My Mission

Invisible Presence

A transition phase, inevitably unescapable, invisibly marks a change in status. At the time, I did not know what I was looking to change and even with a great deal of reflection I still cannot confidently say that I’ve crossed the threshold. However, I have managed to better define my journey, separating it into three parts. This is the story of my mission’s trip to NorthBay, camp grounds in the midst of Maryland, where I helped middle schoolers from all over the US grow closer to God. The month-long adventure that will stick with me forever.

Rite of Separation

I had just finished packing my ‘situationally prepared suitcase’ so that I’d be ready for anything. I made sure to remember my not so sweet PB+J: pen, bible, and journal. My mom was slowly packing my car up, I knew she didn’t want me to leave. I kept giving her hugs and reassuring her that I’d write her every week. Twenty minutes later I had hit the road.

Liminal Phase

My four-hour drive consisted of a mixture of negative thoughts, worries, and anxiety. I questioned my ability to teach kids something that I myself wasn’t fully confident in. I wouldn’t have my phone or laptop- the essentials that keep me connected to society on a regular basis. My signed commitment was the only thing keeping me from turning around.

I arrived on the NorthBay Adventure Camp grounds and hesitantly parked my car. I didn’t know what I was doing here, I definitely did not fit in. People swarm me from all angles welcoming me and unloading my car. They handed me a bucket for my phone and another bucket for my car keys- no turning back now.

To my surprise I lasted the first couple days and wasn’t eaten alive by the scripture, I found it to be weirdly comforting. After my first week, it felt like I was living in a world full of pureness, something foreign to me. I found fulfillment in serving kids their meals before they ran out to the club room to hear more about God, even though I was in the background I was still taking part in changing their lives. This I will never forget.

Forgetting my past of parties and meaningless relations, I opened up to my leaders and what are now my life-long friends about my insecurities and doubts. The entire month they taught to love myself and begin my college life the way God intended it to be. On the last night, I walked deep into the woods to process my time there. I talked to the man upstairs about my fear of going back home and starting a new life at VCU. Although I didn’t receive any definite answers, I was comforted by his invisible presence. I fell into a deep reflection with the soft wind blowing through my hair and the water from the creek trickling between the rocks.

Crossing the Threshold

Coming back into a society full of pressure, societal norms, and anxiety was the most challenging part for me. Not having contact with any of my friends or family, they didn’t see the transformation I went through.

I chose to go on my mission’s trip because I especially wanted to figure out my purpose in life and find God through it all right before my college years. Although I still don’t know where I stand with my faith, with two feet or one, I came to know much more about myself and choose the life I want to live now- full of genuine conversations, long-lasting relationships, and comfortably pursuing faith. If it weren’t for this period of betweeness I would not be in the small group I’m in at VCU or have the community that I longed for.

 

Exploring the Netherwood Quarry

Exploring the Netherwood Quarry

Exploring the Netherwood Quarry

Date visited: November 16th, 2017

Time: 7:30-8:00PM

It is a cloudless night at the Netherwood Quarry and I am situated on a smooth rock facing the James river. It is 41 degrees Fahrenheit. My observations are feeding off the light from the highway and faintest moonlight. All around me there is an infinite amount of lifeless trees. The brown crispy leaves are barely hanging on to the trees but I find great beauty in that. As I am looking out toward the water I observe that it is gently flowing East and it sounds like trickling water from a house pipe. I notice that the rocks are in a distinct pattern spread out across the river. Most of them have a smooth round top, while a few of them have a rigid flat top. If you got far enough in the middle of the river you could hop from rock to rock. Meanwhile I can hear crickets chirping from afar. I admire the secretive serenity this place has offered me.    

Exploring the Netherwood Quarry

Date visited: December 2nd,2017

Time: 2:00-2:30PM

I could smell the fresh winter air unlike the smell of the city. On this exploration I am focused on the journey to the Netherwood Quarry. I parked in the designated parking area and walked toward the spiraling stairs to my left. It reminded me of the metro parking garage stairs from back home. As I was walking down the longest flight of steps I ran into three families, all asking me to take photos of them. It was a great spot because the scenery in the background had numerous types of trees and the train track right below. After descending the stairs I followed the train track for a few minutes. I came across an old memorial rock and saw a trail that I hopped on. I could hear trickling water getting closer and closer. I climbed up unstable stairs and saw a mini creek. The water flowed in the east direction and I hopped over a few rocks to pass. I could hear three different birds chirping: a low chirp, high pitched short chirp, and one with a long monotoned chirp. I kept along the narrow trail for about six more minutes and finally found the quarry. Looking out toward the water, I could hear the horns of car traffic to my left and the city to my right. It was still quiet and peaceful.      

Reflection

Reflection

Although I was happy before The Science of Happiness, this class has taught me how to live a balanced life. What I mean by this is that the mind and body work as one and psychological health is fundamentally linked to your physical health. There is no health without mental health, and I think many people live their lives forgetting about this major component to living a healthy life. In specific, I have learned that positive psychology is solely based off the science behind happiness and what it means to live a worthy life. In week 4’s reading Positive Psychology, it defined psychology as “not just the study of pathology, weakness, and damage; it is also the study of strength and virtue. Treatment is not just fixing what is broken; it is nurturing what is best. Psychology is not just a branch of medicine concerned with illness or health; it is much larger.” This stuck out to me because many people focus on the negative aspects of their lives (I know I did before this class) rather than the positive aspects. To go along with this, in Worthington’s lecture for week 4 he spoke to us about how to acquire virtue and options to forgiveness. He explained that our character strengths allow us to lead virtuous lives based upon our moral standards which is interestingly tied to how forgiving we are and how hard it is to forgive. In week 10 of SOH I learned about positive emotions and interventions, which mainly focused on how to feed off positive qualities. Week 10’s exercise challenged us to ask 3-5 people what they value/appreciate about us and reflect on their responses. This was one of my favorite exercises because it was so uplifting and empowering and made me feel super happy by the end. I started to give positive compliments to my friends. To rewind a bit in week 8 we focused on mindfulness, which the most effective tool I’ve taken away from this class that also ties your psychological well being. In week 8’s reading Contemplating Mindfulness at Work: An Integrative Review, they defined mindfulness as a “receptive attention to and awareness of present events and experiences”. I think this has been my biggest take away because it not only important to my individual self, but it is essential to the workplace. This tool has allowed me to indulge in the small things to create a happier life overall. I’m glad we discussed this earlier in the course because it was definitely kept in mind throughout the semester.

Learning the science behind happiness means nothing if I don’t apply it to my daily life. I am going to commit to applying the tools and intuitions in numerous ways. I have started already by practicing random acts of kindness. For my final project we are given the task to spread awareness of what we learned over the semester into the RVA community and my group chose to set up a ‘Compliments with Color’ station at the VCU compass to spread awareness about mindfulness and positive psychology. We had set up a table where people could practice mindfulness by coloring and we gave out candies with compliments attached to them to brighten their day. We found that after they received their compliment and colored they wanted to spread their happiness by giving compliments to others in the community. However, for the future I plan to stick with the random acts of kindness and start doing mini mediation sessions. I plan to do this by downloading an app on my phone that will assist me in different mindfulness exercises to complete once a day. I believe this will decrease my stress levels and negative thoughts. To incorporate the physical well being aspect I am committed to completing 150 minutes of physical exercise throughout the week, including yoga, to improve my body and academic well being. By making these small changes in my life it will help me live a balanced life.

Sharing what I’ve learned through one post is not enough. I plan on spreading what I’ve learned verbally and through social media. I love talking about SOH with my peers, family, and friends and I find myself even happier by the end of the conversation. Beyond verbally connecting these insights with people, I plan on tweeting positive quotes and pictures to brighten up people’s day. I want to do this once a week and even include COBE in some of the tweets. I will also definitely recommend this class to others because everyone could use more happiness in their life. I am sad the science is coming to an end but excited that the happiness goes on!!!   

I chose the picture below because I think it is important to live and be fully committed to the ‘now’ which can ultimately change the future.

  

Wishing you the happiest!!!:)

          

 

Blog Post #2

Blog Post #2

In weeks 7-10 of The Science of Happiness I’ve learned that by building our awareness of the present moment (mindfulness) we are able to engage in a situation without impulsive action, offering ourselves the capability to recognize and accept our thoughts, feelings, and neurological consciousness to better appreciate and recognize ourselves. Through this, I think we self promote a better way to relate to our lives, allowing us to respond more connectedly to the world around us, which carries into the different relationships we pursue.

It was fascinating to see how much content actually relates to each other. Since we had focused on our personal strengths in class, I have applied my top strengths in seeking out those who have different strengths than I do to build relationships with to make my weaker traits stronger. Although genetics doesn’t totally decide my happiness, I have begun to realize where certain traits have adapted from and how that positively and negatively affects my relationships. After taking numerous surveys I have made connections between my overall happiness and how The Big 5 from Week 9 could specifically impacts my mood states and decisions.

In a larger sense, mindfulness has only inspired me to approach every moment with healthy curiosity, diving deep into the present experience and acknowledging my place in the world and in my community here at VCU. I am currently enrolled in a mindfulness yoga class at the Cary Street Gym which has been a huge destresser and helps train my mind to just ‘relax and be present’. Last week my LLC had a floor meeting on Stress Relief and we had the privilege of having Ms. Walsh as our guest speaker who shared personal stories in direct result to stress. We discussed efficient strategies in relieving stress in a healthy way in order to attain a happy life.  So in addition to yoga classes, I have downloaded the Headspace App which is perfect for me because I can do it wherever or whenever I feel stressed. I plan to keep participating in these activities, but I also plan on keeping an ‘emotions journal’ to keep an account of how I am feeling. I believe that by physically writing it and rereading my journal will have powerful meaning to my life and how I choose will choose to handle things.  

I selected the image below because willow trees symbolize dreams and reflection. A powerful symbolic meaning of the willow tree is its adaptability because of their ability thrive in the most crucial conditions. It also symbolizes the adjustment of life, rather than fighting it, surrendering to the formation and growth. The willow tree reminds me to surrender ultimately to my inner thoughts/feelings and acquire deeper knowledge of my neurological consciousness

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https://www.pinterest.com/pin/522136150519442537

Science of Happiness Post 1

Science of Happiness Post 1

The past six weeks engaging in the ‘Science of Happiness’ have taught me that happiness is a state of well- being that encompasses living the good life. The science of happiness includes living a life with meaning and rooted satisfaction. We learned that happiness derives from genetic influences and adolescent behavior, which is really uplifting to know that you have some control over your happiness. Nature v. Nurture transitioned perfectly into following week where we cultivated the study behind what makes an individual and community thrive. Then, we discussed personal strengths which taught me the importance of not only recognizing my strengths but also utilizing them to the best of my ability, and creating relationships with others who have different strengths. In contrast, we went over depression and mood states with in ourselves that can cause us to rethink our lives in a negative outlook. With all the topics covered so far I have learned to love myself and others in a healthy, positive way.

The most interesting topic we covered so far was ‘Focusing on Strengths’ taught by Dr. Walsh. She went over the criteria in what is considered a strength which include that a strength must be universal, institutions within a society that support the strength, every parent would want their child to possess the strength, displaying a strength does not diminish others, a strength is morally valued in its own right, and it must contribute to fulfillment and to the good life. Taking the survey and looking at the VIA character strengths and virtues, I was able to identify my individual strengths that amount to the flourishing life I possess. Learning that I hone kindness, perseverance, gratitude, teamwork, and honesty was surprising but now that I know this I know what types personalities I would like to form relationships with to focus on the strengths that were lower on my list.

 

The most relatable topic the class covered was PERMA. It was fascinating to dive deeper into the five ingredients of a flourishing life which ties to the psychology of well-being. After analyzing my results of the survey, I realized I wanted to improve on the relationship aspect of my life. This pushed me to do my own research on how I could make the relationships in my life healthier and stronger. I practiced owning my own character strengths to lift up others and to being more compassionate toward others. By utilizing these simple technipes my relationships seem more meaningful which makes each of us more happy.

Picture Source:https://www.theodysseyonline.com/happiness-is-your-right-claim-it