The science behind happiness

Could true joy be a simple equation away?

Stress, anxiety and general unhappiness are far from fashionable looks for college students. Yet, many wear them daily like a priceless accessory.

According to the 2015 National College Health Assessment, which surveyed students about their health over the past 12 months, 30 percent of students reported they were stressed, 47.7 percent felt things were hopeless, 56.9 percent felt overwhelming anxiety, 63.9 percent felt very sad and 85.6 percent felt overwhelmed by all that they had to do.

Thankfully, according to life coach and consultant Rita Damari, the college life does not have to be this way.

“There’s a lot of myths behind what makes you happy and we’re going to start doing that next week,” Damari said. “There are myths: people think that you’re never supposed to be happy, that happy people are never sad, or that your luck is what makes you happy. And there’s all these things and they make excuses.”

In Damari’s lab, Learning to be Happy, Ferris students and staff gathered for the first of six sections on learning the strategies of happiness.

“Well, it’s important because being happy has a lot of health benefits,” Damari said. “It not only gives you a sense—a good feeling sense—but it gives you a sense of purpose.”

According to Damari, there are eight things that happy people do, such as expressing gratitude, savoring the joys in life, committing to goals, cultivating optimism, decreasing the amount of overthinking things, avoiding social comparison, increasing the flow experience (doing things you love with all of your energy) and nurturing relationships.

“It’s something that is innate that people don’t think very much about because they innately think about the negative—they dwell on negative things. And so, if you start to dwell on the things or savor the things that are positive in your life, you are then able to maneuver the chaos of life,” Damari said.

As a healthy exercise, Damari gave her participants a daily practice for the week. This practice challenges the participants to describe three good things that happen each day and what caused them to happen. Then she asked her participants to try and savor that feeling.

“Being happy does not mean you will never be sad,” Damari said.

Compassion and empathy are also wonderful ways to create happiness within yourself and others, according to Damari.

“It not only helps us as individuals to maneuver through life in a positive way, and to be more successful in life, but it also helps us radiate to people around us,” Damari said, offering evidence that happiness is truly contagious.

Those who still wish to participate or try the lab have until Friday, March 31, to RSVP.

More information can be found on the Ferris State University web calendar.