Are You Ready to Choose Happiness?

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you’re not sure what it means to be “happy,” or would like to increase your own happiness, consider the Happiness Project.

A handful of RCC students are studying the concept of happiness and what it means to be happy, as well as methods for increasing their own happiness, thanks to a support group offered by the RCC Counseling Department. The Happiness Project is led by Emily Strong, a Southern Oregon University graduate student who is facilitating the group as part of her clinical internship at the RCC Riverside Campus.

“Rather than calling the group ‘stress management’ or something like that, I decided to focus on positive psychology,” Strong explains. Where traditional psychology tends to focus on troubles, the relatively new field of positive psychology examines healthy states, such as happiness, strength of character and optimism.

According to the doctrine, happiness is a combination of inherited traits and skill. While some people are more naturally inclined to feel happy, it’s also something we can cultivate.

“We can change our level of happiness,” Strong says. Her goal for the Happiness Project is to help participants “increase happiness in their life, whatever that looks like for them.”

The Happiness Project is an eight-week group designed to help participants explore what they want more of in their lives, clarify their values, create happy habits, and be accountable to each other. A new group will meet Fridays during spring term; contact Strong at 541-245-7670 or for more information.

Positive psychology was introduced in 1988 by University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman, who identified five core factors – known as the PERMA Model – that contribute to a person’s sense of fulfillment and happiness:

  • P–Positive Emotions, feeling good, joy, comfort
  • E–Engagement, finding flow “when you’re one with the music”
  • R–Relationships, authentic connections
  • M­­–Meaning, purposeful existence “serving something you think is bigger than yourself”
  • A–Achievement, a sense of accomplishment

Through a combination of discussions and guided exercises, the Happiness Project helps participants identify what makes them feel content and fulfilled.

“Every night for the next week, write down three things that went well today and why they went well,” Seligman, the father of positive psychology, instructs the audience in a TED Talk. “Turns out, six months later if you start to do that, you statistically have less depression, less anxiety and higher life satisfaction. It’s addicting. People like doing positive psychology exercises.”

Here are five quick tips for applying the PERMA Model to your life:

  • Adopt a positive perspective as often as you can.
  • Find the things that make you happy and engaged.
  • Focus on relationships with family and friends, and find ways to connect.
  • Search for meaning and lead a life of purpose.
  • Savor your accomplishments and strive for further achievement.