BYU positive psychology labs study how to improve overall well-being

Hikers enjoy the beautiful scenery near Mount Timpanogos. The narration in this video is taken from Martin Seligman’s quotes on Positive Psychology. (Made in Adobe Premiere by Hannah LeSueur)

Psychology and Experience Design and Management students are currently investigating how to help students lead better, more fulfilling lives with the mentorship of Professors Jared Warren and Brian Hill.

Martin Seligman is the founder and principal investigator of the Center for Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. He leads the scientific world in promoting wellness. Christopher Peterson, who has played a major role in promoting this concept, described positive psychology in Psychology Today as “the scientific study of what makes life worth living.”

BYU Professor of Management and Experience Design Brian Hill teaches the class Creating a Good Life Through Experience Design to more than 600 students each semester.The class focuses on positive psychology and how to apply it in life.

Hill believes that all of us are naturally interested in being happy.

“We know it because of the gospel and God’s intention for us,” Hill said. “However, it can be confusing about what the root of happiness really is.”

For the past 70 years, the primary interest of experience design and management professors as behavioral scientists has been people’s quality of life, according to Hill.

“My study of positive psychology convinced me that life at its best is a complete tapestry of good experiences, challenging experiences, and even negative experiences,” Hill said. “It’s a beautiful curtain with all kinds of colors and experiences, like our lives.”

He shared how the goal of his class is to teach his students how to find true happiness among a wide variety of life experiences.

“The focus of the course is to apply all of those principles,” Hill said. “I think that is why it has become so popular. It is relevant and it applies. Students are finding the value in it.”

Douglas Turner received his bachelor’s degree in organizational communication from BYU. He then went on to be part of the first cohort in the Master’s program in Applied Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. He studied wellness concepts with Dr. Seligman, who started the program.

Turner shared that since then, schools around the world have embraced and started teaching the principles of positive psychology to their students.

“It all started with Dr. Seligman,” Turner said. “I was lucky to be at the first inauguration [Masters of Applied Positive Psychology] program there.”

Turner’s opportunity to study with Seligman came at a pivotal time in his life. Almost immediately after completing his degree, Turner’s wife, Laurie Turner, was diagnosed with cancer.

“When Laurie was diagnosed, we said we had never done this before and we would never do it again,” Turner said. They brainstormed what it would be like for a positive person to respond well to the challenge of fighting cancer.

Turner said they asked themselves, “What would a positive person do? What would they think? What would you share with others?

They concluded that they would have a good attitude about cancer. “A positive person wouldn’t be complaining all the time,” Turner said. “Let’s be nice. We don’t know what people’s individual struggles are, so let’s not assume. Let’s always be kind.”

Turner also shared how accepting these challenges and difficulties helped him and Laurie beat cancer.

“Being positive or happy does not mean the absence of negativity, difficulties and challenges,” Turner said. “Some people think that to be happy, you can’t have any sadness in your life. The scriptures say that there must be opposition. You have to have opposition, and the research echoes that.”

Logan Call, a psychology senior and research student in Dr. Jared Warren’s positive psychology lab, shared how his family has helped him maintain a happy outlook on life.

“They are the world to me,” Call said of his family.“They are there to support each other, get advice and share ideas. That’s mainly my way of moving forward.”

Hill also shared how focusing on our strengths helps us find joy in the activities we participate in.

“Each of us has a unique set of strengths,” Hill said. “Seligman is convinced that if we use them to deal with problems at work, at home, with family, in our personal lives, we will be happier people.”

The acronym PERMA stands for Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Achievement. Seligman teaches that living by PERMA helps improve well-being. (Made in Canva by Hannah LeSueur)

Seligman coined the word “PERMA,” which stands for Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationship, and Meaning, to describe effective ways to improve overall wellness. Turner shared how living the PERMA principles helps him achieve happiness.

“When I remember all of that and use my strengths, that’s when I feel the happiest,” Turner shared. “That’s when I feel better.”

Will MacDonald, psychology senior and director of Dr. Warren’s positive psychology lab, shared what he does to help when life gets tough.

“Mindfulness practices are essential to managing my stress,” MacDonald said. “Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of oneself and the things around us. It is similar to meditation in that you can focus on your breathing and the feelings in your body, as well as calming your thoughts.”

Hill added a tactic called “taking the good,” found in Rick Hanson’s book “Hardwiring Happiness.”

“Whenever something really good happens, like BYU winning the football game, noticing the first change of leaves in the fall, or getting a better score on a test or paper than you expected, just take a few seconds , even 5 extra seconds, to take it. inside,” Hill said. “Taking in the good and just breathing, that trains our minds to be better at savoring, being positive and feeling more happiness.”

Call explained that he keeps an open mind about life to help him stay positive.

“Having a long-term perspective in mind has helped me a lot to see that a bad grade is not the end of the world, or that this breakup or this car accident can be overcome with time, with effort, with friends. and with Christ,” Call said. “You can still go ahead with it.”

Turner shared that Chris Peterson, a leading researcher in positive psychology, summed it up best for him.

“The bottom line is that other people matter,” Turner said. “We are not alone, and to be happy and feel this sense of well-being, we have to be with other people. How you treat them and how they treat you is important to your personal happiness.”

Hill finished by saying that it is important to enjoy every moment.

“What will make us more positive is learning to savor and enjoy every moment of our lives,” Hill said. “If you’re single, just enjoy what that means and the opportunities you have. If you are newlywed, enjoy it. If you have had a child, enjoy what that means. It’s hard, but enjoy it.”

Visit and @mybestself101 on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to learn more about positive psychology.

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