How to Write and Think and Meditate Yourself Into Being Happier: The HAPPINESS CLASS!

ERDG 491Z -- University at Albany, SUNY

Professor Claudia Ricci, Ph.D.


Reading and writing transform the way we think, and how we see ourselves in the world. Neurological research now shows that changing the way we think can produce positive physiological changes in the brain. At a time when an epidemic of mental health issues plagues our nation, and threatens to paralyze students in the academy, this class presents a set of cognitive tools and practical skills that will help students refine and enhance their educational goals while examining a broad range of life issues. Beginning with philosophical ideas set forth by Aristotle, the class will rely on texts from psychology, neuroscience, literature and narrative theory, to open up discussions about the patterns of human behavior and thinking that tend to produce lasting fulfillment and deep reward. In keeping with research by psychologist James Pennebaker and others who have demonstrated the value of expressive writing, students will engage in extensive journaling and other self-reflective writing assignments as they seek to define what it means, and what it takes, to find happiness. Part of the work in the classroom will be to help students identify their individual “signature strengths” that can produce what positive psychologist Martin Seligman defines as “authentic happiness and abundant gratification.” In addition to classroom work, a special two-hour laboratory session, with attendant readings and writing exercises, will be required each week; students will work with experts in mindfulness, meditation, yoga, spirituality and stress reduction, and will document how these techniques can help the student better cope with the inherently stressful nature of University life.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Class Begins Wednesday, January 19, 2011 -- Or Whenever You're Ready!

Maybe you found this blog by "accident."  Well, so, some people say that there are no accidents in this Universe.

In any case, here is a class I am teaching beginning January 19, 2011, at the University at Albany. But perhaps you want to take the class here, free, on-line.

Even though the class is brand new, three students did a "test run" of the class last fall, in an independent study with me, and it was quite a remarkable experience. Here is a letter to prospective students written by Allyson Pashko, one of the students who took the class in the fall. (A senior, Allyson was a psych major at SUNY who graduated summa cum laude in December, 2010. Congratulations and much good luck to you, Allyson!)

Word is out now on campus that I am teaching this new class in Happiness. Students are stopping by my office saying they can't wait to take the class OR, they say they wish they could fit it into their schedules.  Grad students (former students of mine at the University) are saying they wish they had had a class like this available when they were undergrads. One grad student has enrolled and another wants to.

So, I thought maybe I should make the class available to everybody, everywhere, on-line. Or at least, I could let the Universe carry the syllabus wherever it will go.

If the reading list looks daunting, don't sweat it. This class isn't your typical class. You have all time in the world to complete the reading :). And you get as much time as you need, i.e., years if necessary, to complete the writing assignments.

Speaking of writing assignments, there is one in particular that you ought to try! It's called "Flipping the Script," and it promises to help you find peace in a not-so-peaceful relationship.

When that student Allyson Pashko tried it, the exercise proved remarkably helpful. Try it, what do you have to lose but an hour or two of time and a few sheets of paper?

And one other thing about this class, you grade yourself. :) Or you don't. You feel better, almost certainly.

So, here you go. Here is the syllabus for"Reading & Writing the 'Happier Self.'"

Class begins here on the blog, as soon as you're ready.

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