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By Angela Duckworth

In Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Dr. Angela Duckworth shows parents, students, educators, athletes, and business people that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls "grit."

Scholarly Publications

Psychological well-being of young people is a significant public health issue because adolescents who need help often do not seek it, leading to a high prevalence of mental health problems in this population. Youth programs aimed at preventing mental health problems have tended to rely on clinical treatments, with inconsistent results. This study explores the feasibility of an online positive psychology program to improve well-being and mental health outcomes of Australian youth. Results showed that participants in the online intervention who visited the site at least 3 times per week reported significant decreases in depression and anxiety and improvements in well-being.

Citation: Manicavasagar, V., Horswood, D., Burckhardt, R., Lum, A., Hadzi-Pavlovic, D., & Parker, G. (2014). Feasibility and effectiveness of a web-based positive psychology program for youth mental health: randomized controlled trial. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 16(6)

The sense that life has meaning and direction is associated with reduced risks of adverse health. This study tested the hypothesis that greater purpose in life is associated with lower risk of cerebral infarcts, a type of stroke caused by blockage in a blood vessel to the brain. Results showed that greater purpose in life was associated with lower odds of having more macroscopic infarcts (brain injury visible to the naked eye on autopsy). Results did not find association with microinfarcts (brain injury visible only with a microscope).

Citation: Yu, L., Boyle, P. A., Wilson, R. S., Levine, S. R., Schneider, J. A., & Bennett, D. A. (2015). Purpose in Life and Cerebral Infarcts in Community-Dwelling Older People. Stroke, 46(4), 1071-1076.

Few controlled trials have evaluated mindfulness-based approaches to enhancing mental health among young people. This study assesses the acceptability and efficacy of a school-based universal mindfulness intervention for youth aged 12-16. Control groups took part in the usual school curriculum. Results showed that children participating in the Mindfulness in Schools Program reported fewer depressive symptoms post-treatment and at follow-up. Students also reported lower stress and greater well-being at follow-up. The paper suggests potential directions, such as whether school-wide mindfulness training at a key developmental stage could be more effective than interventions for at-risk youth or those who already have developed mental health problems.

Citation : Source: Kuyken, W., Weare, K., Ukoumunne, O., Vicary, R., Motton, N., Burnett, R., Cullen, C., Hennelly, S., & Huppert, F. (2013). Effectiveness of the Mindfulness in Schools Program: Non-randomized controlled feasibility study. The British Journal of Psychiatry 203(2), 1-6.
doi: 10.1192/bjp.113.126649

Positive Psychotherapy (PPT) is a therapeutic approach based on the principles of positive psychology. PPT supplements traditional psychotherapy approaches that focus on deficits. PPT addresses strengths, resources, values and hopes in addition to symptoms, weaknesses, risks and regrets, to facilitate a more balanced understanding of the human experience. This paper makes the case for an alternative approach to psychotherapy that gives equal attention and effort to both negatives and positives. It discusses PPT’s assumptions and describes how PPT exercises work in clinical settings. The paper summarizes results of pilot studies using this approach, discusses caveats in conducting PPT, and suggests potential directions.


Citation: Rashid, T. (2015). Positive psychotherapy: A strength-based approach. The Journal of Positive Psychology,10(1), 25-40.

A key challenge for well-being interventions is promoting sustained engagement to improve long-term outcomes. One way to increase engagement is to introduce variety. Researchers investigated whether supplementing interventions with items from a person’s social media archive could add variety and increase engagement. Results suggested that supplementing interventions with Facebook content increased engagement, particularly photos, text, and content about friends. The usefulness of the social media content depended on the type of intervention.

Citation: Sosik, V.S., & Cosley, D. (2014). Leveraging social media content to support engagement in positive interventions. Journal of Positive Psychology,(9)5, 428-434. doi:10.1080.17439760.2014.910826

Research indicates that men and women have different reactions to stress, which affects their ability to accurately tune into others. Distinguishing one’s own thoughts and feelings from another person’s plays an important role in crucial social skills, such as understanding and empathy. Under stress, women showed increases in self-other distinction, while men showed decreases. The findings suggest that women flexibly distinguish self and other under stress, enabling accurate social responses, while men respond with increased egocentricity and less adaptive regulation. This has crucial implications for explaining gender differences in social skills such as empathy and prosociality.

Citation: Tomova, L., von Dawans, B., Heinrichs, M., Silani, G., & Lamm, C. Is stress affecting our ability to tune into others? Evidence for gender differences in the effects of stress on self-other distinction. Psychoneuroendocrinology.

The World Happiness Report is a landmark survey of the state of global happiness. The first report was published in 2012, the second in 2013, and the third on April 23, 2015. Leading experts across fields – economics, psychology, survey analysis, national statistics, health, public policy and more – describe how measurements of well-being can be used effectively to assess the progress of nations. The reports review the state of happiness in the world today and show how the new science of happiness explains personal and national variations in happiness. They reflect a new worldwide demand for more attention to happiness as a criteria for government policy.

Read the full report here:


Press Articles

From McGill Reporter, December 16, 2011

From The Huffington Post, April 13, 2015