I really enjoyed taking this class and I learned many new things throughout the semester. Some major lessons learned this semester have been giving back, practicing mindfulness, and mental health awareness. I think this last third of the content also focused on how we can improve how we live our lives. I especially think forgiveness could influence our lives for the better. Dr. Worthington’s talk was incredibly moving and powerful and I have since tried to forgive others more readily. Now, from class content I know that forgiveness has two components: the decision to forgive and the emotional capacity behind it. I am a recovery and mental health advocate so weeks 10 and 13 were some of my favorite weeks in class when we did learned about risk factors for substance use and about character strengths. In fact, I run an All-Recovery meeting at the Well; we do an experiential exercise for 10 minutes at the start of each meeting and the Science of Happiness class has played a very influential role on which group exercises I choose. For example, one week I made a poster of the 24 VIA character strengths and had the group members write down which ones they felt were their strongest and which ones were there weakest then we discussed them and it was a great success. I have also used group to educate others about well-being, healthy choices, forgiveness, and positive psychology. Furthermore, I was able to get many people in recovery interested in learning more about personality factors that influence substance use and have them take the SURPS survey.
I can commit to applying these insights to my daily life. I can commit to 1.) A daily gratitude journal 2.) forgiveness 3.) eating healthier 4.) sharing and practicing what I have learned. Through this class I started a gratitude journal with my roommate that was a good practice in happiness. I also started eating healthier and keeping up with exercising. Also, I find myself being more mindful everyday which keeps me grounded and I have been able to share this with friends. I plan to further the science of happiness content by using what I learned to continue meeting topics and exercise as well as posting on social media and by word of mouth.
To me it seems in weeks 5-10 we focused more on positive psychology as it applies to ourselves compared to weeks 1-4 where we were overviewing concepts. With week 5 focusing on romantic relationships and interpersonal dynamics, it set the tone to search for happiness qualities we saw in other and ourselves. Week 6 furthered this exploration for happiness, by searching of validation from close others who praised us, thus building up a sense of purpose and worth. Week 7, we explored mindfulness and how it helps reduce stress, thus improving life quality when practiced. Week 9 we switched up our daily routine and put into practice what we have been learning about in our experiential yoga session and eat/sleep/move assignment. Finally, week 10 we took the personality trait and SURPS assessment to measure our risk level for developing a substance use disorder.
So far with the material we have covered thus far, the greatest message I have taken away from this is how multidimensional and important well-being is. Well-being, as we have learned before is more than just the absence of mental illness, includes the presence of flourishing. It also is comprised of physical, mental, and spiritual health.
I really enjoyed these last few weeks, especially the exercise where friends validate you, mindfulness practices, and the movement activity. Having friends tell you what they appreciate about you really boosted my mood that week. Reina and Warren-Brown were great at explaining mindfulness. I have been doing simple mindfulness practices this semester and I am proud to say that I feel like I am making some progress. The experimental yoga exercise helped solidify the connection between mindfulness practices and movement. I have only done yoga a few times and I hope to pursue it more. I am also enjoying the movement assignment for week 9 because it has encouraged me to get out to the gym with friends or pick walking to school instead of riding my bike. Week 10 learning about substance abuse risk was one of my favorite lecture weeks this far because I enjoy learning about that topic.
All of the topics we have addressed in these first few weeks of class have been building upon one another to present a complete view of what mental health is. The Keyes Flourishing model demonstrated the complete model of mental health as being more than the absence of mental illness. Keyes suggests that mental also consists of well being and healthy functioning. In relation to positive psychology, the leading wellbeing model of PERMA breaks down the components of character strengths and virtues that develop us into flourishing human beings with both eudemonic and hedonic applications. Furthermore, Dr. Dick educated the class on the age-old argument of nature versus nurture in relation to the cause of human behavior. She taught us that genes are responsible for both mental health and well-being however; heritability is not 100% responsible for our gene expression. My favorite theory being the Diathesis Stress Model, which hypothesizes that, our genetic dispositions are triggered or “turned on” by life experiences. This model helps explain the phenomena of mental illness such as depression, anxiety, and mood disorders present in families. Just because your family may have a history of mental health disorders, does not guarantee the onset on one in yourself.
All of the content we have gone over in class so far has been familiar to me; however I have learned a few things that have built upon my previous knowledge. For one, I enjoyed learning about the Key’s Flourishing scale. I also enjoyed Dr. Sood’s talk on mental health disorders, specifically when she stressed the important differences between a mood state and a mental illness. A mental illness is different from a mood state in its intensity, frequency, and duration.
One of my favorite experiential exercises that we have done has been the Three Good Things Journal. Not only did it bring a welcome burst of positivity to the end of the day, but it also helped focus on the day’s positive events and thoughts. In fact, my roommate and I have started doing a similar activity in our daily lives. Every night this month we write at least one good thing we have done for each other or something that we both positively experienced together and put it in a small box to open at the end of the month. Our daily mindfulness practices have also encouraged me to try and meditate myself and I even went to a meditation Monday in between my classes. I am proud to say that I think I am improving with practice.