Did you know that there’s a thing called Psychological Capital or PsyCap? PsyCap is a positive psychological state composed of four overlapping components: hope, efficacy, resilience and optimism (HERO).
The bulk of the research on PsyCap has focused on organizational settings. These studies show that having PsyCap correlates with well-being (Murray et al 2010) and positive job performance (Luthans et al 2008), among other beneficial outcomes for employees such as decreasing burnout among nurses (Bitmis and Ergeneli 2015). As a result, PsyCap has been integrated into positive leadership development (Youssef-Morgan and Luthans, 2013).
A recent study in the Journal of Positive Psychology reports that PsyCap also influences motivation in academic settings (Alfonso et al 2018). PsyCap was found to predict greater academic engagement and achievement, in part through increasing students’ autonomous motivation (that is, motivation that stems from engaging in personally meaningful and satisfying actions).
PsyCap is being applied to other domains, such as Relationship PsyCap and Health PsyCap (Luthans et al 2013). Check out other applications ….
In 2015, the University of Wollongong in Australia opened its first “positive dorms,” Kooloobong Village, a residence for students that addresses not only their educational needs, but also their social and psychological needs using the science of positive psychology. Resources at the residence supply the “Wheel of Wellbeing - Body, Mind, Spirit, People, Place and Planet.” The Village and its Live Out Loud Program has received international attention as a model of holistic university residency and has received the Australian College of Educators’ Outstanding Achievement in Education award.
While we all may be familiar with the cliché that “money can’t buy happiness,” many of us still have our doubts. In a culture that promotes capital, profit and productivity, the notion that “less is more” may a bit hard to get one’s mind around.
Let’s look at what the research says:
A series of nine experiments found that priming people to think about money leads to a more self-sufficient orientation in which people are less likely to request help and help others (Vohs et al 2006). Reminders of money were also found to cause people to want to work and play alone, and physically distance themselves from a new acquaintance to a greater degree than those not prompted to think about money. Simply making people feel more wealthy (regardless of actual income) by having them compare themselves to others worse off was found to lead to more selfish, unethical choices and greedy behavior (Piff et al 2012).
Classic studies have shown that, even when people acquire surplus material possessions or extreme wealth such as through the winnings of a lottery, they are no more likely to experience happiness than they were prior to their acquisitions (Brickman et al 1978). The tendency has been labeled the hedonic treadmill, noting how the more you accumulate (money or otherwise), the more you end up desiring. This results in an ever-increasing treadmill pace towards the carrot of happiness (Brickman and Campbell 1971; Eysenck 1990).
What draws us toward accumulation?
Studies have demonstrated a relationship between self-esteem and the desire to self-enhance through the accumulation of material possessions (Park and John 2010). Consumer goods have been found to function as a compensatory salve that reduces the distress caused by the gap between how one perceives oneself and how one desires to view oneself (Mandel et al 2014). Uncertainty and self-doubt have also been linked to materialism (Change and Arkin 2002), as has narcissism (Cisek et al 2014).
Pause and … Give
Selfishness may not be our first instinct. Results from a series of ten experiments show that people who deliberate longer about how much to contribute, give less than those who decide quickly. Selfishness appears, thus, to be a function of mulling over the decision, whereas the intuitive gut response tends to be one of more generosity (Rand et al 2012). Automatic, intuitive processes, as opposed to deliberative decision making, were also found to be associated with occurrences of high-stakes altruism in which individuals risked their lives to save others (Rand and Epstein 2014).
Becoming less materialistic predicts improvements in well-being (Kasser et al 2014). Having less has also been found to correlate with giving more (Piff et al 2010), reminding us perhaps that we all have access to a wealth of generosity.
Read about Dariel Garner, a multimillionaire who chose fifteen years ago to give up his position within the top 100 wealthiest Americans to be at the bottom one percent financially. He lives in New Mexico, works in social activism and reports now living a much richer life.
Kindness is contagious! A recent study by Chancellor et al (2018) published in the Journal of Positive Psychology not only found increases in the wellbeing of employees at Coca Cola who conducted acts of kindness toward others on the job, but also found increases in the well-being of the observers of those who did the kind deeds.
Those who observed by close proximity such prosocial actions were significantly more likely themselves to initiate similar behaviors toward others on the job, propagating generosity in the workplace. Results confirmed the researchers hypothesis that “watching someone exhibit kindness produces more of a positive impact than watching someone receive kindness” (p.279).
Elevation, warmth, and happiness are experienced when we watch others acting with generosity and consideration towards others. We are inspired to behave in kind. Whether it has to do with “emotional contagion” or simply being reminded of our inherent prosocial make-up, the benefits of kindness to the giver, receiver and observer are positive and influential.
On the theme of what we watch matters….
The Constructive Journalism project attempts to bring about a balance in journalism (countering a current negativity bias) by training media organizations to attend to positive and solution-focused elements of their reporting. The project supports a proactive approach, profiling not only what isn’t going well in the world, but also what helps society flourish, as informed by empirical research. Studies of constructive journalism have begun to show that such an emphasis can lead to increased social engagement, optimism, coping and social cohesion (Jackson 2016).
Check it out at : https://www.constructivejournalism.org/about/
Did you know that volunteering is good for your body? REALLY good for it. In fact, volunteering just two hours each week (or 100 hours a year) has been found in studies to be associated with significant health benefits (Lum and Lightfoot, 2005; Luoh and Herzog, 2002).
Research has found that volunteers report greater physical well-being and life satisfaction than do non-volunteers (Van Willigen 2000). Those over the age of 60 who volunteer report higher levels of health and physical functioning, and lower levels of depression than those who don’t volunteer (Morrow-Howell et al., 2003).
Additionally, helping others who suffer from similar ailments has been found to help reduce one’s own suffering. Those with chronic pain, for example, experience declines in their own pain intensity and a decreased level of disability when serving as peer volunteers for others with chronic pain (Arnstein et al., 2002).
Volunteering can even prolong life!
One study found that those who volunteered for at least 100 hours per year were one-third as likely as non-volunteers to die within the time frame studied (Luoh and Herzog, 2002). Other research found that those who volunteered with two or more organizations experienced 44 percent lower mortality rates over a five-year period than those elderly persons who did not volunteer (Oman et al., 1999).
The fact that helping others also beneficially impacts our own mental and physical health reminds us that the division between self and other may not be as separate as it seems. Shared experience entails the sharing of positive emotions and a sense of connection, essential to us as social creatures. Volunteering also helps provide a sense of purpose and accomplishment (Greenfield and Marks, 2004).
Given the research findings, perhaps volunteering should be recommended by health practitioners as part of a basic care plan, along with the usual guidelines for diet modification and exercise. Check-ups could thus extend beyond one’s individual physicality to include one’s larger relational, interconnected body.
Here’s an example of how eager people are to help and the difference volunteering can make. Several months ago, Dr. Billy Earle Dade Middle School in Texas sponsored a “Breakfast with Dad” event, inviting the children to bring in their fathers to serve as role models and mentors for the boys. Given the number of students without fathers at home or with working fathers unable to attend, the school posted an ad on social media inviting 50 men from the larger community to come volunteer at the event.
Over six hundred men appeared at the event! They represented a vast a diversity of backgrounds and life experience and were excited to mentor the students. Some voiced wanting to “give back,” grateful for the presence of male role models in their own lives. They gave advice and guidance to the middle school boys, and all stood arm in arm together at the end of the event in a large circle that warmed the auditorium and the hearts of all present.