What does well-being mean to you? And how can you improve it? One way to do so comes from positive psychology, and focuses on enhancing individual factors associated with subjective well-being – such as gratitude, positive emotions, resilience, and self-regulation. With psychosocial and emotional skills increasingly being viewed as important for individual as well as societal health, it is a welcome change to see education in these areas begin to take shape. One such format is school-based education programs that show evidence of their success.
A notable example is the year-long initiative carried out at a large middle school in Israel. This initiative involved 537 students (grades 7 to 9, ages 11-15), with a control group of 501 students (same age range) at another school (Shoshani & Steinmetz, 2013). The goal was to see whether a positive psychology intervention would significantly improve optimism, confidence, life satisfaction, and decrease psychological distress. Students’ levels of the aforementioned factors were measured using self-reporting questionnaires, and a total of 15 sessions took place over the year. These sessions addressed positive psychology aspects such as gratitude, goal-setting, resilience, and enhancing individual and interpersonal character strengths. Students who took part in the education program showed decreases in levels of psychological distress and anxiety, and increases in self-esteem, resilience, and self-efficacy – both overall, as well as compared to the control group (who did not take part in the intervention)*.
Perhaps it is time to eschew the old view of psychological interventions as being something for when you’re unwell. Positive psychology is for everyone, and we can only hope that such psychosocial skills initiatives will increasingly continue to be included in the education children receive.
*based on self-reported data obtained at the beginning, end, and six and twelve months after the end of the intervention.
Shoshani, A., & Steinmetz, S. (2013). Positive Psychology at School: A School-Based Intervention to Promote Adolescents’ Mental Health and Well-Being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15(6), 1289–1311. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-013-9476-1