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Promoting Gratitude and Positive Feelings About Learning Among Young Adults


Universities are increasingly offering positive psychology courses; however, very few studies have been conducted to see if they enhance positive psychology outcomes for students. This study, conducted at a Western university in the U.S., examined the effects of a semester long positive psychology course on 26 undergraduate students’ gratitude and emotions toward studying. The course included broad aspects of positive psychology, such as gratitude, mindfulness, autonomy supportive communication, intrinsic life goals, intrinsic learning goals, acts of kindness, and identifying strengths. Using a retrospective pretest-posttest design, paired sample t tests revealed that students improved significantly on both gratitude and homework feelings. The effect size (Cohen’s d) for homework feelings was 1.03, indicating that students experienced a strong improvement in positive emotions toward studying and homework. The effect size for gratitude was .76, indicating a moderate to large positive effect on thankfulness. Percentage of classes attended was moderately positively associated with pre- to post-course improvement in gratitude and emotions, indicating that students with higher attendance were more likely to experience greater personal growth. Students of minority background (e.g., Latino) improved more than European American students on gratitude, whereas they improved equally well on positive emotions. Implications for universities, professors, and others interested in the positive psychological development of young adults are discussed.

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Correspondence to John Mark Froiland.

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Froiland, J.M. Promoting Gratitude and Positive Feelings About Learning Among Young Adults. J Adult Dev 25, 251–258 (2018).

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  • Positive psychology
  • Gratitude
  • Happiness
  • College students
  • Mindfulness
  • Intrinsic motivation