Before the course started, I was unsure what to expect with Science of Happiness. Unlike many students in our class, I am not a psychology major; I am a journalism major, a non-traditional student, and I wanted another class to complete my schedule. When I got the e-mail about Science of Happiness, I realized it would fit well. And because I struggle with depression and anxiety, I hoped it would be beneficial and validating. Thankfully, I was correct.
I have truly benefited from the discussions surrounding positive psychology. “Positive Psychology: An Introduction” (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi) discussed the value of things like future-mindedness and forgiveness in coping with depression. While practicing and emphasizing those will not cure depression, they can help mitigate it and aim to keep one more grounded, which goes a long way. Dr. Sood’s mention that not everyone has a traditionally sunny or positive demeanor was relevant and meaningful to me, too, however. My depression often manifests itself outwardly, and I am not always able to “pass” as happy or even content. Recognizing this as okay helps keep me from chastising myself for depressive symptoms being visible; it also helps me to feel more motivated to work on embracing the times when I do feel content or happy.
Having spent almost two decades of my life in psychiatrist offices, I often felt they were trying to “correct” my inherent wrongs rather than viewing me as a complex person who just needed some assistance and adjustments. Positive psychology has taught me to recognize and embrace my virtues and positive attributes. In particular, the VIA character strength assessment helped me realize some of my most positive attributes – appreciation of beauty and excellence, for example – are not weird quirks worthy of ridicule, but merely part of the unique way I operate and look at the world. Since receiving those results, I have become more introspective and appreciative of the positive traits that are uniquely “me.” To that end, mindfulness – especially through coloring and meditation – has helped me be more aware and present, which helps me to be more grounded as well as be more willing and able to appreciate the beauty and excellence around me every day.
Although I greatly enjoy meditating and coloring, I need to work on setting aside time to dedicate to doing them. After our “7 Days of Calm” exercise I completed for class, I was inspired to meditate regularly for a few minutes each morning. Unfortunately, I fell out of that routine, and it has since sort of fallen by the wayside. That is something I would like to set as a goal for the coming months.
I have spoken in detail to my partner, family, and friends about my enjoyment with the course. In an otherwise rather stressful semester, Science of Happiness has been an invaluable “break” from that stress and tension. It has helped me to start my days off on a better note, which is often what I need the most. I have enjoyed, too, posting on the Twitter account I created for the class. A few friends have mentioned to me how much they enjoy the insights and knowledge I share there, as they are working on their mental health journeys, too. As I have also done before taking this course, I plan to continue to discuss various aspects of mental health on my social media channels. That is something truly important to me, and I know it has benefited family and friends as well.
[Image from Mike Lynch’s “Positive Psychology: The Path to Living a Happier, More Fulfilling Life” at https://www.slideshare.net/MikeLynch3/positive-psychology-the-path-to-living-a-happier-more-fulfilling-life]