Yesterday the happiness class focused on the context of happiness and happiness habits. On my powerpoint slides, I managed to reverse the numerator and denominator of Bono’s happiness equation, resulting in my abject humiliation in front of the class. This led to my personally disclosing my most humiliating experience ever, thereby demonstrating how contextual experiences in the here-and-now can trigger memories that can then either magnify or minimize an experience of happiness or unhappiness in the moment. I’ll spare you the details of my historical humiliations, and instead, direct you toward this week’s happiness homework assignments.
By now, students have read chapters one and two in Tim Bono’s book, “When Likes Aren’t Enough: A crash course in the science of happiness.” Additionally, they listened to a Hidden Brain podcast on Creatures of Habit: https://www.npr.org/transcripts/787160734, and watched a short Forest Bathing video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0MEFNyLPag
The two take-home assignments of the week are described below:
Active Learning Assignment 3 – Three Happy Places
More often than we might think, our environment, setting, or context directly influences our mood and sense of well-being. This is most obvious when we’re in settings or environments that we find aversive.
To start this assignment, reflect briefly on environments, settings, or contexts that you find aversive. For example, some people find cloudy days, rain, smoky skies (or rooms), or particular temperatures aversive or uncomfortable. Other people might find churches, gyms, or libraries aversive.
Now, consider the opposite: What environments, settings, or contexts do you find pleasurable, comforting, or energizing? As you may have noticed in the short “Forest bathing” video, there’s evidence that, in general, more time in the outdoors is linked to increased feelings of well-being. For this assignment, don’t worry about what “should” be your happy place. . . but if the outdoors is a happy place for you, be sure to include it.
After reading and reflecting on the above, write a few words (short answers) in response to the following prompts:
- List three settings that usually trigger negativity or discomfort in you.
- List three settings that usually trigger happiness and wellbeing in you (and be specific). These are your happy places
- What can you do to prepare for or cope with challenging settings that usually cause you discomfort? (Other than avoiding them)
- What can you do to increase the frequency of time you spend in environments that contribute to your feelings of wellness?
- What can you do to create places or spaces in your mind that you can use (anywhere and anytime) to increase your sense of comfort and wellness in the moment?
Active Learning Assignment 4 – Three Good Things
Perhaps the most basic and well-known evidence-based happiness assignment is Martin Seligman’s Three Good Things activity.
Here’s Seligman’s description: Write down, for one week, before you go to sleep, three things that went well for you during the day, and then reflect on why they went well.
Just in case you want to hear it from the horse’s mouth, here’s a one-minute video of Seligman describing the activity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOGAp9dw8Ac
For this assignment, you should do the Three Good Things activity for a week, as prescribed by Seligman. Dan and I don’t need to see all 21 good things from your whole week, but we would like you to share the following with us:
- Three ESPECIALLY good things from the week (think of these of as your Good Things Highlights). We’re very excited to hear about these.
- The most common (summarized) explanations for why these 21 good things happened. We’re very interested in what’s happening (or what you’re doing) to create the good things in your day-to-day lives.