This semester I have had the fortunate opportunity of learning a great deal in many areas of study. Each of my courses have had constant themes of growth and inquiry, and I view the knowledge that I have gained in each area as success (regardless of the grade). I feel that I have grown more confident in this way of measuring success and contentment from the topics covered in this class (SOH). From the outset, we challenged perceptions of happiness (which I now know related to feelings of success, contentment, etc.) and worked to getting to the deeper meaning of what it is to be happy. I have also learned to value group discussions and interactions with those in the class with me. My previous attitude towards group discussions was unpleasant, but I have found through this class experience that valuable insights and connections can be made when we students share our perspectives and experiences. This has translated well to my other courses, and I hope it will carry over into my interactions outside of the academic environment (family, work, etc.).
In regards to the content of the course, I have perceived the majority of the content to be getting us (the class) acquainted with the factors which either hinder or promote happiness. One topic that especially sticks out to me is substance use and abuse (particularly because my group chose it for our final project). I appreciate the info in the topic itself, but appreciated more the way other topics were included as either factors or ways to treat it. For example, the SUPRS and personality traits lecture was particularly insightful and interesting to me, personally. I could link that information to other topics other than substance use such as alcoholism, depression, etc. I also linked the section of Dr. Vassileva’s information “personality-specific thinking errors” to the negative thoughts exercise that we did earlier in the semester, which I thought was cool. I was able to identify traits of anxiety sensitivity (thinking the worst) and negative thinking (internalization) in myself, and attempted to identify the different traits in others around me.
The last few weeks have been especially insightful to me, as I feel that they focused more on the practice of what we have been taught. I have noticed that I am more engaged when I am presented with ways of acting out what we have learned. A lecture that I found especially interesting was Dr. Tyndall’s on academic wellbeing. I have been told numerous times the dangers of overvaluing one’s GPA, and how students see that as the ultimate manifestation of hard work and intelligence, as well as the best measurement for success. As mentioned before, I have become more comfortable with measuring my personal academic success with what I have learned, and not what I have earned (grades). By considering the different definitions of success from my classmates, I have begun to practice valuing what I can take away from a course, not what I can leave on my transcript. There have been positive effects of this, as by focusing on learning and conceptualizing material (versus memorizing it) I have improved my reasoning skills. I must also add that, in doing this, my grades have not fallen at all, and the learning experience itself is not as stressful as if I had been attempting to memorize the information for a temporary amount of time! This could also be in part due to my family support network, as well (Trockel, Barnes, and Egget found that “Outside social support from friends and family members, but not from peers, moderated the negative effects of text anxiety on students’ examination performance, according to Orpen.”)
I have also remained committed to the mindfulness practices that I began earlier this semester as a result of the information presented in this class. I continue to take time to acknowledge my breath, and notice when I am taking shorter breaths or not breathing at all (which is usually a cue that I am stressed or anxious). I have also begun to integrate these practices into my work life, as just yesterday I was reminding myself of the importance of breathing in stressful or uncomfortable situations. I also put certain interactions in perspective and made a conscious decision to look at the long-term value of those interactions. I found that after doing so my calmness and pleasantness increased, although I may not have been totally relieved. It is my goal to continue to integrate these and other mindfulness practices into my life. An idea that I have came from a Mindful Monday session that I attended, which was a guided meditation session. I really enjoyed how relaxed, in tune, and peaceful I felt after as compared with before the session, and I hope to be able to do this with my crew at work. My plan is to do a short version of this during the meeting I hold in the mornings, so that my crew and I can focus on our breathing and heart rates before we begin our busy day; as well as build camaraderie and promote a healthy work environment where I can. I also plan to stay connected with VCU Cobe on social media and continue weekly postings related with happiness like I did during the semester for the course.
I chose this image because I felt that it best described my experience in this course. The material given to us is the cliff, and while we consider the vast areas of inquiry, we begin to appreciate the beauty of our world. Imperfect as they may be, our experiences and education teach us what to look for to find peace and happiness.