The day that I wrote this, on May 31st, marks the day that I have completed the free online course offered from Yale, "The Science Of Well-Being" taught by Professor Laurie Santos, and what a journey it has been. At the beginning of quarantine, back in mid March for us Americans, I read an article about this class being offered for free on coursera.org and I immediately jumped on it. I recently started a new job that I wasn't super crazy about and I was feeling super stressed out because I felt I was going no where career wise. *Quick side note about me* I have a B.S. degree in Public Health: Health Promotion and since I graduated college a couple of years ago I've been itching to get into that field every since day one post graduation. Well, needless to say I've been on the struggle bus since then to get into this field and I'm sure everyone else who has recently graduated or is about to graduate can relate to how hard it is to find a job in your degree. I've had good paying jobs and positions in the past, however they held no ceiling, no room for me to grow and that's what everyone is looking for.
This class could not have come at a better time, it exploded through social media and the papers once this virus hit the States and everyone (myself included) started to stress and worry what was to become of us. Was this going to be like one of the plagues of Egypt? Were locusts and pests coming next? Were we about to lose our jobs? Are we going to be able to afford our mortgage? To keep myself occupied, there were two things I decided to do once we were on quarantine: finally get back to writing to start my own blog and take an online class, what better one than "Science of Well-Being".
At the very beginning of class, we were prompted to take a personality test to scale our happiness levels. I decided to take the PERMA profiler developed by Martin Seligman, which stands for Positivity, Emotions, Relationships, Meaning, and Achievement. When I first took the questionnaire, I was a little surprised by the results; my positivity, meaning, and accomplishment were not as high as I wanted to be and my negative emotions were way too high for my taste. The first couple of weeks composed of lecture discussing why we might not be as happy as we would like to be and then delving in to what different techniques (what is called re-wirements in lecture) we could utilize to make us happier. The final week and last re-wirement requested we pick one re-wirement we've learned and practice it for four weeks. At the end of the four weeks, we were to reflect on our experience if we noticed any change or difference and take the personality questionnaire for a second time to compare and contrast. Before I go into my results and findings, I want to discuss my experiment of being on my own for four weeks.
I do not want to talk about every lecture and every re-wirement technique for I want you all to take the class, however the re-wirement I chose to do is to practice gratitude. Before I started the class, I noticed I didn't appear to be very grateful for what I have; I was constantly looking for the next big thing, striving for perfection and nothing less than that. I was going through a tough time trying to decide what I wanted to do for a career, the past few jobs I've had were only that, jobs. I was ready for something more exciting, something that would give me further opportunities, allow me to spread my wings, express my creativity, and move up the "ladder of success". I had been applying and applying for "career" type positions, positions I felt that could give me the opportunities that I so desired. Application after application, I would hear every now and then from people, then crickets. I would reach out to HR and other contacts that had reached out to me and still crickets. I felt a fool, and there was something wrong with me that people would show an interest in my application and then all of a sudden drop all communication. I was in a negative spiral, thinking how unlucky and unfair it was as I start to compare myself to others.
When quarantine was lifted in my area, that's when I decided to start my homework and practice gratitude. Every morning before starting my day, I would think about what I was doing everything for and what I was blessed with:
1. My husband
2. My dog
3. My health
4. The fact that I have a job at this time
When you stop and think about all the blessings you have in your life, all the negatives start to dwindle and seem less important. Another important technique that was discussed in the course was the STOP technique. I utilized this with my act of gratitude; every time I started to think negatively, I would verbally or mentally tell myself to STOP and then I would go into my gratitude list. Since the majority of the time I would be on the road when practicing, I would make mental lists however you can journal it or track it on worksheets that the course provides for you.
For four weeks, I practiced this re-wirement and came back to the course to reflect, re-take the PERMA questionnaire, and compare my pre and post results. Let me tell you, my post results shocked me. My positivity, engagement, relationships, and meaning all increased while my negative emotions decreased by over two points jumping from 7.33 to 5. Even without taking the questionnaire again, I've personally noticed a decreased in my negativity and increase in my positivity and mood.
This class took a deep dive into what factors we believe make us happy, why they do not make us as happy as we ought to believe, what techniques or re-wirements you can utilize to increase your happiness, and what truly matters at the end of the day which for me is my family.
It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy that makes happiness