What are our programs about? What are they designed to do?
Life Skills for Thriving and First-Year Thrive are health-promotion-oriented educational programs designed to promote college students’ psychological well-being by equipping them with the skills and attitudes that have been shown in research to underlie well-being. Program content is derived from rigorous research in the fields of Positive Psychology, Mindfulness, and Self-compassion on these malleable skills and attitudes associated with well-being, and is delivered through engaging visual formats presented by prominent thought leaders in these fields. These programs are also infused throughout with reflective exercises and critical thinking prompts that promote deep learning of the program content, as well as skill development conducive to student well-being.
The 3 Pillars of Our Programs
There may not be a time in life that is riper with both challenges and opportunities than college. While first-year students can look forward to new friendships and experiences to be engaged, learn, and grow, data shows that levels of stress and depression on campuses are at an all-time high. In brief, what was once thought of as the “four best years of your life” is increasingly being thought of as the “four worst”. Enter positive psychology, the science of how people, cultures, and institutions thrive. While traditional psychology is often thought of as addressing what is “wrong” with us, positive psychology is focused on us at our best. Research shows that students who are primed with positive emotions tend to have better memory retention, are more creative, and score higher on standardized tests. Positive relationships are strongly correlated with lower levels of stress and higher levels of resilience on campuses. Incorporating an individual’s strengths of character in school or work makes that person almost 10 times more likely to be engaged in the classroom or the workplace. From meaning to willpower, accomplishment to passion, or a myriad of others, the diverse array of topics under the umbrella of positive psychology increase our levels of well-being in life and success in the classroom.
Mindfulness offers significant and broad reaching benefits for college students. Not only does it offer significant health benefits including strengthened immune function, reduced stress, and improved sleep, it also significantly enhances cognitive capacities such as increased attention, focus, memory, creativity, and innovation. In fact, recent research demonstrates that mindfulness increases test scores and academic grades. Beyond these benefits, mindfulness offers important dimensions to help cultivate the whole person. It helps students deepen awareness and self-reflection and helps them connect to and clarify core values. It also increases empathy and compassion and multicultural sensitively. In short, mindfulness helps students see clearly, in all aspects of life, so they can respond to personal challenges effectively and wisely.
Being a college student is hard. It’s a time of a lot of transition, from living with parents or other adults to being on one’s own. Additionally, college students are challenged with having to perform academically – and often the bar is set very high. As a result, stress can be overwhelming, which often leads to high self-criticism and then unfortunately, all too often paralyzing depression, anxiety, or even suicidality. Learning the tools of self-compassion can help. Research has shown that those with higher self-compassion have significantly lower depression, anxiety, and stress. It also shows that students with higher self-compassion are more motivated to achieve and are more resilient. Self-compassion tools are easy to learn, and with practice, can build students’ ability to respond in healthy ways to the challenges of the college years.
*For a more in-depth description of these three pillars and the extensive research behind them and their benefits please click here.
What is special about our programs? What makes them distinctive?
- Intentionally designed to facilitate students’ transition to and persistence through the college experience.
- Offers adaptable content deliverable through flexible delivery formats, including online and/or in-person platforms, allowing campuses the capacity to customize content to different target audiences and student support programs (e.g., first-year seminar, new-student orientation, residential life, and peer mentoring).
- Content can be readily "wrapped around" or integrated into the curriculum (e.g., required first-year seminars and general education courses) or required co-curricular experiences (e.g., new-student orientation and peer mentoring), enabling the program’s outreach to be intrusive and inclusive.
- Content is grounded in interdisciplinary and cross-divisional research, embracing scholastic and learning outcomes relevant to both Academic and Student Affairs.
- Rigorous content is delivered in the form of inspirational personal stories, real-life experiences, and case histories shared by prominent thought leaders in the field who have both researched and “lived” the content they’re sharing.
- Content presented through visual modalities and engaging educational exercises that align with the learning styles of today’s Generation Z students.
- Visually presented information infused with instructional principles consistent with constructivist and culturally inclusive pedagogy, which: (a) promote deep learning—e.g., embedded reflective writing prompts call for students to engage in rigorous, higher-order thinking in relation to the video-based content, and (b) create an intentional learning sequence—i.e., pre-unit prompts activate students' prior knowledge, within-unit prompts that punctuate passive viewing with active learning, and end-of-unit exercises that help students consolidate and apply acquired knowledge.
What will students gain from participating in our programs?
- Gain greater self-awareness, self-understanding, self-acceptance, and self-compassion.
- Utilize effective strategies and habits for managing stress.
- Build resiliency needed to overcome personal struggles and setbacks characteristic of the transition to college.
- Develop deeper insight into what constitutes happiness and how to live a meaningful, personally fulfilling life during the college years and beyond.
What can these programs do for college campuses?
- Builds on higher education's traditional cognitive goals of developing students’ self-knowledge ("know thyself") and metacognition with affective goals relating to developing emotional self-awareness and mindfulness.
- Offers an alternative positive psychology approach to the “deficit” model of mental health therapy, moving students beyond reactive coping strategies to proactive learning strategies.
- De-stigmatizes discussion of mental well-being as an extracurricular, "clinical" issue by mainstreaming it into the curriculum/co-curriculum as an integral, "normal" element of a college education.
- Complements and augments micro-level mental health counseling that students experience individually with macro-level mental health education that students experience collectively, allowing for more scalable and systemic impact on student success.
How can our programs impact your campus?
Our programs can be used as stand-alone programs, or serve as additional resources to enhance your already existing programs and services (first year seminars, orientation/pre-orientation programs, honors programs, residential life initiatives, counseling/wellness center programs, peer education, student organizations, etc.) The following institutional offices could significantly benefit from these programs: Academic Affairs, Athletic Departments, Counseling Center, First Year Experience, Greek Life, Honors College, Learning/ Resource Center, Student Affairs.