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With the current global economic and social challenges, most people are stressed and this condition degenerates into depression among other mental disorders if unaddressed. Although most countries are aware of these challenges, they focus on economic developments while ignoring the citizens’ human needs. Such a trend creates a form of estrangement between the government and its citizens especially the poor, thus enhancing despair.
Social sciences focus on such despair to articulate the vision of a good life among the alienated persons. Scientific fields such as psychology can be used to show what the alienated employees can do to improve their status within society. In addition to documenting some of the factors that account for successful children, families, and governments, psychologists equip people with the knowledge of how to survive at times of challenges.
By emphasizing prescribed traits, psychologists introduced the concept of positive psychology. Positive psychology aims at enhancing an individual’s prescribed traits such as courage, perseverance, and wisdom among others. Challenges that prevail in society affect students among other members of the public. Recently, there has been an increment in the rate of stress and depression together with other mental conditions amongst school-going children and youths.
However, these challenges can be eliminated by emphasizing the reliance on positive traits such as focusing on self-esteem, efficacy, and optimism. In the absence of stress, students’ performance improves as they shift their focus from academic stress to strengthening their efficiency and esteem together with reducing their interpersonal sensitivity (Shoshani & Steinmetz, 2013). Positive psychology is an effective way through which the government, schools, and parents can eliminate academic stress amongst students.
Mental health in schools
In the past, schools across the United States have experienced an increased pressure to improve performance with the government pushing them to account for the students’ academic achievements. Although the new standards marked a crucial milestone especially in improving academic performance and achievements amongst students, learners experienced emotional stress due to the stringent academic demands (Riolli, Savicki & Richards, 2012).
The increment in the number of stressed students is an indicator of the rigorous academic environment. Currently, the country is witnessing a rise in the rate of mental disorders and suicides among children and youths. Apart from the social stressors, some researchers attribute this trend to the academic challenges that these people encounter due to the stringent academic standards (Antaramian, Huebner, Hills & Valois, 2010).
According to a research conducted at the start of the 21st century, approximately 25% of the students in the United States are unsatisfied with either their families or school experiences (Antaramian et al., 2010). Recent research conducted across the United States revealed that approximately 10% of the children experience depression before the age of 14 years (Antaramian et al., 2010).
With the rising cases of academic stress among students in the United States, the federal government has introduced positive psychology programs in schools across the country. The most common programs include those that teachers use to encourage learners to develop and strengthen their positive traits (Antaramian et al., 2010). Such programs largely rely on the recognition and integration of community’s heroes and celebrations into the school curriculum.
Such programs are introduced in elementary and high schools and they are effective in improving self-esteem that contributes to the students’ wellbeing. The wellbeing program is another common positive psychology strategy that targets elementary and high schools students. The program is aimed at improving the students’ physical and mental health through enhancing positive relationships and living a purpose-driven life (Vanno, Kaemkate & Wongwanich, 2013).
In most circumstances, stress deters students from living a meaningful life as they lose focus and purpose of their lives. In such a circumstance, the stressed students fail to seek help from their teachers and parents, thus leaving the problem unattended. Prolonged stress leads to hopelessness and it increases anxiety among the affected students. In the situation of hopelessness, teachers can offer intensive training to the students to improve the condition (Antaramian et al., 2010).
Training rendered in this case should be based on ways through which students can strengthen their character and acquire positive emotions together with optimism coupled with engaging in positive relationships. In addition to these positive traits, teachers should compound them with beneficial elements of education. For example, teachers can focus on building close relationship with students, encouraging open communication, and equipping learners with basic conflict resolution mechanisms (Vanno et al., 2013). From the analysis of these education elements, it is evident that they not only focus on improving academic performance, but also on equipping students with skills to survive the challenges in society.
According to Vanno et al. (2012), positive psychology entails positive organizational traits to improve a student’s well-being. Some of these traits include resilience, self-efficacy, optimism, and hope. Academic stress can hardly be eliminated due to the difficulties that students experience both in school and in society. However, academic stress can be controlled by encouraging students to rely on positive traits to overcome challenges (Vanno et al., 2013).
Empirical evidence from different studies reveals the relationship between academic performance and positive psychology capital. In 2012, a group of researchers conducted a study on 418 students from three universities in the United States. From the study, the researchers established that the students’ positive psychology affects academic performance significantly (Shoshani & Steinmetz, 2013). With the positive feedback and masterly of performance, experiences, and achievements, students develop confidence that contributes to academic success in the long term (Shoshani & Steinmetz, 2013).
According to Kaur (2013), academic stress degrades the students’ level of confidence. With the low levels of confidence, students fail to perform to the expected standards, thus contributing to an institution’s poor performance. With an emphasis on optimism, hope, and resilience, teachers and parents enable students to develop confidence to cope with the social and academic challenges. Furthermore, through elevated levels of confidence, students develop better masterly of academic experiences that improve individual academic performance (Kaur, 2013).
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In addition, students develop positive perceptions in the course of their studies. However, research holds that positive perceptions depend on the group by which students associate. Association with people with negative attitudes influences the acquisition of damaging perceptions, thus posing adverse effects to the students’ efficacy (Vanno et al, 2013).
Academic stress affects students with learning disorders more as compared to those without disabilities. According to Antaramian et al. (2010), positive psychology incorporates some elements of cognitive theory in offering solutions to improve the learning experience among students with learning disabilities. For example, positive psychology encourages the acquisition and strengthening of self-determination among students with learning disabilities. An increment in the level of self-determination enhances positive effects as characterized by improved levels of social emotions among other elements that motivate such students to build positive relationships with their fellow students (Kaur, 2013).
Antaramian and et al. (2010) further argue that positive psychology plays a crucial role in enhancing a student’s mental and physical health status through eliminating effects of academic stress. Mental and psychological status entails significant components of an individual’s health status in addition to physical health. Prolonged stress affects the brain and nervous system, thus affecting the students’ overall health status (Antaramian, et al., 2010).
According to Riolli et al. (2012), gratitude and relaxation interventions increase a student’s positive emotions, thus leading to positive outcomes. Apart from affecting the brain, stress causes physical fatigue that arises from overworking the body for it to produce sufficient energy for the brain’s activities that increase with the increment in stress levels (Riolli et al., 2012). However, with relaxation strategies, students experience happiness accompanied by a sense of control that contributes to improving the quality of life. In such a circumstance, the body gets an opportunity to dispel negative outcomes such as anxiety and depression that account for a crucial proportion of the body’s health complications (Shoshani & Steinmetz, 2013).
Among older students such as those in colleges and universities, positive psychology enables them to acquire protective factors against the acquisition of stress on exposure to negative environments. With strengthened resilience, students learn to evaluate and appreciate positive events amidst challenges and in the time of crisis. The appreciation of positive events entails a positive effect that characterizes satisfaction with life.
Furthermore, students with strong resilience stay focused and optimistic and they can maintain positive psychological constructs even when subjected to adverse environmental variables (Vanno et al., 2013). From this analysis, it is evident that apart from enhancing positive effect and satisfaction, resilience, and optimism among others, psychological constructs improve a student’s perceived health. Overall, optimism and resilience play a protective role especially amongst students in higher levels of learning.
Research indicates that approximately 25% of the students in the United States are affected by either social or academic stress. However, researchers recommend the use of positive psychology programs to eliminate the problem. Some of the common programs in the United States include celebrating life and well-being programs.
With the two programs, teachers focus on improving students’ self-esteem and wellbeing and they are designed for the elementary and high school students. With the help of positive psychology programs, teachers train students on how to strengthen their character and acquire optimism and resilience to facilitate positive relationships. Furthermore, with the incorporation of beneficial education elements, students also learn skills to handle both academic and social challenges that contribute to stress.
With an emphasis on positive individual traits, positive psychology accounts for the confidence that enables students to develop masterly of academic experiences. However, for a student to nurture positive traits, he or she should socialize with positive-minded people to avoid acquiring negate attitudes that enhance negative perceptions. With reference to students with learning disabilities, academic stress affects them more than students without learning disabilities. With positive psychology strategies, these students develop self-determination that motivates them to build and maintain positive relationships at school.
Additionally, positive psychology strategies contribute to the promotion of mental health of stressed students through eliminating adverse effects of academic stress. Relaxation techniques relieve the body of physical and mental fatigue, hence improving a student’s quality of life. Furthermore, positive psychology plays a protective role amongst college and university students. On developing resilience and optimism, students acquire satisfaction and focus to extents that they are hardly disrupted, despite being exposed to adverse environment. Positive psychology is crucial in suppressing academic stress among students.
Antaramian, S., Huebner, E., Hills, K., & Valois, R. (2010). A dual-factor model of mental health: Toward a more comprehensive understanding of youth functioning. The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 80(4), 462–472.
Kaur, M. (2013). Positive Thinking & Happiness. New York: Manjeet Kaur.
Riolli, L., Savicki, V., & Richards, J. (2012). Psychological capital as a buffer to student stress. Psychology, 3(12), 1201-1207.
Shoshani, A., & Steinmetz, S. (2013). Positive psychology at school: A school-based intervention to promote adolescents’ mental health and well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15(6), 1289-1311.
Vanno, V., Kaemkate, W., & Wongwanich, S. (2013). Relationships between academic performance, perceived group psychological capital, and positive psychological capital of Thai undergraduate students. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 116(1), 3226-3230.