Research In Brief: Positive Psychology

In 2016 we began the Research In Focus series, highlighting new and interesting findings from NIDILRR-funded studies, presented in a reader-friendly format. As a follow up, we offer our occasional series Research In Brief, where we break down some of the terms you might find in peer-reviewed studies.

In this month’s Research in Brief, we define terms related to positive psychology. Positive psychology is the scientific study of happiness. Recently researchers have become interested in understanding what factors help people with disabilities to thrive and lead happy, meaningful lives. Here are definitions of some terms you may see in positive psychology research studies:

  • Resilience is the process of adapting positively to stressful life events, or “enabling good outcomes in spite of serious threats.” People who are resilient can “bounce back” from challenging circumstances and continue to thrive, or even grow stronger as a result of challenging experiences. Research has found that people can learn to be more resilient by practicing positive thinking, building relationships with others, and doing things that give their lives meaning.
  • Self-efficacy is a person’s belief that they can do something. People with high self-efficacy are more likely to persist when faced with difficulties accomplishing a task. Self-efficacy can be general, e.g. believing that “failure just makes me try harder,” or it can be in a specific area, such as having a belief that one can make friends or find a job.
  • Positive affect is another term for positive feelings, such as happiness, pride, or gratitude. It can be contrasted with negative affect, which describes short-term or long-term feelings of sadness, anger, fear, or other negative feelings.
  • Benefit finding is the process of finding good aspects to a traumatic event. For example, a person with a traumatic brain injury may feel that they benefited by gaining friendships or learning new skills after injury.

To learn more about these topics, check out these recent Research In Focus articles:

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