GOODMAN: Taking time to consider happiness can reveal what actually lifts your spirits

Goodman_WEBI’ve had the opportunity to take some pretty incredible classes while being at Marquette. A lot of classes have opened my mind to opinions I’d never before considered, allowed expression in the best ways I know how and introduced me to people of all backgrounds and cultures.

Among these classes are some I never imagined having the opportunity to take.

I took a class on the history of East Asia that remains the most interesting course I’ve taken at this university. There was another course that allowed me to explore and refine my love for the American musical. One class taught aspects of human sexuality that every individual should know. And I’m currently on a historical journey down the road of rock ‘n’ roll, taught by a professor who exudes a “coolness” matching the content he teaches.

I’m also taking a class this semester that directly aligns with Marquette’s mission, as it not only exists to provide knowledge but strives to help the students in it become better people.

On the first day of class, the professor said his goal for the course is that each student finishes the semester a bit kinder, a bit more compassionate and a bit more loving. The course is on the psychology of happiness, and a mere three sessions in I have already discovered things about myself that I never knew.

Throughout the semester, the professor leads “experiential activities” to relax and push the boundaries of our thoughts in order to discover where the true meaning of happiness in each of us lies.

We’ve only done one of these activities thus far, but I’ve already had a revelation: the things I think make me happy are not necessarily those that do.

In combing my thoughts for happy memories, what I first called to mind didn’t necessarily make me feel happy. Sure, it was pleasant and smile-worthy, but there was no instant elation in the pit of my stomach. It was only once I let my mind fully go that I began to truly feel emotion connected to my thoughts.

I saw specific images of playing with my sister when we were younger, the first time I ever sang for an audience and frantically running around to ensure everything was in place minutes before this year’s Late Night Marquette orientation week event started. I also saw the faces of people who so often make my day, although they probably don’t realize it.

These were the images that popped into my head, gave me chills and created butterflies in my stomach – not because I consciously put them there, but because they were the moments that brought so much joy without being expected.

As an extension of the experience, we’re supposed to spend the first 10 minutes of each day recalling happy memories, with the idea that over time such reflection will result in a happier outlook. Although this may seem silly or too time-consuming at first, it has truly started to make a difference in the short time I’ve been doing it. I’m happier, more optimistic and have a greater energy and eagerness to begin the day.

What I’ve learned from this is that although you may feel happy in a general sense, it may not be anywhere close to the full potential for happiness.

What you might think makes you happy likely does, but it’s what you’re not thinking about that could have an even greater effect. I’ve learned that all it takes to achieve this is putting aside stress, pressure and jumbled thoughts for 10 minutes each day to simply let your mind wander.

We all want to be happy. Some of us are, some might be getting there and others might still be searching for the strength and inspiration to keep pushing forward. But there’s always something to feel happy about, even if it’s not immediately recognizable. So next time you’re searching, go past the surface level and let your mind drift.

You might be surprised by each day’s simple and unrecognized joys that add up to an undiscovered happiness that resides somewhere in all of us.

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