Many of the interventions that I have shared with you over the past few weeks have focused on activities that you can do as an individual to enhance your well-being. Beyond promoting individual well-being, another major emphasis of positive psychology is building positive institutions and organizations. In “Positive Psychology: An Introduction,” Marty Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi emphasize the importance of recognizing that “people and experiences are embedded in a social context. Thus, a positive psychology needs to take positive communities and positive institutions into account.”
This early emphasis on the importance of positive institutions has generated a large body of research investigating the relevance of positive psychology for organizations, including the workplace and schools. This research shows that applying principles from positive psychology can enhance outcomes for organizations and the individuals within them – from enhanced employee well-being to improved productivity to decreased depression to higher grades and improved employee and student retention.
Today’s exercise adapts a social connectedness intervention that was initially developed for the workplace by encouraging you to find new ways to connect with others within our institution. Within Davidson, you are a member of many communities. At the highest level, you’re a member of the Davidson community – a community made up not only of current students, faculty, and staff, but also thousands of alumni and others with connections to the college. If you’re getting this email, you’re also a member of our Psychology Department community – where you’re connected with the students and faculty you have met through your classes, along with many you have yet to meet (including emeriti faculty who remain deeply connected to and invested in our department!). Your classes are yet another level of community. Strengthening the connections between you and others within these groups is a way to build your relationships – by providing opportunities to establish new relationships, or by deepening your existing ties.
I’d love to hear from you – and I know the rest of your Davidson community feels the same way!
Today’s Positive Psychology Exercise: Strengthen Your Social Connections
Try one or more of the suggestions below to connect with a member of the Davidson community.
- Instead of e-mailing someone, schedule a phone call or video meeting to discuss the topic you were going to e-mail about.
- Do something social with a classmate – share a meal together over Zoom, pick a movie related to your class and watch it together over Netflix Party, or start a group text to share entertaining links.
- Talk with one classmate who you do not normally talk to (could be class-related or about something totally different).
- Start or join a virtual group activity with your classmates (e.g., virtual book club, steps challenge, try an at-home “Chopped” competition to see who can make the most creative meal with the food in your pantry).
Kaplan, S., Bradley-Geist, J. C., Ahmad, A., Anderson, A., Hargrove, A. K., & Lindsey, A. (2014). A test of two positive psychology interventions to increase employee well-being. Journal of Business & Psychology, 29, 367-380. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-013-9319-4
Purpose: Despite an abundance of organizational research on how contextual and individual difference factors impact well-being, little research has examined whether individuals themselves can take an active role in enhancing their own well-being. The current study assessed the effectiveness of two simple, self-guided workplace interventions (“gratitude” and “social connectedness”) in impacting well-being.
Design/Methodology/Approach: Sixty-seven university employees participated in one of the two self-guided interventions for 2 weeks and completed self-report measures prior to the intervention, immediately following the intervention, and one-month post-intervention. Growth curve modeling was used to examine the effects of each intervention.
Findings: Partially supporting hypotheses, the gratitude intervention resulted in significant increases in positive affective well-being and self-reported gratitude but not did significantly impact negative affective well-being or self-reported social connectedness. The social connectedness exercise did not significantly impact any of those four outcomes. However, both interventions related to a reduction in workplace absence due to illness.
Implications: The study suggests that self-guided, positive psychology interventions (particularly gratitude) hold potential for enhancing employee well-being. Because the interventions are short, simple, and self-guided, there is little in the way of costs or drawbacks for organizations. Thus, these types of interventions seem like a potentially useful component of workplace wellness initiatives.
Originality/Value: This study is one of the few to examine whether self-guided, positive psychology interventions can enhance well-being. Moreover, this is the first study to examine a social connectedness workplace intervention and the first to demonstrate effects on illness-related absence.