Surprise – There’s a Science of Happiness! Who Knew?

Backpacks to Briefcases – Free Workshops for Concordia Students and Alumni

I don’t generally attend these workshops – the price is right (free) – but the topics generally are not that thrilling. I’m pretty sure my resume is about as good as it’s going to get, and I have a tough time getting all worried about how to be interviewed.

So imagine my surprise when I realized that one of the series was enticingly called – ‘The Art and Science of Happiness’. Interesting, eh? I didn’t know there was a science to happiness – but I’m willing to give it a listen.

The workshop – really a lecture with some audience participation – was run by Gillian Leithman – a phD student in the field of Postive physiology. Bet you didn’t even know there was a field of Positive Phycology. Well live and learn I say.

Turns out – at least according to Gillian – that our brain is hardwired for negative behaviors. We scan the world looking for issues to give us time to avoid them – and often miss seeing the positive things around us. If that sounds a bit like “Stop and smell the roses” it’s not a surprise – because that thought is one of the basic tenements of the field. We just don’t stop often enough – and spend too much time being on the alert for disaster to really be happy.

Gillian started us off by getting us to list 10 (if possible) things that make us happy. She then proceeded to explain the 3 different general types of happiness producers – pleasurable activities (like taking a hot bath), “Flow” (like losing ourselves in a book – or a blog), and Meaningful activities (like volunteering, or caring for our kids). The best is to have a mix of the different types so that you aren’t putting all your happiness eggs in one basket. I tend to “Flow” activist (writing is one of those), over Meaningful activities (I’m great at the grand-kids – but volunteering isn’t my strong suit).

At the end – her message was that you can change any behavior permanently if you can do it for 30 days. So she had us set a goal of being happier in 30 days by just picking an activity that corresponds to one of the above types of happiness (different from what you naturally do today) and just do it. To make sure you commit – it’s important to announce your intention. In my case – I’m trying to blog every day – and trust me, it is getting easier to keep it up after 30 days. In fact – this is my 54th blog. In 65 days. Pretty cool, eh?

The key question, however, is – Is writing a blog making me happier? Maybe. I am taking a more observant look at the world around me because I know I’m likely to be writing about it shortly. I love thinking about what I’m going to be saying – and I adore checking my visitor stats. So far my greatest number of visitors in one day was 111 – and that was just 2 days ago. How cool is that? And I do love writing – surprise, surprise.

So I think I’d have to say – Gillian – you were right. “Flow” activities – done regularly – do make for a happier outlook.

(Want to contribute a guest blog…. All in the name of making you happier of course… Just let me know.)

And if you want to get in touch with Gillian – her website is:
and her phone # is 514-824-1967

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