Being a part of the Positive Psychology movement and teaching the course, I am notoriously teased and questioned about Positive Psychology. “Should we call you the happy doc?”…“are we all going to sit around and hold hands, and sing?” While I am grateful that I am a happy person, I doubt my singing would bring anything but misery to those within ear-shot. Regardless, these questions and perceptions ruminated with me and compelled me to search for the answer to the question—“what exactly does Positive Psychology do for a person and is it more than just a flash in the pan?”
Over the past eight years I have watch and studies students grow from learning Positive Psychology. In my own research of transformations in the Positive Psychology classroom it was apparent that “things happen” and stick with students for not just a day, but years . While I could go on to talk about my research, I have always thought real stories give us a much richer understanding of what transpires over time.
Years ago, in one of my Positive Psychology courses, I had the students do an exercise called “look around”. They were challenged to be aware of their environment and to make one small difference. While I could not be there with them to know if they actually did it or not, the students turned in some pretty incredible acts. That obviously was instant knowledge of impacts and perhaps just related to their grade, so not really a burning fire yet; just a spark.
Here is where we see the fire:
Six years after that class I received an email from one of the students who said she felt compelled to tell me how much that one little exercise had affected her. She was a military member who jogged every morning. For safety, she kept money in her shoe. One morning (during the time she was in my class) she saw a homeless man with a small cardboard sign asking for money. She thought, “Oh, I can use this as my “look around”. For the rest of her jog she wondered about the homeless in that area. From that one spark of awareness she said it opened her up to “seeing” the world and wanting to make a difference; the fire now burning.
For Positive Psychology to be a part of one’s life, it does not take a formal course or education, but a spark that opens the eyes to seeing how each one of us can make big and small changes along our journey in life.
 Soots, L. (2015). The educator’s portrayal of learning transformations in a positive psychology adult learning course room: A qualitative study (Doctoral dissertation) Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (Accession Order No. 3700863)
About the author: Dr. Lynn Soots has been teaching psychology at the higher education level for over ten years. She is proud to integrate Positive Psychology applications in each of her courses to support growth and student goal attainment. She specializes in higher education online course-room design, adult learning, and diversity appreciation.