Positive psychology focuses on the promotion of well-being (Seligman, & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Positive psychology interventions (PPIs) have been developed to help facilitate the development of skills needed to flourish and current research suggests that PPIs can help individuals improve their happiness, reduce stress, and become more resilient (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005). National surveys highlight that students in higher education are in dire need of interventions aimed at helping them cope with the negative impact of stress (Douce & Keeling, 2014; Marks & Wade, 2015). Research among the graduate student population is scant even though they report high levels of stress and work even more hours than undergraduate students (Wyatt & Oswalt, 2013). PPIs implemented in the graduate student population focus heavily on psychologically-based programs, like psychology and social work, whose students may already be receiving assistance in self-care (Botta, Cadet, & Maramaldi, 2015; Burkhart, 2014; Nelson, Dell'Oliver, Koch, & Buckler, 2001). Thus, this current study is a randomized controlled trial testing an online PPI, adapted from Achor's work in the business industry (2012, 2014), compared with an online informative stress group and a wait list control group among graduate students from various disciplines at a large, public university in the Southwest. Participants were administered pre-, post-, and three-month follow-up tests to determine the impact of the interventions on their levels of perceived stress, happiness, and resilience. A multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) was used with covariates of age, gender, race, program of study, and graduate level of study (masters versus doctoral). The main findings of the study included: the students in the PPI group reported significantly higher resilience at the end of the three weeks than did the students in the informative stress or wait list control groups, even though measures of happiness or perceived stress were not impacted; and students from psychologically based programs received the most benefit from treatment, especially from the PPI intervention. All findings, implications, and suggestions for future directions are discussed.
- The happiness project: a randomized control trial of an online positive psychology intervention for graduate students