 21-day research study. Participants completed this activity twice a week and reported in daily.
Although our study was limited, we saw a tendency for meaningfulness to be higher on days when people counted their blessings. These results suggest that if people express gratitude more frequently, they can expect their lives to have more meaning. Increased levels of meaning in life can bring people more motivation in their days. Amidst the chaos that fills people’s lives, having feelings of motivation and purpose can be extremely comforting and encourage people to live their best lives.
The effect that these moments of gratitude have on your feeling of purpose can ease the stresses that come with the holiday.
WHY BOTHER TRYING TO BE HAPPIER?
By Sophia Abedi, Sam Gimenez, Sarah Batchelder, Will Burton, & Hannah Todd
If you could obtain a happier life by participating in a simple intervention, would you do it?As a group of undergraduate students enrolled in a freshman Positive Psychology seminar, we conducted a research study to observe the results of various positive psychology interventions. Participants in this particular study were randomly assigned to savor, which involves focusing on positive feelings as they unfold, as well as experiencing, savoring, memorizing, and expressing those positive feelings. Participants were asked to set aside time to do something they found enjoyable for at least 20 minutes without distractions (i.e. going for a walk, reading a book, spending time with a friend, watching a sunset, etc.), preferably a different activity each time. Participants were then asked to complete daily surveys in which they reported the experiences and the feelings they observed while participating in our savoring intervention.
We found that on days in which people enacted savoring, they experienced significantly more positive emotions. This suggests that being more positive is not as large a time commitment as people may think and that with the right approach, increasing positivity in your daily life can be as simple as taking 20 minutes to do something you enjoy. Anybody can decide to improve their own well-being by integrating simple, easy things in their everyday lives that make the most out of their positive moments and emotions.
Positivity is not just a goal, it can become a lifestyle.
HOW ONE SIMPLE EXERCISE CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE
By Ellie Steward, Jordan Shearer, Kayla Baresich, Laura Brummett, Sonio Kum & Grace Clarke
In the field of Positive Psychology, savoring is any effort to deepen the appreciation of positive experiences and emotions. We wanted to know whether enacting savoring exercises can increase people’s feelings of meaning in life.
We created a 4-week study with the goal of testing this question. Under the guidance of Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, we instructed participants to spend about 20 minutes a few times a week doing and savoring an activity that they enjoyed. Participants were also asked to complete a 3-minute daily survey in which they rated how meaningful their life felt and whether or not they had completed their savoring activity that day.
Our results showed a significant increase in meaning in life on days in which participants practiced savoring. These results coincide with those of previous studies on savoring and meaning in life and suggest that taking the time to savor activities in our daily life can make us feel like we have more meaning and purpose.
Look around. Take in the colors, the scents, sights, and sounds. You’ll be surprised just how meaningful life is.
Bryant, F. B. & Smith, J. L. (2015). Appreciating Life in the Midst of Adversity: Savoring in Relation to Mindfulness, Reappraisal, and Meaning. Psychological Inquiry, 26: 315-324.
Books from the Class Syllabus
Fredrickson, B. L. (2009). Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive. New York: Crown.
Fredrickson, B. L. (2013). Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become. Hudson Street Press.
Lyubomirsky, S. (2013). The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does.
Worline, M. & Dutton, J. (2017). Awakening Compassion at Work: The Quiet Power That Elevates People and Organizations. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Photo Credit: Flickr via Compfight with Creative Commons licenses
Thanksgiving Cornucopia courtesy of lars hammar
Enjoying coffee together courtesy of Philips Communications
Fall colors courtesy of Stanley Zimny (Thank You for 26 Million views)
Terrific, practical, fun ways to increase positive emotions. Savoring to me is pure joy! That’s what this article gifted me. The focus on increasing meaning was especially noteworthy. And using your senses to regularly savor. Ahhh! Thanks for all the PE’s. This article will be the shiniest ornament on my gratitude Christmas tree. Many thanks, dear Barbara. And I also loved your class! Very inspiring.