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Positive Psychology:

What is it and

What Are the Benefits

by Faalik Zahra

The pandemic has had lasting impacts on the world today, many being negative but some positive. One such positive is the increase in mental health awareness caused by the rise in individuals feeling impacted by their mental health. The World Health Organization reported that “in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25%.” Many attributed this increase to the rise in stress caused by the pandemic and its impact on people’s lives.

 

A plethora of investigations of various psychology study models are researched to see if there can be a solution. All of which led to increased exposure to one such study model: positive psychology. It has been growing in its popularity over the past couple of years.

 

What is Positive Psychology?

According to the University of Pennsylvania School of Arts and Sciences, positive psychology is “the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive.” Compared to other treatment models, it focuses on promoting happiness by emphasizing incorporating behaviors that would elicit positive responses. The model builds on “three central concerns: positive experiences, positive individual traits, and positive institution,” they further write.

 

The emphasis on these elements promotes individuals to focus on the good aspects of their life, leaving them less time to focus on the negative. In the long run, this can aid the individual in achieving better health. The National Library of Medicine mentions, “research has shown that not only are physical, mental, and social well-being important components for complete health but they are also interconnected.” This further emphasizes the importance of incorporating all three facets into treatment models to ensure there is a positive change.

 

All of which explains why more and more individuals are becoming interested in positive psychology. They want to see positive results. The University of New Hampshire’s Psychological and Counseling Services highlights positive emotions and their impact by leading to “better physical health, longer life, greater creativity, increased success at work, higher-quality relationships, increased prosocial behavior, and greater ability to cope with challenges.” 

 

Many of these elements are areas in an individual’s life that lead to stress and other negative emotions. Looking to the American Institute of Stress, “83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress, with 25% saying their job is the number one stressor in their lives.”  Alleviating professional stress along with the other elements will allow individuals to feel much better.

 

Research presented by the University of New Hampshire’s Psychological and Counseling Services showcases that “happiness is set by genetics (50%), circumstances (10%), and intentional activity (40%).”

 

Showcasing that all individuals can improve their happiness by at least 40% through positive psychology. According to the Pursuit of Happiness, “Positive Psychology is traditionally focused on the study of positive emotions and ‘signature strengths.’”

 

The Benefits

The emphasis on strengths can make individuals feel increasingly better about themselves and their qualities, promoting a better attitude throughout the day. According to Good Therapy, some exercises encouraged by professionals are “keeping a gratitude journal” and looking for “the positive implications of each activity are explored.” This highlights the good in the individual’s life, but therapists utilize many other exercises depending on the individual’s needs.

 

After analyzing research, the National Library of Medicine has concluded, “research shows that what we call positive psychological health assets (e.g., positive emotions, life satisfaction, optimism, positive relationships, life purpose) are prospectively associated with good health measured in a variety of ways. Growing evidence suggests that positive psychological assets are linked to health and longevity. “

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Faalik Zahra studies neuroscience and journalism at the University of Cincinnati and plans on becoming a physician. She has always had a strong inclination towards writing and sharing stories which have led her to pursue a journalism degree as well as founding an online media portal, Bearcat Voice. As a Senior Contributor, Faalik combines her passion for writing and her interest in medicine to explain medical issues to patients in a way they can clearly understand.

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The Burden of Caregiving in an Aging Society

by Kylie Tangonan

Our society is aging at a pace that we have never experienced before in human history. The number of people in each age cohort who are reaching their eighties, nineties, and even hundreds is growing and will drastically change age demographics in every single country. The question at hand is: How will the world adjust for this shift in age demographics? One crucial aspect of this phenomenon that we must consider is the realm of care. Aging brings on many changes in one’s functioning. Slowing, stiffness, memory challenges, frailty, are a few amongst a myriad of other diseases and disabilities which may require older people to have access to more intensive and involved care. 

 

The Cost of Care

For older people who need care in their day to day lives, but cannot rely solely on their family, facility-based long-term care services is an option that can provide older adults with the care and services that they need to maintain their quality of life. These facilities offer a variety of services ranging housing and housekeeping, to personal care and medical services. Odds are, you know someone who utilizes or lives in a care facility. Today, someone turning 65 has a 70% chance of needing long term care. But for many families, the cost of facility-based care is out of reach. According to the 2020 Cost of Care Survey by Genworth Financial, the annual median cost of care is $106,000 or $19,240 for adult day care services. 

 

The Burden of Care 

The cost of facility-based care leaves many families to resort to partners, relatives, friends, and neighbors to provide care for their loved ones. The caregiver can fulfill many different roles and their care can range from assisting their loved one with making doctors appointments, transportation, monitoring their symptoms and medications, taking on household chores, providing emotional support, and other self-care tasks such as dressing or bathing. The role of caregiving is heterogeneous, and the needs of the older person can range depending on their health status, age, and overall mobility and independence. This work is often unpaid and although family involvement in a loved one’s care is not a new phenomenon, in recent years, it has become more common and much more complex. Many family members provide care for an older adult while juggling their own job, families, and other responsibilities. Acting as a caregiver can be a fulfilling role, and it is often carried out from a place of love and concern for a family member. The caregiver may find that providing care instills confidence in their caregiving abilities and helps them build a relationship with the care recipient. However, the caregiving role can also be a major physical and emotional stressor for the caregiver. Negative effects include psychological distress, strained social relationships, and a decrease in overall physical health.

 

How do we address the burdens that come with care?

Given the range of needs and varying responsibilities of caregivers, there are many interventions that can help families provide the best care possible while also maintaining a healthy caregiving relationship. A public health approach to address family caregivers reveals a range of actions that can promote a healthier and more balanced care landscape such as:  

  • Educating healthcare providers on the health risks for caregivers 

  • Encouraging caregivers to make use of care resources, tools, and supportive programs and services to help them provide care. 

  • Encouraging caregivers to get regular checkups and engage in self-care to maintain health and ensure access to self-management programs

  • Expanding paid leave policies to provide caregivers with financial support if they need to leave work to provide essential care to a family member 

  • Shifting the perspective of caregiving from family members as legitimate and taxing work that should be compensated 

  • Expanding Medicare, Medicaid, and other insurance programs, to assist families in getting their loved ones into appropriate and high-quality long-term care facilities. 

 

Our society will continue aging into the 21st century, and care is only one aspect that we must consider amongst other major societal shifts due to demographic changes. As we prepare for our aging society, we must reconsider society’s infrastructure and resources that will allow us to increase health, productivity, and access to support for both older and younger generations. 

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Kylie Tangonan is a student at Barnard College of Columbia University studying Medical Anthropology. She is passionate about sharing stories and resources that resonate with patients by exploring the ever changing and dynamic fields of medicine, science, public health, and beyond. An accomplished writer, Kylie adds a special depth to her stories, tailored to the interests of her readers.

May 2022  page 4