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 & WRITING THE HAPPIER SELF: Spring 2012
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.
Friday, February 17, 2012
Put down your pen, your pencil, your books and close your notebook.
Sit in a comfortable position, and close your eyes.
Take a long slow breath in, and let it out through your mouth.
Breathe normally. And now, with your eyes closed, see yourself sitting in the sun, on a soft blanket in the sand. You are staring out there onto the emerald green water, and the waves are cresting, and sparking and glinting in the rays of the sun.
You are there for the day, just to lay in the sun. Or to seek refuge in the shade of a palm or a pine tree or a cypress.
You breathe in the salty air and it clears out all the winter fog and congestion.
You feel the warmth of the sun on your face
You have to do nothing but sit there in the sand
and breathing and staring out at the green water.
With each breath in, maybe you want to name it.
Breathe in. Sun.
Breathe in. Ocean.
Breathe in. Sky.
Breathe in. Earth,
And keep going, repeating the names for each breath.
Over and over again. And when another thought enters your ocean refuge, just let it go sailing out over the waves, and return to your breathing,