Archive for Psychology

Goodbye, Thesis.

My undergraduate thesis is FINISHED.

Click image to enlarge.

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Goal Setting

Is there a certain health behaviour that you’d like to change. Perhaps it’s doing more of something healthy or less of something unhealthy. More exercise? Eating breakfast (if you don’t already, you should! It’s the best meal of the day.)? Quitting smoking? Cutting back on caffeine?

Have something in mind? Well, wanting to change is actually the first step! Without the desire to change, there’s no sense in trying to change according to psychologist James Prochaska. Basically, his theory posits that people go through stages in order to adequately reach their goal of change. It involves contemplation (thinking of the benefits of the change), preparation (thinking of the difficulties of the change and setting goals), action (implementing change), and finally, maintenance (taking steps to prevent going back to your old ways).

With this in mind, for last week’s Positive Psychology Challenge each of us in the class had to choose a health behaviour that we either wanted to increase, decrease, or start doing.

What did I choose?

Here’s the thing; I love eating fruit. But I don’t eat enough of them. I always pack at least one or two fruit in my lunch/supper for school/work. However…when I’m home, fruit is not my go-to snack. I justify not eating much fruit at home by telling myself that I need to save my fruit for my packed lunches. I wanted to change that and incorporate more fruit into my diet.

It’s important to define goals. I couldn’t just say that I’m going to eat more fruit. What does “more” mean? A cart full of melons or just one extra grape? Goals need to be defined. Therefore I took in to account the amount of fruit that I eat on a typical daily basis, and decided to consciously add one extra per day.

How did I motivate myself? Well, you see, I don’t like wasting food. Wasting food means wasting money. Solution: have more fruit in the house than I normally would resulting in more fruit that could potentially spoil. This caused me to go bananas trying to finish all of it. Apples last forever, but bananas on the other hand…those things can be frustrating to keep on top of. But this allowed me an excuse to bake banana chocolate chip muffins. Maybe that is cheating slightly, but I didn’t count those banana muffins as an intake of fruit. I wish muffins were fruit…

I think I was pretty good at having my one-extra-fruit-a-day. And it was good; I enjoyed it. Fruit is always good! Will I maintain this new indulgence in fruit? Yes, but… I need to do more groceries first. Down to only two apples and I’m planning on savouring them!

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Scientifically Proven Relationship Advice

And it all starts with how you respond to pie…

You might think that the way in which you react to someone’s negative event will determine the quality of your relationship over time, however it has been found that reactions to positive events (accomplishments, good news), are of even greater importance.

Gable, Gonzaga, and Strachman (2007) explain that there are four ways that we can respond to someone’s positive news. Let’s relate the accomplishment to pie, shall we?

Scene: Person A rushes into the room yelling: “I just won a pie eating competition!!!”, how do you, (Person B) respond?

1. Active-Constructive – Praise. Rejoice. Expand. Ask questions.
Person B: “That’s awesome! All that hard work expanding your stomach has finally paid off! When’s your next competition? I’d love to be there to cheer you on!

2.Passive-Constructive – Unenthusiastic praise.
Person B [smiles]: “That’s nice, dear.”

3. Active-Destructive – demeaning the accomplishment
Person B: “Wow, are you sure you want that title? You must have ingested a million calories, do you think you’ll get fat?”

4. Passive-Destructive – Completely passes over the accomplishment and focuses attention on themselves or other things
Person B: “I like pie. Did I ever tell you of the time that I ate a lot of pie? Man, it’s such an intense story…” [continues on with story]

You can probably guess that the active-constructive response is the best one to engage in, and is related to higher relationship satisfaction.

So the next time your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/friend says “I won a pie eating competition!!!”, “I created a cure for cancer!!!”, or “I just climbed Mt Everest, and I’m finally backkkk!!!”, you now have scientific information that has been statistically proven to assist you in refraining from saying a mere “That’s nice.”

How do you react when someone tells you good news? Do you always engage in one type? Or do you tend to act differently depending on the person relaying the news?

Each one of us in my class had to figure this out. So last week as part of our positive psychology challenge, we had to evaluate our reactions and discuss situations in which we engage in active-constructive ways of responding.

The following are some of my observations. And keep in mind, this is all very subjective. It would be interesting to see how others perceive the way in which I interact with them. So, if you want to weigh in, go for it!

I think I genuinely rejoice in others accomplishments.

One of our housemates came home with some pretty exciting news this week so each one of us in the house took turns rejoicing in her accomplishment and showered her with questions of genuine interest.

Sometimes however, you must make sure that your enthusiasm does not come across as fake and sarcastic. If you become more excited then the person telling you the news, it can get awkward. So I think a good gauge is to match the other person’s level of excitement.

BUT this is totally different in other situations. I noticed this while at work (I’m a support worker for individuals with developmental disabilities). This past weekend, one of the guys informed me that he had just learned how to make tea this week. He was beaming with pride and went on to show me all the types of teas he had made. I had absolutely no trouble at all letting him know how proud I was of him as well as tell him how capable I know he is in learning new things. And I felt as though this was an appropriate situation where I could over exaggerate my enthusiasm and it wouldn’t be interpreted as fake. He doesn’t always have the highest self-esteem, so although he was excited for himself, he also needed to hear it from others. I also noticed that after praising him, he felt more accomplished and sure of himself.
And with that, we moved on to learning how to make hot chocolate!

With his newfound confidence in the kitchen, pretty soon he’ll be baking pie in no time…

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Maximizers and Satisficers

During Reading Week, our class’ positive psych challenge was related to decision making. We discussed in class how, when making decisions, people tend to be maximizers or satisficers. Maximizers are those who seek out all possible options before making a decision in an attempt to make the best decision. In contrast, satisficers are those who may not spend countless hours searching for the best option, but they find one that is good enough.

The problem is that maximizers tend to be less satisfied with their decisions; they constantly fret about how they could have made a better decision. Whereas satisficers, may not have gotten the best, but they are still very satisfied.

In class, we came to the conclusion that individuals are not confined to one type of decision making and can exhibit one or the another depending on the situation.

How do you approach decision making? Which situations are you a maximizer or a satisficer?

At first, I suspected myself as a maximizer because I tend to think through many of my decisions. However, upon further reflection I realized that, in general, I’m a satisficer. I don’t usually regret my decisions, nor do I ruminate on the decisions that I should have made; I tend to be satisfied with many of my decisions. I will take time to think of what I want and what I’m looking for in an outcome, but when I find something that fits this description, that is enough to satisfy me. Maybe I tend to limit my options sometimes, but why would I seek out something better, that may not even exist, if I’ve found something good?

On the other hand, on a smaller scale, I tend to me a maximizer. In the grocery store, for example, I don’t just pick any good looking apple. I scan, seek out, and select the ones that are most without blemish. Or when I buy a book, I seek out the one that is in the most pristine condition. Who wants to read a book that is not in mint condish? (Unless it’s a very old book  passed down from generations and subjected to wear and tear – which makes it even more intriguing to hold). These selections take more time than if I was satisficing – but really, in the grand scheme of things, maximizing in this situation only requires a short amount of extra time.

But is it possible to be both a satisficer and a maximizer at the same time in a single instance?  I’m wondering this because in many other occasions where it is necessary to seek out the best option, I feel as though I am still satisfied with the decision that I make. Don’t think I’ve ever regretted an apple that I chose.

The textbook suggested to go shopping and limit yourself to certain arbitrary restrictions: visit only two stores, spend less than 15 minutes making a purchase, buy only items that are blue. And then make these decisions irreversible, for instance, by going to a store with a no-return policy.

The only things that I set out to purchase that week were fruits and veggies. And if I chose to restrict myself to abiding by these restrictions and not make my own, I would be limited to the purchase of blueberries. And come on, we all know those are sadly out of season.

Because purchasing fruits and veggies is, hopefully, a purchase that requires little thought, I didn’t find it fitting to use these restrictions. Therefore, instead of purchasing items as the textbook suggested, I decided to apply these concepts into how I chose activities that I would be spending time on. After all, as the saying goes: time is money.

This Reading Week, I piled into a car with four other friends for a fantastic mini road trip. The city that we visited for the weekend was holding a winter festival with countless activities. We got a pamphlet and soon realized that there was SO much to choose from. We could not do it all, let alone even 10% of it. So we had to work with the time that we had. But because our time was precious, we also weren’t going to spend hours mapping out the best possible route to all the best possible exhibits and activities. So we all briefly looked at the pamphlet, picked out a few things of interest, made sure everyone was game, and off we went. And although we still had the pamphlet, I wasn’t interested in looking at what else I could have gone to. Why would I when I could be spending time anticipating what I would be going to.

And we ended up doing so many fun activities! Arts museum, ice slide, fireworks, Ferris wheel, science museum, planetarium. Not to mention everything (minus the arts museum) was FREE! And it also helped that all of these attractions were opened to the wee hours of the morning. Who can say that they were at the Planetarium gazing up at “stars” at 2 in the morning?! It was awesome.

Since time is irreversible, our experiences could not be returned. And I’m glad for that! On a side note, wouldn’t it be weird if our experiences could be wiped from our memory for what we think will be better ones?

One of the best things that this exercise stresses is to be grateful for what you have. A very important reminder indeed.

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This week’s Positive Psych Challenge, the class was instructed to follow this link .

Who doesn’t like to take quizzes that reveal aspects about your personality? So if you’re like me and do, click that link and sign up. Once registered (which takes two seconds), click on “I want to take the VIA Survey of Character (VIA-IS)” followed by checking off “I don’t have a code. I’m just here to take the survey“. And voilà. You’re all set to begin answering questions that will ultimately lead to finding out your top 5 character strengths.

Here are mine:

My Top Strength – Spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith

You have strong and coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe. You know where you fit in the larger scheme. Your beliefs shape your actions and are a source of comfort to you.

2nd – Honesty, authenticity, and genuineness

You are an honest person, not only by speaking the truth but by living your life in a genuine and authentic way. You are down to earth and without pretense; you are a “real” person.

3rd – Judgment, critical thinking, and open-mindedness

Thinking things through and examining them from all sides are important aspects of who you are. You do not jump to conclusions, and you rely only on solid evidence to make your decisions. You are able to change your mind.

4th – Caution, prudence, and discretion

You are a careful person, and your choices are consistently prudent ones. You do not say or do things that you might later regret.

5th – Citizenship, teamwork, and loyalty

You excel as a member of a group. You are a loyal and dedicated teammate, you always do your share, and you work hard for the success of your group.

A second part to our assignment was to do a few of the suggested exercises corresponding with our top character strengths. These are outlined in our textbook and are intended to help use our strengths in a positive way. For example, for my top character strength it suggested that, every day, I think about the purpose of my life. For my second it was, when explaining my motives to someone, to do so in a genuine and honest way. For my third, it was to consider some strong-held opinion and think about how I might be wrong.

I tried these suggestions out and found them a great way to use my strengths in a positive way. It was also refreshing to have a new perspective on how my strengths could be used.

I found these character strengths to be true to me. Although, I could be experiencing a Barnum Effect. [HA! I just realized that I’m using my 3rd character strength and examining this from all possible sides.] So, what do you think? Are they true to me? What are your top strengths? Do you think they’re true to who you are?

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Where Happiness Lies

This week’s Positive Psych Challenge for class involved two activities that were opposite in nature:

1. Do something philanthropic – Do something nice for someone else.

2. Do one thing that is purely hedonistic – Participate in an activity that will make you feel good.

I think this week’s challenge was the hardest yet; it required a lot of thinking and also keeping an eye open for opportunities to engage in either 1. or 2. It also required me to define what I personally took each challenge to mean.

I began to think of what doing something for others entailed. This led me to ponder altruism; doing something completely for someone else with absolutely no benefit to yourself. Many times we might do something for someone else, but doing so may give us something in return such as recognition or material or monetary gain. But that’s not altruism. Altruism is setting aside your own needs and helping someone else. This week, I think I was able to accomplish this. A friend was requiring my assistance, however I felt so drained that I was in no position to even want to help her. I could have easily confessed that I was so tired, very hungry, and had a load of work to do before the end of the day, but I didn’t. I knew that she would have understood had I told her, but I also knew that she needed help. So I dropped the pursuit of my own interests in exchange for hers.

I also began to think of something that I could do to accomplish 2 that would make myself feel good. We seem do things for ourselves everyday: choosing the foods that we like, fun ways to spend our time, who we’d like to spend our time with, or the places we’d like to go. Therefore, I believe that 1. is the hardest to do because you must set aside your wants for those of others. I think doing things that make yourself feel good is important and necessary to well being, however, doing those things at the expense of others is where the danger lies.

Happiness lies in the midst of both doing things for yourself and doing things for others. Both are necessary. If you are only pursuing your own interests, you miss out on the joy that comes from doing things for others. Nevertheless, at the same time, if you are always self-sacrificing, you will drain yourself out.

What do you think is easiest to do? Doing something completely for others, or completely for yourself?

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When was the last time that you savoured something? Gave it your full one hundred percent attention?

Last week’s challenge for Positive Psych [to learn more about this class and the fun/happy things that we’ve been doing click here!] was to choose three things that week to savour.

Throughout the week, while deciding what I would choose, I got to thinking about how often we go through life so quickly without fully paying attention and enjoying all the little things.

When was the last time that we slowed down to taste every flavour of our burger? Or listened to every word of a song and enjoyed every instrument instead of having music merely in the background? Or took in the warmth of the sun on our skin, despite the cold weather? Or listened to every word said by a friend instead of mentally rehearsing our reply? Or paid attention to the coziness of our bed?

Those are the things that I changed. I slowed down when I ate. I paid attention to lyrics. I took in every word said  by a friend. These are little things, but they are so easily skipped over in life.

This concept of savouring can definitely be applied to when we take time out of our day to be with God. How often are we distracted by our surroundings or by the sound of our own thoughts. Or thinking of everything that we will be doing after we finish reading our quota of the Bible for that day? But, how often do we actually savour God and His presence?

THE CHALLENGE: Pick three things that you will savour today, this week, or even this month. Let me know how it goes. And don’t say you didn’t enjoy it! You will.

Today, January 17th, marks the day that has been statistically proven to be the worst day of the year (based on suicide rates, weather, amount of credit card bills in the aftermath of Christmas, etc.) Don’t have a bad day. Go savour something!

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