There are certain skills that help students thrive on campus and in life: optimism, resilience, compassion, being present, stress management and more, wrote Simone Figueroa, founder of U-Thrive Educational Services, for the NASPA Blog. Yet, “When students are feeling overloaded and stressed, the last thing they want to do is add something else to their plate (i.e., seeking help or taking a workshop on mindfulness) even if this very thing could help alleviate their suffering,” she stated.

Instead, we can consider how to actively incorporate some key “heart-based skills” like positive psychology, mindfulness and self-compassion into curricular and co-curricular programming, she recommended, so students have these at the ready. 

So, consider the following three fields that focus on cultivating those heart-based skills, according to Figueroa, and how you might be able to include them within your campus area of expertise.

Positive Psychology.

What is it? Figueroa described it as “the application of psychological research on human flourishing and optimal functioning to help humans lead an engaged, meaningful, and fulfilling life.”

Why is it needed? When college students report higher levels of positive psychology traits like emotional well-being and optimism, she wrote, they tend to enjoy college more and be highly satisfied with their college experience.


What is it? Figueroa wrote that it’s “purposeful, nonjudgmental attentiveness to the present moment in oneself and in the external world.”

Why is it needed? Higher levels of mindfulness often lead to lower stress in response to academic stressors, plus less defensive, more effective coping strategies, she explained. This can positively impact students’ transition to college in the first year.


What is it? Figueroa described it as “the capacity to forgive, encourage, and motivate oneself when struggling with feelings of personal failure or inadequacy.”

Why is it needed? It can reduce chronic academic stress, help students respond constructively to academic setbacks, perceive their mistakes as opportunities for growth, and maintain their motivation and competence, she wrote.

Source: NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education Blog, “Beyond Academics: First Year Student Success Requires Mental & Emotional Well-being,” 8/3/20

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