Stress, Health, Well-being Lab

Department of Psychology 
Geographic Area Served

Albuquerque, National, New Mexico State-wide
Project Description
The purpose of the Stress, Health, and Well-being (“SHAW”) Lab is “to promote the life well-lived and to create a life worth living” in the midst of a variety of life’s challenges and stressors and across the diversity of human experience and culture. As the acronym for the lab, a “shaw” is a group of trees and like a group of trees we seek to grow together in drawing on the sources of nourishment around us and find ways to help provide greater life and sustenance for the rest of our world.

Stress is everywhere today and our goal is make it more possible for people to find ways to be resilient and thrive and even grow from the stress that they experience. We are interested in how stress can impact both mental and physical health and even more in how people can find and create well-being in the midst of all the stress and health challenges that they face. Our long-range goal is to develop interventions that enable people to increase their health and well-being and live their lives to the fullest. We seek to achieve these goals by creating an environment where people can work together on a range of research projects and providing a variety of clinical, teaching, and service opportunities for students.


The SHAW lab seeks to develop models of resilience, thriving, health, and well-being through basic studies with undergraduates and healthy individuals and the application of these models to people facing a variety of stressors and health challenges. The lab is currently involved in studies examining interventions and factors that may promote resilience and thriving and increase health and well-being.

We are doing a variety of studies to test the effects of interventions including:

1. A positive psychology intervention focused on identifying and building personal strengths to increase the success of first generation college students.
2. An internet-based study of positive psychology interventions to enhance human strengths and increase happiness and well-being.
3. A study comparing the effects of mindfulness meditation and cognitive-behavioral stress management on the health and well-being of people with low incomes and people in ethnic minorities.
4. A study examining the effects of mindfulness meditation and expressive writing and sharing on the stress, compassion fatigue, and potential burn-out of health care professionals
5. A study of the role of music in improving mood and increasing self-efficacy in college students.

We are doing a variety of studies to determine which factors may be most important for promoting resilience and thriving in the face of stress:

1. A daily diary study of the factors that promote resilience and thriving in urban firefighters facing traumatic and a variety of other kinds of stressors.
2. A longitudinal study of vulnerability and resilience in people recovering from heart attacks and heart surgery in cardiac rehabilitation.
3. A daily diary and longitudinal study of the role of stress, emotion, and resilience in healthy adult women and women with chronic pain.
4. A study examining the effects of stress, discrimination, and resilience on the mental and physical health of sexual minorities.
5. A daily diary study of the psychological and social factors that affect the health, adjustment, and well-being of couples coping with cancer.


In addition to these research projects that involve all of the graduate students, undergraduate students, and other affiliate members of the SHAW lab, we also provide a variety of clinical opportunities for graduate students. These include:

1. Leading stress management, meditation, and well-being groups for healthy individuals and people with chronic illnesses (e.g., chronic pain, heart disease, cancer).
2. Leading support groups for people with chronic illnesses and caregivers.
3. Doing Motivational Interviewing and health coaching to prevent and reduce the adverse effects of chronic illness.
4. Working with a local wellness center called New Heart to give students experience with heart patients and those trying to reduce stress and improve their health behaviors.
5. Working with the University of New Mexico Cancer Center to gain experience with cancer patients and their families.
6. Working with the University of New Mexico Family Practice Clinics to provide psychological and behavioral health services in a primary care setting.
7. Working with the local Albuquerque Veterans Administration hospital to gain experience with a variety of people with psychological and medical problems including PTSD, chronic pain, and substance abuse.
8. Working with a community health care organization that provides health care to low income people without little or no health insurance.


Finally, the SHAW lab welcomes graduate and undergraduate students who are interesting in training and experience in teaching and mentoring other people. We frequently provide opportunities for graduate students in teaching or being a teaching assistant for our UNM courses in Health Psychology and Positive Psychology. We also teach a small course for undergraduate students who want to gain experience in working as peer teaching assistants for these courses.

Graduate Student Openings

I will be taking at least one graduate student to begin the fall of 2012. Although I will consider strong students with a variety of backgrounds and interests, I am particularly looking for students who are interested in studying the role of positive psychological factors in increasing resilience and thriving and improving health and well-being. These factors include but are not limited to emotion regulation, emotional disclosure, gratitude, hope, compassion, loving-kindness, meaning and purpose, mindfulness meditation, acceptance, posttraumatic growth, and spirituality.
There will be opportunities for students who are interested in studying the role of these factors in relation to a variety of kinds of stressful events and experiences. Currently, our lab is engaged in studies of the role of positive psychosocial factors in increasing resilience and thriving and improving the health and well-being of first generation college students, urban firefighters, women with chronic pain, heart patients, cancer patients, and people with low income and of ethnic minority backgrounds. I welcome students who would like to focus on better understanding how psychological factors may have a positive effect for people facing a variety of life challenges and stressors.

Undergraduate Student Openings

Our lab is usually looking for dedicated and responsible University of New Mexico undergraduate students to be involved in our lab. There are opportunities for gaining the research experience, a letter of recommendation, and learning about applying to graduate school, medical school, and programs for other health-related professions. It is possible to sign up for Psychology 499 which would enable you to get credit for research experience and be a part of our lab. A wide variety of research experience is available as well as the opportunity to work with and learn from graduate and undergraduate students.

Contact Information:
Location Mailing Address
1 University of New Mexico
MSCO3 2220
Logan Hall B81
 1 University of New Mexico
MSCO3 2220
Email Telephone
Bruce W. Smith
Stress, Health, Well-being Lab (505)277-3915
Fax (505)277-1394
Bruce W. Smith

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