Inside the World of Positive Psychology

An exciting new class has been added to the Regis College course offerings.  Prior to this year, if you were a psychology major, you probably saw “PS-328: Positive Psychology” as an option – but it never seemed like it was actually offered.  Thanks to Dr. Rebecca DesRoches (and others in the psych department), that’s changed.  Dr. DesRoches mentioned that she “jumped at the chance to teach the course,” and was excited to learn alongside her students.  The result is a class that’s definitely worthy of your attention – certainly something to keep on your radar.

First off, what exactly is Positive Psychology?  When asked, Dr. DesRoches said, “Positive psychology is a movement to investigate what makes us flourish and function optimally.”  She also mentioned how psychology tends to have a bit of a negative focus in that the main topics are disease, mental illness, or something that needs to be fixed.  On the other hand Dr. DesRoches stated, “Positive psychology emphasizes the character strengths that we all possess with an emphasis on how to help individuals and institutions thrive.”  Dr. DesRoches also mentioned how students not only do traditional reading and writing assignments, but also applied exercises and mentioned how these exercises “Include breathing exercises, writing letters of gratitude, and coming up with personal examples to illustrate the points in lectures and readings.”  She discussed how she thinks it is important to be “Always experimenting with new instructional methods to see what works for students.”  This is how the class tends to be different than a traditional Psychology class, as it really asks students “To apply the new knowledge as they are learning it.”

The class is also different in other ways.  While it is an option to fulfill a requirement, there is a much more significant long-term goal.  Dr. DesRoches mentioned how “This class should give students some helpful tools to help them lead a meaningful and happy life.”

Stephanie Bitsoli (Class of 2019) initially took the course because it counted as a major requirement, but she has found herself enjoying it even more than anticipated!  Stephanie said, “This class has really changed the way I viewed overall happiness and has given me a variety of tools for continuing happiness throughout my life that I’m excited to use.”  Stephanie recently gave a presentation to the class on two books, “Very Good Lives” and “How Full is Your Bucket.”  She said “I was explaining how important failure and imagination are in our lives (from “Very Good Lives”), and how we impact others using the bucket-dipper theory (from “How Full is Your Bucket”).”  She was excited to share that the presentation went extremely well, “Everyone got chocolate afterwards”!  When asked what her favorite part of the class was, Stephanie Bitsoli said,  “My favorite thing about the class is Professor DesRoches.  Her excitement about the material gets me excited about it, and she’s also incredibly nice and knowledgeable; she makes the textbook come to life.” 

Mary McQuaid (Class of 2018) is also a student in the class. She comments how she is glad that she took this class because “there’s enough negativity in the world already, I don’t want to add to it.” She mentioned how each and every class section is individual and unique, partly because of the various student responses to the activities and exercises. She discussed how this class definitely stands out from others, and it is different because “ it feels so freeing (at least that’s how I feel about it). In some classes there’s this atmosphere that involves intense stress. I often find myself sitting in some classes and being worried about things that can be taken care of after class, like due dates for example.” Instead of feeling this stress, Mary discusses how she is constantly engaged in the class topics and discussions and de-stressing activities. Mary says that she has learned two massive takeaways from the class so far. She describes how “there is always a way to go about stressors in life that promotes a way of adapting to these stressors that is indeed positive.” Also, as a senior, Mary is finding herself in the midst of a job and career search (while also balancing her studies and social life). She mentioned how our society has such a negative stigma against failure, but “What this class does is it switches that whole idea around and says “failure happens and there are ways to deal with it. It doesn’t mean you are bad. It just means you are human. I find this really reassuring.”

Dr. DesRoches said that her favorite part of the course has been working with the students, who “Are involved and asking sophisticated questions (of me and of themselves).”  In the future, she expects “This field of Positive Psychology will continue to grow in influence.”  She hopes it grows to the point where is offered in more high schools, and ideally “Every elementary school will implement some of the strategies used in positive psych.”  Dr. DesRoches said, “Just like we learned to wash our hands and it lead to a great reduction in the spread of disease, I think the concepts in positive psychology will help us with preventative health measures.”

Photograph :

Elaine Kearney

Elaine Kearney

Hello there! I'm Elaine! I'm a double major here at Regis: Psychology and Neuroscience. I also have a minor in English. I am a very active student leader on campus. I'm incredibly passionate about literature and writing, and I am absolutely honored to be sharing that with you guys!