The Science Ends But Happiness Goes On

Being part of The Science Of Happiness has been nothing short of an incredible learning experience on all fronts. One thing I took from it more than anything else was the idea of mindfulness, and how much it  plays into our mental state every minute of our lives. Mindfulness has a lot to do with awareness, but in particular it’s awareness about yourself and your surroundings. Knowledge becomes incredibly powerful once you apply awareness to those things that you come to be more knowledgeable about. This can be applied to anything. For instance, when learning about relationships we learned about how important communication really is for you and your partner. During week 9, I was assigned a move exercise. This turned out to be influential to me as well because I found out how much actively doing something and moving will take your mind off of things and overall make you a much happier person, but often you may not be aware of that unless you look back on it later and realize how happy you were. Another topic that was particularly meaningful to me was week 13, when we filled out the VIA strengths survey and then compared all of our results together. This assignment was especially meaningful to me because it helped me find out a lot about myself that I likely wouldn’t have found otherwise. My top three were Kindness, Perspective, and Appreciation for Beauty, which after thinking more on the topic I realized were all very true to me and what I value. All of these things can be related back to mindfulness and awareness in different ways. For instance, being aware of your own happiness while you’re out moving, or being aware of your eating and sleeping and what affect that’s having on your body, as  well as being mindful on how healthy your relationship is and how well you and your partner have been communicating.

I want to apply these insights by learning more about myself and things around me always being mindful of what I learn, and using that to my advantage in every way possible. One change that I’ve made in my life is I’ve started regularly going to yoga classes with a friend every week. I made this change because I learned more about yoga from SOH and decided I would give it a try, and found that I really love it. It is calming, an escape, and really a way to recenter yourself before going back out into the world. The things that I want to change next include wanting to meditate again. Last year I had a time where I was meditating daily but eventually fell out of it. Looking back I think that it had a really positive impact on my life, and knowing more about it now makes me very interested in getting back into it. I also want to start being more active about what I eat, and eating healthier. After I heard other groups in class talk about being part of the “eat” group, I thought that it sounded like a good idea. While it can be difficult, I believe that eating healthy has more potential to improve your life than nearly anything else, and being diligent and watching what you eat is key to eating better.

Now that class is sadly over, what I plan to do is spread what I’ve learned and inform other people about the class as much as possible. I’ve already spent time telling my mom and sister all about what I’ve learned within the class, as well as a number of my friends. In fact, I think my best friend in particular may even be a bit tired of hearing about the class because I always end up telling her about whatever we’ve learned recently. I want to tell other people to take this class because I think that it is an incredibly unique experience that I am gifted to have been a part of and I want as many people to know about it as possible. I also have thought about telling my friends back home what I’ve learned about this summer, as there are a few friends who I know will be interested to hear about stuff that we learned about in class.

I am incredibly, incredibly grateful to have been part of this class and for everything that it has taught me. I would take it again or a level two of the class without a moments hesitation.

Awareness Is Key

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One thing that I really took away from the first four weeks of class was the importance of the concept of awareness. This was really first brought to my attention when learning about the Positive Psychology Interventions. On the slide, it said that over time PPI’s begin to become less effective as the person becomes happier more of the time, which to me sounded good. So I raised my hand and asked, wouldn’t the be a good thing since the treatments are working then? To which Mrs. Walsh responded “yes, but only if you are aware of the fact that you’re happy more often.” So the key is awareness about the situation that you’re in, which I realized can be applied to many different things other than PPI’s.

This idea was expressed to me more when we did the three good things exercise, because it made me look a lot more positively at how things are by making me focus on the good things that have happened recently. I really don’t do this much and I find it really easy to look at things negatively, and focus on what’s wrong and what’s making me unhappy. It’s easy to forget all of the good things that have been happening recently, so after I completed this exercise I could thing “Wow, all these good things and more happened in just the past four days, that’s great.”

The lessons about the Keyes flourishing scale were eye opening in a few ways. I liked how the scale has a further analysis, and isn’t just black and white;sick or not sick. For instance, how someone can be considered flourishing with a mental illness, and languishing with no mental illness. The concept of flourishing with a mental illness alone is a bit perspective changing to me, and helped me realize that even when you can be winning in life and be happy, motivated, and enthusiastic overall, you can still suffer from a mental illness and you need to come to accept that not everything will always be perfect.

Learning about genetic influences on behavior was interesting because while I knew about hereditary genes beforehand, I was very much more into the nurture side of the argument of nurture vs. nature. However after learning more about it in class, I have slightly changed my views and now look a bit more at genes for their affect on you than I did before. The exercise we did where we built a family tree based on something hereditary opened my eyes to a few things too, because I called my mom to ask what runs in our family and learned a lot more about mental illness in my family and where it comes from and in what forms.

Also when learning about depression and mood states, I learned a few new things too. For instance, what is actually considered an “episode of depression”, and especially all of the ties between anxiety and depression. When talking about treatments, I was pleasantly surprised to see Ketamine infusion on the slide because drugs are a very interesting topic to me and I like to learn as much about them as possible. I’ve read a lot about studies being done relating to medical potential for recreational drugs, one of which being ketamine (even though ketamine does have other medical uses as an anesthetic) and whenever I read about studies like this it has my interest peeked, so seeing it in a class was a special moment for me.

The first four weeks of Science Of Happiness have been eye opening to me in many weeks and I greatly enjoy my time in the class. I really look forward to the upcoming weeks of class and what they will hold.