I think one of the big overarching lessons this class has taught me is to appreciate winter. I know what you’re thinking… what does that have to do with the science of happiness, again? Well, I’ve always been concerned with productivity, growth, and activity. I’ve learned through this class that after a harvest, there is always a need for rest. After activity, the need for rest. Winter has given me a great opportunity to embrace dormancy, and use it as a time for meditation and reflection. Wishing for summer was not productive, wishing for something that is not here is creating more frustration in my life rather than staying present and learning to find value in what is here. To accept and embrace it gives me new opportunities to find things I do like, instead of focusing on the perceived dread it brings me. This is a concept I learned through all the things this class has taught me, and it can be applied to everything, not just the seasons. The science of happiness has been a very meaningful class to me in specific ways as well: as the vice president, and newly elected president, of National Association on Mental Illness (NAMI) on campus at VCU, mental health has always been important to me. I’ve always advocated for deep breathing, meditating, and have been a fan of yoga. This class really gave me the courage to fight through the boredom and frustrations meditation sometimes gave me, when I first started, and it allowed me to continue to get better at meditating: which made me want to do it more. While I knew sleep was important, and I love to sleep, I often wouldn’t make any time for it when I was stressed and pressed for time. Now, I make sure to go to bed early, and then get up early to get extra things done, I found, through tracking my sleep habits and such, that I’m more productive after I slept rather than trying to stay up and push myself through sheer exhaustion. As a social work major, I also found the strengths survey immeasurably valuable to me. While I knew I was kind, and fair, and could read other’s emotions pretty well I loved being able to know that in descending order my top five strengths are curiosity, fairness, kindness, social intelligence, and creativity. It also let me tune into the things I need to work on, like self-regulation. It helped to clear muddy water and put a name to things I felt like I was slacking on, and things I enjoyed doing: which overall really helped me to be able to reflect on it.
I will commit to these changes in my personal life by continuing to use Calm (I finally decided to purchase a subscription, thanks to this class and how much I enjoyed the morning meditations) once throughout my day and once before I go to bed. I will use my strengths, like curiosity, to find out more about people and their dynamics: to better understand people and to know where they’re coming from. I also will use this strength to read more, I realize I really like finding things out! I will use my planner more to map out different times for different things and continue with CBT to help me understand different ways or regulating myself and my emotions while still taking care of my responsibilities, this has been a long road and I still have a long journey ahead of me in that regards. I have started volunteering with the pace center and helping Katie Gooch with her surveys about how to get the community more involved, for our final project, with Rosemary: this has lead to me landing a job at a daycare down the street where Katie’s son goes to school! It really highlights the importance and value of human connections and relationships, a core value of social work. It really showed me that when you work hard and are passionate about helping someone accomplish things, good karma returns to you. Send loving-kindness out, get loving-kindness back!
Besides facebook to occasionally message my grandmother or look at VCU’s page, I don’t have social media so I plan to be sharing information with my own friends in my social network. One of my friends is having a very hard time sleeping and is up all hours of the night and then having to sleep all day: this class came in very handy because I could help him figure out a day-time plan for sorting his stress out, and incorporating meditation during the day to help the mind stop swirling, along with incorporating a little exercise and water, and setting up a sleep schedule. While I also did help him get a vibrating gentle alarm clock and some melatonin, and got him a special pretty notebook to journal his thoughts and sleep patterns in (yes, I know, I spoil my friends) the tactics taught in science of happiness gave me just the tools I needed to be able to give his sleep life a total glam makeover. While most of my friends could do with just a tip on how to make their techniques even better, or a fact to motivate them in the right direction, it was really fun being able to combine a lot of what we learned in order to get him back on the right track. It really illustrated the 60% of the pie we somehow have control of. While genetics are sometimes annoying and not what we hoped for, we can make things a whole lot better by choosing our actions carefully and thoughtfully. I also had him read Trocket, Barnes, & Eggnet, 2000. This is the article about sleep and how it can affect grades, specifically wake up times. My friend was used to accidentally sleeping through his alarm, and subsequently his classes, and felt like If he could just wake up a little bit before his classes, it didn’t matter when he was to wake up. He has much better sleep habits now, I’m so glad to say! We will see how his GPA does next semester. Hopefully, I can say, “I told you so!”
The included image encapsulates what I have learned through this class, this semester. I have learned that learning about myself involves a bunch of different little dimensions, a multi-faceted string of big and tiny drops. Some you can barely see yourself in, but sure enough, you’re there if you look hard enough. This reminds me that everyone has core elements in common: and almost everything in this class can somehow be applied to everyone.