Back in July of 2020, at a conference hosted by the University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship, researcher Barbara Fredrickson advised that in order to navigate the challenges of the pandemic, individuals and organizations would need to generate resources and build alliances and teams. That’s exactly what WBI and the JCC Manhattan have done over the past two years with our online Positive Psychology Hour.
Together we have built social capital—a term coined by scholar Wayne Baker that refers to “the exchange of resources between people.” The power of this connective experience during difficult times has been evidenced by the consistent audience participation in the weekly webinars, as well as the enthusiastic cohort of WBI alum and friends who have given their time and energy and offered wisdom from applied positive psychology.
Turns out, as recent research by Xuan Zhao and Nicholas Epley shows, people are generally happy to help, and it actually improves their own well-being. “We feel good making a positive difference in other people’s lives,” Dr. Zhao says. “Helping makes people feel better.” Another study during COVID confirms those conclusions, finding that those who engaged in even the smallest helping behaviors during the pandemic—such as reaching out to a friend, buying someone a cup of coffee, purchasing masks or food for another, or conducting other simple gestures of kindness—experienced an enhanced sense of connection and meaning.
Having asked for help via the Positive Psychology Hour, we have received—and as a result, we have connected through the practical tools of positive psychology, increased our resources, and found strength in our community. In the words of Anna Irani of the University of Pennsylvania, in her work on positive altruism, “We must invest in our social relationships and communities to flourish, since they are a primary source of our health and well-being.” And, she continues, “One way we invest in our social relationships and communities is through helping.”
Our upcoming in-person Wholebeing Weekend at the JCC, October 22–23, celebrates the giving, receiving, and connecting we have done over the past two years. We hope you’ll join us to look back at the challenges we’ve faced, revisit what we have learned, deepen relationships, and nourish hope for the future. Register here.
If you can’t make it in person, please join us on Thursday, October 20, at 12:00 pm for the next webinar, “Learning from Our Regrets to Boost Vitality and Meaning in Life,” with speaker and coach Jodi Wellman. Register here.