Main Article Content
Higher education, positive psychology, gratitude, experiential learning
This study aimed to examine students' subjective experiences and insights in response to engaging in a positive psychology exercise focused on gratefulness that was part of a college course. We conducted a qualitative content analysis of 97 reflection assignments submitted as part of undergraduate and graduate level positive psychology courses at a large public university. A grounded theory approach to qualitative research guided the analytic process. Six major themes emerged, including students’ thoughts about the interventions and difficulties with the experience, how the gratitude visit impacted their interpersonal relationships, reflections on the construct of gratitude, the effect of the intervention on their mood and stress levels, and beliefs about how the experience had and would continue to affect their lives beyond the course. Our findings support prior research suggesting the beneficial impact of experiential learning and imply that such experiential exercises are feasible in multiple levels of psychology courses.
Barnes, C. E. (2017). A three-factor model of personality predicts changes in depression and subjective well-being following positive psychology interventions. Retrieved from http://yorkspace.library.yorku.ca/xmlui/handle/10315/34408
Biswas-Diener, R., & Patterson, L. (2011). An experiential approach to teaching positive psychology to undergraduates. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 6(6), 477–481. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2011.634818
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101. https://doi.org/10.1191/1478088706qp063oa
Chakhssi, F., Kraiss, J. T., Sommers-Spijkerman, M., & Bohlmeijer, E. T. (2018). The effect of positive psychology interventions on well-being and distress in clinical samples with psychiatric or somatic disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Psychiatry, 18(1), 211. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-018-1739-2
Corbin, J. M. (2017). Grounded theory. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 12(3), 301–302. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2016.1262614
Corbin, J. M., & Strauss, A. (2008). Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Cregg, D. R., & Cheavens, J. S. (2020). Gratitude interventions: Effective self-help? A meta-analysis of the impact on symptoms of depression and anxiety. Journal of Happiness Studies. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-020-00236-6
Dickens, L. R. (2017). Using gratitude to promote positive change: A series of meta-analyses investigating the effectiveness of gratitude interventions. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 39(4), 193–208. https://doi.org/10.1080/01973533.2017.1323638
Duckworth, A. L., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2005). Self-discipline outdoes IQ in predicting academic performance of adolescents. Psychological Science, 16(12), 939–944. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2005.01641.x
Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377–389. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.527
XXX Enrollment Dashboard. (2020). Retrieved from XXX
Flores, L. Y., & Lee, H.-S. (2019). Assessment of positive psychology constructs across cultures. In Positive psychological assessment: A handbook of models and measures, 2nd ed (pp. 45–58). https://doi.org/10.1037/0000138-004
Fritz, M. M., Armenta, C. N., Walsh, L. C., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2019). Gratitude facilitates healthy eating behavior in adolescents and young adults. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 81, 4–14. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2018.08.011
Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research. Chicago, IL: Aldine.
Goodmon, L. B., Middleditch, A. M., Childs, B., & Pietrasiuk, S. E. (2016). Positive psychology course and its relationship to well-being, depression, and stress. Teaching of Psychology, 43(3), 232–237. https://doi.org/10.1177/0098628316649482
Hathaway, B. (2020, March 25). A housebound world finds solace in Yale’s ‘Science of Well Being’ course. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from YaleNews website: https://news.yale.edu/2020/03/25/housebound-world-finds-solace-yales-science-well-being-course
Jose, P. E., Lim, B. T., & Bryant, F. B. (2012). Does savoring increase happiness? A daily diary study. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 7(3), 176–187. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2012.671345
Kumar, A., & Epley, N. (2018). Undervaluing gratitude: Expressers misunderstand the consequences of showing appreciation. Psychological Science, 29(9), 1423–1435. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618772506
Lomas, T., & Ivtzan, I. (2016). Second wave positive psychology: Exploring the positive–negative dialectics of wellbeing. Journal of Happiness Studies, 17(4), 1753–1768. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-015-9668-y
Magyar-Moe, J. L. (2011). Incorporating positive psychology content and applications into various psychology courses. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 6(6), 451–456. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2011.634821
Maybury, K. K. (2013). The influence of a positive psychology course on student well-being. Teaching of Psychology, 40(1), 62–65.
Mongrain, M., & Anselmo-Matthews, T. (2012). Do positive psychology exercises work? A replication of Seligman et al. (). Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68(4).
Otake, K., Shimai, S., Tanaka-Matsumi, J., Otsui, K., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2006). Happy people become happier through kindness: A counting kindnesses intervention. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7(3), 361–375.
Passmore, J., & Oades, L. G. (2014). Positive psychology techniques: Active constructive responding. The Coaching Psychologist, 10(2), 71–73.
Rich, G. J. (2017). The promise of qualitative inquiry for positive psychology: Diversifying methods. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 12(3), 220–231. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2016.1225119
Seligman, M. E. P. (2019). Positive psychology: A personal history. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 15, 1–23. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-050718-095653
Seligman, M. E. P., Ernst, R. M., Gillham, J., Reivich, K., & Linkins, M. (2009). Positive education: Positive psychology and classroom interventions. Oxford Review of Education, 35(3), 293–311. https://doi.org/10.1080/03054980902934563
Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410–421. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.60.5.410
Sheldon, K. M., & King, L. (2001). Why positive psychology is necessary. American Psychologist, 56(3), 216–217. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.56.3.216
Sin, N. L., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2009). Enhancing well-being and alleviating depressive symptoms with positive psychology interventions: A practice-friendly meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65(5), 467–487.
Smith, J. (2019, November 13). Is positive psychology all it’s cracked up to be? Retrieved April 13, 2020, from Vox website: https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2019/11/13/20955328/positive-psychology-martin-seligman-happiness-religion-secularism
Vail, K. E., Juhl, J., Arndt, J., Vess, M., Routledge, C., & Rutjens, B. T. (2012). When death is good for life: Considering the positive trajectories of terror management. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 16(4), 303–329. https://doi.org/10.1177/1088868312440046
VERBI Software. (2019). MAXQDA 2020. Retrieved from maxqda.com
Waters, L. (2011). A review of school-based positive psychology interventions. The Educational and Developmental Psychologist, 28(2), 75–90. https://doi.org/10.1375/aedp.28.2.75
Watts, P. (2017). A new model for campus health. Leadership Exchange: Solutions for Student Affairs Management, 15(3).
Wellenzohn, S., Proyer, R. T., & Ruch, W. (2018). Who benefits from humor-based positive psychology interventions? The moderating effects of personality traits and sense of humor. Frontiers in Psychology, 9. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00821
Wood, A. M., Froh, J. J., & Geraghty, A. W. A. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(7), 890–905. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.005
Wood, A. M., Maltby, J., Gillett, R., Linley, P. A., & Joseph, S. (2008). The role of gratitude in the development of social support, stress, and depression: Two longitudinal studies. Journal of Research in Personality, 42(4), 854–871. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2007.11.003
Woodworth, R. J., O’Brien-Malone, A., Diamond, M. R., & Schuz, B. (2017). Web-based positive psychology interventions: A reexamination of effectiveness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, (3), 218. https://doi.org/10.1002/jclp.22328