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.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Questions From Students and Discussion In First Day of Happiness Class

Will this class make me happier?
Is happiness the same for everybody?
Who determines happiness?
How important do people think happiness is?
Is making yourself happy more important than making others happy?
How important is it to surround yourself with happy people?
Do you have an obligation to make other people happy?
How does freewriting make us happy? What other daily routines and rituals make us happier?
Is there really a way to make yourself happy?
If you buy a new car, and it makes you happy, is that "synthetic" happiness?
Are older people generally happier than younger people? If so, why?
Are married people happier than unmarried people? If so, why?
Does religion make you happy? Why?

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