Learning > Earning: What I Gained From SOH

Learning > Earning: What I Gained From SOH

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.

Image: http://www.veggieathletic.com/trolltunga-hiking-noobs/


Mindful Practices and Lifelong Insights: Blog Post Two

Mindful Practices and Lifelong Insights: Blog Post Two

It is with great happiness that I am able to attest that, since the first blog post several weeks ago, the trend of gaining valuable insights to happiness continues (and with great success) into the final weeks of the course.  In these last few weeks since first checking in with the first blog post, the topics covered in class have been focused more on the scientific matter of more pleasant emotions and awareness (“happiness”).  Topics such as emotional resiliency and social and emotional learning were covered, which I found to be relatable to each other in the way that, if we are not taught to relate to each other emotionally at a young age, we will really need to hone our skills to become emotionally resilient later on in life.  I am aware that children are not taught the emotional skills necessary to be empathetic towards each other and built upon into lifelong habits (my mother is a middle school teacher).   Many, myself included, resort to letting the technological advancements we have take the place of social interactions (Demirci et al, 2015, highlighted the dangers of cell phone use, especially, and linked it to depression and anxiety in college aged people), especially by turning to our phones when in a situation that we do not feel most comfortable in.  I was also able to relate the personality traits that Dr. Vassileva introduced to the class (week 9) to character strengths (week 4) and reinforce the validity of my top strength of judgement with the fact that, according to the SURPS survey, I was along the low end of the scale in the “impulsivity” category.

The larger lessons gathered from the past 10 weeks or so include the fact that there is quite an extensive body of research not into the science of happiness, but into the factors that work together to produce what has been accepted as standards for happiness and contentment.  However, at the same time certain areas of study (SEL and such), although they have enough research to be considered a valuable component to the science of happiness, are fresh and require more results and research time.  Perhaps the most valuable personal insight is mindfulness and the positive effects that even the slightest bit of effort can produce if one works to build it into everyday habits.

As a result, I have begun to practice mindfulness throughout the day.  Motivated by examples (such as from the T.A. and other classmates) and the importance of breathing that was reiterated in this class, I have begun a habit of taking a deep breath every time I lock the doors of my car after getting in.  This makes for a consistent “mini” quiet reflective time, as I commute to campus each day and also find myself doing most of the driving in my household.  I was inspired to do so from both this class and previous classes which stressed the importance of breath and being mindful of how you use it.  After consistently doing this for several weeks now, I find myself more conscious of my breath and noticing when I am either holding my breath or taking shallow breaths, as well as the effects this has on my heart rate.  When I hold my breath or breathe shallowly, my heart rate goes up, increasing feelings of stress or anxiety, and sometimes this is how I find out that I am stressing or getting anxious.  I hope to go further with this “mindful time” and extend it to more moments and a longer duration.


The image that I chose is to represent the effects of the changes that I have made in my life because of this class.  These changes have been positive, and I feel that they will bring a greater sense of peace to my life.  To me, peace is represented visually by sunlight and natural things, and each person has their own vision based on their own experiences.


Image: http://www.wallpaperbetter.com/wallpaper/1020/348/935/national-park-grand-teton-wyoming-sunrise-mountains-red-sky-lake-1080P-wallpaper-middle-size.jpg

Reflections & Connections: Blog Post One

Reflections & Connections: Blog Post One

My first few weeks of “UNIV 391: The Science of Happiness” have exceeded my expectations for the course.   This is not to say that I had low expectations for the course; on the contrary, I entered this course with a great deal of optimism and curiosity.  What could a course on “The Science of Happiness” really be about?  Shorty after the first class meetings, I found my interest in the course reaffirmed.  There have already been several topics that have both drawn new interest and helped me to make connections with other facets of my life.

Such a connection was made early in the course when we were presented with information about how much we are effected by our genetic makeup, in contrast to our environment.  As an assignment we were to compose a family tree of a specific trait or characteristic and trace it back through generations.  It was interesting for me to find how common, or uncommon, a specific trait was among my family; as well as to try to figure out whether it was because of genetics, environment, or other factors.  This was insightful for me, as I found that there was a unique yet indistinguishable pattern running in my family, of which I am a sort of “beneficiary”.   I believe that another valuable connection was made while reviewing both positive psychology and character traits.  I was able to perhaps step back and, in a kind of out-of-body way, assess myself and deepen my understanding of why I may take certain actions.

I could also make connections in the presented material itself.  I could see a direct relationship between the positive psychology practices (PERMA) and how they could be used to aid depression.  Also valuable to me was the information on depression itself.  I was surprised at the different classifications, which I then used in reflection of certain patterns in both myself and my family.  During this reflection, I reminded myself of the concept of nature vs. nurture, which caused me to find slight conflict.  I questioned whether the experiences of my family, which had depression-like effects, could have possibly been a result of being reared (nurtured) in a way as to depress emotions or feelings (a direct effect from the environment).  Needless to say, I am very much looking forward to the rest of the semester and the developments that I will make while applying the information to myself and those around me.



Photo:  https://www.virtualvocations.com/blog/telecommuting-survival/3-easy-ways-to-start-the-day-strong/