The most important lesson I’ve learn after sixteen weeks in this course is that I am perfectly capable of living the successful life I want to live and achieving the things I want to achieve; however, it is up to me to take what I’ve learned and apply it when I go about the rest of my life. After taking the VIA Institute Character Strength Survey back in September and considering the research from Dr. Alexis Harris and Edward Craighead in the reading assigned that week, I now know how to recognize and emphasize my character strengths, as well as weaknesses that I can continue to try to improve on. I can choose to believe that the people in my life care about me without insecurity getting in the way of maintaining healthy relationships with people that are vital to my overall happiness and productivity as a human being. The Week 10 exercise had a profound effect on me; it was nice knowing that the people in my life actually care about me and like me for specific reasons. Learning how to properly meditate has certainly helped me improve how I cope with the stresses of school, making achieving my goals seem less daunting. The overarching principle that the type of life I would want to live is completely possible and in my hands, I just have to use the tools I have to live a happy and successful life.
From here on out, I will commit to being a more mindful person so I can not only achieve great things but feel great about myself as well. I had already made the decision to commit to living a more active lifestyle when I first started the semester because I knew I feel better physically which would, in turn, relieve some of the stress I would inevitably feel throughout the term. Earlier on in the semester I began to embrace the idea of daily meditation and I really did notice a difference in my overall mental health and level of focus; however, I took a hiatus from my meditations while I was home for a long weekend and just never did it again, so I will definitely plan to implement it back into my life next semester and beyond. I still need to work on strengthening my relationships with other people and not isolating myself.
In order to spread awareness of the benefits of positive psychology among my friends and family by giving them advice when they are stressed. I will try to tell my friends about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness when they are nervous about an upcoming test or project. I will make sure to give genuine compliments and do random acts of kindness for the people in my life so they know I value my relationships with them. I am going to try to have a more positive social media presence so hopefully peers will start to think more positively and we can reverse this negative attitude that seems to be a common theme on social media these days (no more memes about hating our lives even if we’re just joking).
For the 7th week of the Science of Happiness course, we discussed the competence in romantic relationships. This week’s reading provided background knowledge of how the relationships we have and encounter early in our lives affect our romantic relationships in adulthood. Jessica Salvatore presented her research explaining the two main perspectives in regards to the correlation between early family dynamics and adult romantic relationships. The two perspectives were the Socialization perspective and the Social Modeling perspective. Social modeling claims that we grow up to imitate the way our parents treated each other. The Socialization perspective explains the indirect effects of early attachment on romantic relationships later in life. I can use this information later in life whether or not I am still in my current relationship.
Our week 8 exercise was to record our Automatic Thoughts throughout the week. I do not think this week’s exercise related much to week 7, but it could be indirectly related because our state of mind could affect the way we approach and behave in relationships. The content of week 8 help lay a foundation for what we would be learning and discussing in the following weeks. In class this week we learned more mindfulness mediation skills which I have actually been trying to use in my day to day life; so far I have really seen in an improvement in the way my mind feels when I am trying to be productive. Our lessons about mindfulness at the very beginning of the course helped me understand the week because it introduced the concept of living a mindful life.
Week 9 focused on personality traits and how they relate to substance use. Our weekly exercise instructed us to take the SURPS survey to determine which of our personality traits would make us susceptible to substance use. This relates to the previous week because it can help explain why we have some of our automatic thoughts. Week 9 was somewhat similar to week 5 in which we took the VIA character trait survey because it told us about certain traits we have. However, week 9 focused on these traits more as a warning for how certain traits of ours can become our faults. The only thing that concerned me about my results was my score for anxiety sensitivity, so I will definitely be making sure I am aware of this when reacting to stressors.
The exercise for week 10 was one of the most difficult assignments to complete, but one of the most rewarding. It was weird asking people to list compliments about me, but it made me happy to know that my friends actually like things about me. This week’s reading discussed the Broaden-and-Build Theory in regards to positive psychology; the theoretical perspective describes how experiencing positive emotions benefit the way we behave, which in turn help us lead more positive, rewarding lives. Week 10’s central focus on Positive Psychology related the most to all of the other weeks because it focused on the main point of the course, which is to give us materials and strategies to live healthy and happy lives even when facing stressful times.
Overall, the past 10 weeks of this course has made me more aware of the fact that I really can control the way I choose to live my everyday life and how I can make choices to benefit my overall well-being.
During the first real week (technically it was the second week, but syllabus week doesn’t count in this blog post) of our Science of Happiness course we were introduced to the topic of mental health so were assigned to read a scientific journal about the stigmas and misconceptions about mental illness and mental well-being; the article explained the differences between the absence of mental illness and the existence of mental health/well-being. Corey Keyes of Emory University went on the emphasize (more than enough times I might add) that the absence of mental illness does not indicate the presence of mental health; this statement conveys the idea that somebody can be living their day to day life with one or more mental illnesses and still have a fairly flourishing mental health and well-being, just as somebody without any present mental illnesses can be languishing as they live their lives. Our exercise for that week required us to take Keyes’ model of complete mental and record the results for ourselves and I thought it was quite enlightening. I was slightly surprised that the results of my survey suggested that I have a flourishing mental health, but I now know that whatever I have been doing is keeping me on the right path to well-being.
The second week of class focused on genetic factors that influence our behavior, which in turn, influence our quality of life. Our weekly reading authored by Dr. Danielle Dick, Dr. Amy Adkins, and Dr. Sally I-Chun Kuo discussed their twin studies which found that about 50 percent of our overall happiness is determined by genetic factors while 40 percent is influenced by intentional activity and 10 percent is influenced by context or environment; I wasn’t particularly surprised by these results since I had learned about this topic last year in AP Psychology. For our weekly exercise, we drew family trees to reinforce our understanding of how specific characteristics are often predetermined by your family’s phenotypes. Although I chose a very basic, physical characteristic (brown hair) to map out in my family tree, it still helped me understand that something very common in my family has a very good chance of determining my own features and characteristics, whether they be physical or mental; it is also up to me to choose how I play the cards I’m dealt to live a flourishing life. The activities of this particular week relate to Keyes’ mental health scale because it provides context and explanations for why somebody may be flourishing or languishing.
Our third week of instruction introduced the concept of positive psychology; the beginning of the week was centered around the fundamentals of forgiveness. Dr. Everett Worthington spoke to us on Monday morning about the power of forgiveness and strength it sometimes requires—his article that was assigned as our weekly reading breaks down to the steps to forgiveness more in depth. The rest of the week focused on explaining what positive psychology is and strives to do. Our second reading of the week summarized how positive psychology has evolved into a field of psychology that reinforces positive aspects of people instead of focusing on diminishing negative aspects. We took the PERMA Authentic Happiness survey provided by the University of Pennsylvania as our weekly exercise which breaks down one’s overall happiness into five main categories (I will also share my scores in each category for the sake of the blog): Positive emotion (7.33), Engagement (5.33), Relationships (5.67), Meaning (6.67), and Accomplishment (7). I was not surprised that my second lowest was relationships because I do consider myself more of an introvert, however, I was surprised by my lowest being engagement. I do not think this week’s activities relate to the previous weeks very much, but they do relate to the following weeks because it provides a foundation that will be built upon in the coming weeks.
The week dedicated to discovering our strongest and weakest character traits was my favorite week of Science of Happiness thus far. By taking the VIA Character Institute survey, I was able to acquire a list of all of my twenty-four character traits ranked from strongest to weakest. My top three strongest characteristics ranked from first to third were humor, love, and perspective, while my three weakest characteristics ranked from 22nd to 24th were forgiveness (I guess the previous week didn’t change my mindset too much), social intelligence (probably why I hated every second of having to discuss my character traits with people I didn’t know), and spirituality. Now I will be able to harvest my strengths on a more regular basis to help ensure that I continue to have a flourishing life, and continue to push myself to make my weaker characteristics stronger.