Category Archives: Happiness

The Calhoun Happiness Project at Yale

I originally published this post on the Black, White and Gray blog hosted by Patheos on October 10, 2013.

yale_logo“How can Yale undergraduates learn and apply principles from positive psychology and positive sociology? More than 20 students jointed the Calhoun Happiness Project which I started in one of Yale’s 12 residential colleges, Calhoun College. The group gained so much interest so fast that the Yale Herald published an article raving about the group, calling it a “Lyceum here in New Haven.”

I read the amazing resources Gretchen Rubin has posted on her blog about happiness, and defined the goals of the Calhoun Happiness Project as having 3 components: Reading, Resolutions, and Relationships.

HappinessProject_bookcover1) Reading Rubin’s book The Happiness Project;

2) Making Resolutions to improve your happiness during our 4 fall semester meetings;

3) Building Relationships with others by discussing how you are doing in your happiness project and learning about others’ journeys to authentic well-being.

I provide snacks for the meetings and offer both intellectual and personal reflections on what authentic well-being is and what we can do to improve it. Students created a Calhoun Happiness Project Facebook group where we can share our progress on our resolutions and encourage each other. I hope to teach a semester-long class on “The Happy Society” here at Yale, and students in The Calhoun Happiness Project are already giving me some ideas about where to focus that class.We will finish off the semester by watching a movie on happiness in the Calhoun common areas and invite other Yalies to come join us and reflect on what we learned this semester….”

To read the full post, visit the Black White and Gray blog hosted by Patheos.

Flow: Let’s Get Serious about Leisure

I originally published this blog post on June 5, 2013,  Black, White and Gray, a blog hosted by Patheos.  Click here to read the full post.

Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi

Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi

“Do you take your leisure seriously? If not, you aren’t going to get flow which I described last week. Contrary to popular belief, flow is not the easy-peasy feeling you get when plopping down on the couch to watch an old movie or the NBA Finals. Flow also is not the exclusive property of musical or spiritual virtuosos who seem to just forget the world around them as they wrap themselves in beauty or prayer.  Flow happens when your work or leisure expand your consciousness, producing and optimal psychological state fundamental to happiness.

Why do we need to be serious about flow? Positive psychologist Martin Seligman convinced me that if you don’t get flow most days, you probably will never be happy. Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, the author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, states that if you know how to flow, you can expect to be happy practically no matter what, including during times of  serious adversity…”

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Flow: Order in Consciousness

I originally published this blog post on May 29, 2013,  Black, White and Gray, a blog hosted by Patheos.  Click here to read the full post.

Flow_Cover“Did you know that you can actually increase your ability to enjoy the things in life that produce the greatest satisfaction? When I read Martin Seligman’s PERMA concept of human flourishing (Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Achievement) I simply presumed that Type-A, achievement oriented people like me are too busy doing our work to get into flow (another word for engagement). “Flow must be what creative types, like artists or actors, experience,” I naively thought.

To learn more about flow, I recently perused one of the books from the reading list I developed for my positive sociology class, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Czikszentmihaly.  To my delight, I learned from Czikszentmihaly that the reason I can dedicate so many hours of solitary  reading and writing is because learning new things is the primary way I experience flow.

What exactly is flow? According to  Czikszentmihaly, flow is “joy, creativity, the process of total involvement with life” (Flow, p. xi). How do we achieve flow? By fighting against psychic entropy (or chaos in our thoughts) by striving for order in our consciouness. When we have order in consciousness, “the information that keeps coming into awareness is congruent with goals, psychic energy flows effortlessly” (Flow, p. 39). ..”

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“No More Choices, Please!”

I originally published this blog post on May 1, 2013,  Black, White and Gray, a blog hosted by Patheos.  Click here to read the full post.

Barry Schwartz

Barry Schwartz

“Have you ever felt overwhelmed at the number of choices to buy a salad dressing at the grocery store? Have you ever failed to choose a health care or retirement option just because, well, there were so many options that you couldn’t pick one? Have you ever searched and searched for the perfect pair of shoes, the best dress for a special event, or a new car, and then made a choice but still felt like maybe you could have found something even better?

If you answered “yes’ to any of these questions, then you are suffering from what Swarthmore psychology professor Barry Schwartz calls “The Paradox of Choice.” As he recounts in this TED lecture, Schwartz suffered so much agony when buying a pair of jeans that he decided to write a whole book explaining how Americans mistakenly think that more choices means more freedom and that more freedom means more well-being…”

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Is Tocqueville Still Relevant?

I originally published this blog post on March 20, 2013,  Black, White and Gray, a blog hosted by Patheos.  Click here to read the full post.

Tocqueville's Democracy in America

Tocqueville’s Democracy in America

“It is with a bit of trepidation that I begin discussing with my students in positive sociology this week Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. Is a work written in the 1830s relevant nearly 200 years later? When I assign readings from 1985 my students say, “Gee, this is old and out of context,” so how will they respond to a book from 1835? Will they dismiss Tocqueville’s insights or writing style as irrelevant to their everyday concerns and the concerns of our nation? As the book’s title suggests, Tocqueville ventured to the U.S. from France to find out: what makes American democracy work?

The 600-page volume he produced is quite likely still the best assessment of American culture that has ever been written. In this masterpiece that has now become a foundational piece for cultural literacy, Tocqueville writes as a foreigner (he was a Frenchman) and to foreigners (his book was originally published in French for a French audience) about what cultural and social forms distinctly American, and how those distinct American social and cultural traits uphold the great American experiment in democracy…”

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Positive Sociology in the Classroom

I originally published this blog post on February 20, 2013,  Black, White and Gray, a blog hosted by Patheos. Click here to read the full post.

Job Crafting Exercise

Job Crafting Exercise

“Reflective Best Student Self and Reflective Best Classroom Exercise, written by Margarita Mooney

My recent visit with Jane Dutton of the University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship inspired me to adapt some of their practical exercises for building leadership and thriving workplaces to my own classroom. Dutton and colleagues have created two tools, the Job Crafting Exercise, a tool designed to make people’s jobs more engaging and fulfilling, and the Reflected Best Self Exercise, which helps people identify their character strengths and help build on their unique strengths and talents. Based on those tools, I created my own tool, which I called  the Reflective Best Student Self and Reflective Best Classroom Exercise. Here it is! Reflected Best Self Exercise

Objective: One of the principles of positive psychology and positive sociology is that we can identify our character strengths, build strong relationships, and foster enabling social environments to be our best self and to be able to give to others. In this exercise, we will reflect on what about ourselves and our classroom has enabled us to get the most out of this learning experience. Although your answers will be anonymous, your fellow students and I will read them so we can further reflect on our best selves and our best classroom environment.”

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