Intentional Enrichment of Subjective Well-being, Self-esteem, Helping Attitude, Optimism and Gratitude Among College Teachers

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Introduction

A commonly shared goal of life for every individual is to be happy. It comprises seeking pleasure and avoiding negativities. But negativities are the part and parcel of life. In fact our pleasure would lose its very existence in absence of pain. Still excessive long-lasting physical or mental pain leads to negative physiological and psychological consequences. So we try to tip the balance of positive. Since ancient times religious preachers and philosophers are guiding us for the purpose. And from last few decades positive psychologists also have joined the mission. Happiness and life satisfaction are of major interest in the positive psychology field.

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Emotions occur in response to internal or external stimuli. They cover broad spectrum taking under its wings overlapping states of affect, emotion, mood, and subjective well-being. Affect is an individual’s immediate physiological response to a stimulus. Emotions occur as person gets aware of painful or pleasurable experiences and associated autonomic arousal. Contrary to affect and emotion, mood is objectless, free floating and long lasting. Thus affect and emotions are stimulus based. As all of us do experience, our psychological reactions to the positive and negative stimulus are not always such stimulus-specific. Though feelings of pleasure or pain are quite situational; unique past events, future expectations and subjective momentary cognitions colour our perception and accordingly structure our longer lasting psychological state i. e. Happiness. Though the term is in wide use in spoken language and literature, in articles of psychology it is synonymously used with the term subjective well-being. For centuries philosophers, prophets and psychologists have been trying to help people to lead happy life. But a single definite solution for one and all is impossible to gain given to the diverse environmental conditions as well as individual differences in people’s concept and requisites of happiness. So the idea surfaced to let people decide what is good for them. The view is truly democratic in a sense that it gives individual total freedom to decide what happiness means to him. This approach justifies the term Subjective well-being. It is individual’s affective and cognitive evaluations of his or her life comprising emotional responses, domain satisfaction and global judgments of life satisfaction.

Rewarding in itself, happiness keeps physiological and psychological health intact by offsetting detrimental impacts of the pain and misery. It also has many personal and societal benefits. Dr. Alice Isen found that people in mild pleasurable state are more likely to help others (Isen, 1987), flexible in thinking (Ashby, Isen, & Turken, 1999) and come up with solution to the problem (Isen, Daubman, & Nowicky, 1987). Interestingly, Barbara Fredrickson has demonstrated that joy broadens our momentary thought action repertoire (Fredrickson, 2000) and increases creative problem solving (Fredrickson, & Thomas Joiner, 2002). Therefore, positive emotions may generate more resources, maintain a sense of vital energy and create even more resources. Fredrickson (2002) referred to it as an “upward spiral” of positive emotions. The spiral is beneficial to the individual as well as society. It is also a major factor in relationship development and satisfaction. Thus happiness is not only advantageous but is an asset to an individual and in its greater sense to humankind. Acknowledging its value, positive psychologists are on a continuous and creative endeavour to know more and more about it.

Significance of the Study

Life bestows us with both joyous and saddening events, gratifying as well as disheartening relationships and more or less of material possessions. These situational factors along with internal qualities and subjective evaluations define our level of happiness. Despite physically and mentally taxing stressors and resulting pain and unhappiness we don’t give up on a search for happiness. With the help of the adaptation process we overcome pain and try to remain happy. Apart from overcoming pain, we also strive for the pleasure. Some manage to remain stable and happy in chronic physical ailments and extremely poor environmental conditions. Some cannot be happy even in normal or affluent circumstances. Most people fall on the middle of the continuum. No matter wherever one stands the search goes on. But still in absence of major crisis, we see “not so happy” people around and many times we also remain so. All of them are not mentally ill but not mentally healthy either. Keyes describes the condition as languishing. Keyes (Keyes and Lopez, 2002) also suggests that complete mental health can be conceptualized via combination of high levels of emotional well-being, psychological well-being and social well-being. Individuals with these high levels are described as flourishing. We dream for flourishing, many of us know how to achieve the fit as we listen to, read and contemplate a lot on the issue. Religious preaching, literature, common sense, personal and indirect experiences tell us what shall be done to avoid misery and be happy. Sometimes we get some success but still stay far away from flourishing. One of the reasons is all these tactics come in scatters and scants to us as a greater focus is on avoiding misery and less on gaining pleasure. Moreover most of the time, we choose to be passive receivers of the information. Unfortunately, busy lifestyle also suppresses our desire to act on. At the same time we lack the well-planned feasible implementation activities to practice and strengthen the skill.

Here is an effort to provide simple tools to gain the much prized outcome i. e. to be happy from within and without superficial support of worldly materials and without relying unduly heavily on others for our happiness. The tactics are designed on the basis of ‘Intentional Enrichment Technique.’ As greater well-being is positively correlated with Self Esteem, Helping Attitude, Optimism and Gratitude, the activities are designed accordingly and effort is to trace the simultaneous augment in them.

Review of previous research-

The present research intends to test the effectiveness of a positive psychology intervention in enhancing happiness. The intervention proposed by the investigator is based on the ‘14 Happiness Fundamentals’ devised by Dr. Michael Fordyce (1977) and Key’s model of Mental Health (Keyes and Lopez, 2002). It is named as ‘Intentional Enrichment of Subjective Wellbeing’ as participants are expected to intentionally and actively try to boost their happiness level. The 210 college teachers between the ages of thirty to forty are selected through simple random sampling. It also aims to investigate the simultaneous augment in Self-esteem, Helping Attitude, Optimism and Gratitude of the participants.

The previous research related to the positive psychology interventions and other variables is discussed below.

Happiness Enhancing Interventions

In 1977, Dr. Michael Fordyce founded the science of Happiness-Increase by publishing the world’s first comprehensive experiment designed to increase personal happiness. Using the known characteristics of happy individuals as a base, Fordyce developed a program of happiness-increasing techniques (i.e. 14 Fundamentals for Happiness). It was hypothesized that normal community college students (N=338) could become happier if they could modify their behaviours and attitudes and imitate the characteristics of happier people.

Initially Fordyce developed three pilot programs to increase happiness. The study 1, tested two of the three pilot programs that showed a statistically significant boost in happiness. A single program was then developed that combined the best aspects of all the three pilot programs.In the 2nd study, an experimental group receiving this combined program showed significant boosts in happiness compared to a control group. In the 3rd study, the combined program was presented to subjects on a take-it-or-leave-it basis—those applying it showed significant boosts in happiness compared to those who did not. The third study suggests that the resulting self-study program may be helpful to individuals who wish to increase the happiness.

These three classic studies of the experiment demonstrated that individuals could be taught to increase their happiness dramatically (an average of 25 percent) through training lasting only a few weeks.

In 1983, Dr. Fordyce successfully replicated and refined his initial research by conducting four consecutive studies. The collected findings of seven studies indicate that the program has a significant, long lasting effect on the subjects. Averaged together, 81% of the individuals receiving the program claimed happiness. Specific effects ranged from the development of new behaviours and attitudes, changes in life-style, new insights and understandings, better copings with bad moods, enhancement of happy moods, to a better awareness of happiness itself—and virtually all (96%) suggest the program is worthwhile educationally.

Seligman E. P. and Steen T. A. (2005) conducted an internet based intervention on convenient sample between the age of 35 to 54 years (n=577). To capture the week by week upward changes in happiness during the intervention, they developed the Steen Happiness Index (SHI), a new measure sensitive to the changes in happiness. The (CES-D) is also used in the data collection. The five positive exercises (Gratitude visit, Three good thing in life, You at your best, Using Signature strengths in a new way, Identifying Signature Strengths) are tested against one placebo control exercise (early memories). The results showed that three of the seven interventions increased happiness and it sustained up to one month to six months.

According to the positive-activity model proposed by Lyubomirsky S. and Layous K. (2013); features of positive activities (their dosage and variety), features of persons (their motivation and effort) and person-activity fit are the three main factors that influence the success of Positive Activity Intervention. Furthermore, the model posits that those positive activities are positive for an individual only to the extent that they stimulate increases in four mediating variables: positive emotions, positive thoughts, positive behaviours, and need satisfaction.

Even some meta analysis authenticate the effectiveness of Positive Interventions. Sin and Lyubomirsky (2009) reviewed 51 interventions with 4266 individuals and conclusively determined that positive interventions improved well-being (r = 0.29) and helped to reduce depressive symptoms (r = 0.31). Bolier et al (2013) studied 40 articles describing 39 studies done on total 6139 participants. The results of the meta-analysis show that positive psychology interventions can be effective in the enhancement of subjective well-being and psychological well-being, as well as in helping to reduce depressive symptoms.

The studies have shown that well-being can be boosted by engaging in intentional, effortful activities, such as

1. Performing acts of kindness (Boehm, Lyubomirsky, & Sheldon, 2009; Lyubomirsky et al., 2005b),

2. Practicing optimism (Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006)

3. Writing letters of gratitude (Lyubomirsky, Dickerhoof, Boehm, & Sheldon, 2009; Seligman et al., 2005)

4. Counting one’s blessings (Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Froh, Sefick, & Emmons, 2008; Lyubomirsky et al., 2005b)

Helping Attitude

Nelson S. K., Layous K., Cole S. W., Lyubomirsky S. (2016) conducted a 6 weeks longitudinal experiment on 473 (60% female) adult participants. The experiment proves that focusing prosaically on others improves positive emotions considerably than acting kindly towards oneself. Participants volunteered to take part in an online study involving happiness-enhancing activities were randomly assigned to one of four conditions:

1. To perform acts of kindness for others

2. To perform acts of kindness for humanity or the world

3. To perform acts of kindness for themselves

4. To complete a neutral control activity

On pre test, post test and follow up, the subjects completed the Mental Health Continuum-Short Form and Affect Adjective Scale. Participants who practiced prosocial behaviour reported greater positive emotions than control at post test. No differences between the well-being-enhancing effects of performing acts of kindness to improve humanity (i.e., world-kindness) and those of performing acts of kindness to directly benefit another person (i.e., other-kindness). One possibility is that the specific behaviours engaged in by these two groups were not distinct enough. By contrast, engaging in self-focused behaviours (or acts of self kindness) neither improved psychological flourishing nor led to increases in positive emotions or decreases in negative emotions, relative to a control activity.

The research conducted by Borgonovi (2008) as well as by Dunn et al (2014) suggests that donating to charities and volunteering also boost happiness.

Following research also proves that helping others leads to boosts in happiness

Self Esteem

Self esteem is consistently found to be a powerful predictor of happiness and life satisfaction. A major international study of self-esteem and happiness was reported by Diener and Diener (1995). The data came from more than 13,000 college students from 49 different universities, 31 countries, and five continents. High self-esteem emerged as the strongest of several predictors of life satisfaction overall. The simple correlation between self-esteem and happiness was quite significant at .47. In short, self-esteem and happiness are substantially interrelated.

While low self-esteem leads to maladjustment, positive self-esteem, internal standards and aspirations actively seem to contribute to ‘wellbeing’ (Garmezy, 1984; Glick and Zigler, 1992).

Self-esteem has been found to be the most dominant and powerful predictor of happiness and Cheng H and Furnham A. (2000) examined correlations and causes of happiness and depression among adolescents. The 234 participants (mean age=18.23 years) completed the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire, Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale, Positive Affect; Negative Affect; and Affect Balance Scale, Beck Depression Inventory, and Oxford Happiness Inventory. Results indicated that Self-esteem and relationship with parents had a direct predictive power on happiness (?=0.49, P

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Intentional Enrichment of Subjective well-being, Self-esteem, Helping Attitude, Optimism and Gratitude among College Teachers. (2021, Dec 30). Retrieved December 2, 2022 , from
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