Endings and New Beginnings


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]

Unpacking Weeks 5-10

Unpacking Weeks 5-10

Much of the content from weeks 5-10 was aptly timed. I have been struggling more than usual with my mental health, but not for any discernible reason. Some weeks are just like that, and all we can do is make the best of them. Thus, recent content and exercises were essential for me, even more so than they might have been another time.

Content from the past six weeks focused on mental wellbeing, which is a reflection of the entire course: knowing that for all the aspects of our lives we cannot control, there are just as many that we can. I enjoyed, in particular, the mindfulness and meditation focus in the “7 Days of Calm” exercise. I have meditated before, but incorporating it into a routine — even if only for a week — was supremely helpful. It is a goal of mine to work short meditations into my daily life, though that is a work in progress.

There is a also a clear correlation for me between my physical activity, depression, and overall mental health. This was exemplified through my “Eat, Sleep, Move” activity wherein I tracked my physical activity. Since I have been adjusting to a new medication, my physical activity has been fairly low; it drains my energy and makes me sleep more. While more sleep is not a bad thing for me, I noticed I feel less productive and less mentally well when I am not moving as much. I am trying to work out a gym (or at least walking) plan with my partner so we can help one another be more active.

Dr. Sood’s lecture on depression was an important one, too. Although I have dealt with it for most of my life, it is invaluable to spread and maintain awareness, particularly when it comes to how prevalent it is in young people. Relatedly, the Trockel, Barnes, Egget (2000) reading was helpful in identifying how depression can affect academic success. I have seen it firsthand, so having studies reflect that is important and validating. This, again, comes down to trying to control what we can while acknowledging what we cannot.

[Image from Her Campus article “Exercise and Mental Health,” 2013: http://www.hercampus.com/school/tulane/exercise-and-mental-health]

Initial Impressions


Maintaining mental wellbeing has been one of my primary struggles for most of my life. Since being diagnosed with depression as a child and anxiety when I was a bit older, I feel I have often used trial-and-error to put myself in the best position possible. Mental health is critical to overall health, of course, and its relative invisibility should render it no less important.

Throughout these first four weeks, I have been overwhelmed in Science of Happiness, though I mean that positively. Learning about the science of why our brains do what they do is helpful on its own, but being able to apply it to everyday life while relating to peers is that much more meaningful.

I tend to have a negative self-concept, which can unfortunately prevent me from appropriately recognizing and crediting myself for progress I make with mental health. This was evident upon completing the Keyes flourishing scale. Due to my mental illnesses, I figured I would have subpar results; this was not the case. In spite of my struggles, I am found to be “moderately mentally healthy” right now. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I realize I am doing better than I give myself credit for. Luckily, this is something I can continue to work on.

Positive psychology is an interesting and valuable concept to me, too. During mental health treatment as well as in everyday life, I have often focused on what is “wrong” and how I can fix it. That has made me feel like I have to work more on “damage control” rather than remembering my positive personality traits and attributes and using them to my advantage. Again, I think we all need to learn to give ourselves a little more credit, so the spin with positive psychology doesn’t seem cheesy or fake to me; it just makes sense.

I think a central theme of this course might be how, with mental health, what we can control versus what we cannot is not the black-and-white dichotomy we often think it is. While genetics and heredity are out of our control, we can control our environments to some extent, and we can certainly alter our outlook and perspective. Meditating for a few minutes in the morning can help a person be more present for their day. Prioritizing sleep over watching another episode of a show we like can make a difference in how we respond to stimuli the next day. I don’t think we can force feed ourselves positivity and just expect things to change, but I do think we can be aware of our habits and inclinations and do a few things each day to make the inside of our heads a more pleasant place to be.

[Image source: “SlideShare: Mental Health in Law School.” ABA for Law Students. ABA for Law Students, 29 Mar. 2016. Web. 12 Feb. 2017.]

Initial Impressions


Maintaining mental wellbeing has been one of my primary struggles for most of my life. Since being diagnosed with depression as a child and anxiety when I was a bit older, I feel I have often used trial-and-error to put myself in the best position possible. Mental health is critical to overall health, of course, and its relative invisibility should render it no less important.

Throughout these first four weeks, I have been overwhelmed in Science of Happiness, though I mean that positively. Learning about the science of why our brains do what they do is helpful on its own, but being able to apply it to everyday life while relating to peers is that much more meaningful.

I tend to have a negative self-concept, which can unfortunately prevent me from appropriately recognizing and crediting myself for progress I make with mental health. This was evident upon completing the Keyes flourishing scale. Due to my mental illnesses, I figured I would have subpar results; this was not the case. In spite of my struggles, I am found to be “moderately mentally healthy” right now. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I realize I am doing better than I give myself credit for. Luckily, this is something I can continue to work on.

Positive psychology is an interesting and valuable concept to me, too. During mental health treatment as well as in everyday life, I have often focused on what is “wrong” and how I can fix it. That has made me feel like I have to work more on “damage control” rather than remembering my positive personality traits and attributes and using them to my advantage. Again, I think we all need to learn to give ourselves a little more credit, so the spin with positive psychology doesn’t seem cheesy or fake to me; it just makes sense.

I think a central theme of this course might be how, with mental health, what we can control versus what we cannot is not the black-and-white dichotomy we often think it is. While genetics and heredity are out of our control, we can control our environments to some extent, and we can certainly alter our outlook and perspective. Meditating for a few minutes in the morning can help a person be more present for their day. Prioritizing sleep over watching another episode of a show we like can make a difference in how we respond to stimuli the next day. I don’t think we can force feed ourselves positivity and just expect things to change, but I do think we can be aware of our habits and inclinations and do a few things each day to make the inside of our heads a more pleasant place to be.

[Image source: “SlideShare: Mental Health in Law School.” ABA for Law Students. ABA for Law Students, 29 Mar. 2016. Web. 12 Feb. 2017.]