Can You Really Cultivate Your Own Happiness?

Notes on Robyn's paper for her Week Three exercise

The ThriveRU Workbook has some promising goals. Based on research from Sonja Lyubomirsky in their book, The How of Happiness, the ThriveRU Weekly Workbook was designed by Ryerson’s Dr. Diana Brecher to increase life satisfaction, happiness, and resilience through weekly exercises. Since it’s tailored to students, the workbook takes a practical approach and is easy to do throughout the week. I decided to try it out and write about my experience. I was curious to see if I would feel a greater sense of well-being or happiness after completing the exercises.

The third week of this semester’s theme was called “Cultivating Optimism.” The exercises are simple but thought-provoking questions. There’s a few reasons why optimism exercises are a timely idea. Things are starting to pick up in the school year by the third week of the term, so staying optimistic can (understandably) be challenging. It’s around that time when the excitement from a new year begins to subside and the pressure of school assignments and responsibilities begin to set in. I wrote the questions down in my agenda so they would stay fresh in my mind and I could apply them throughout the week.

Week Three Exercises: Cultivating Optimism

This week, the workbook suggested the following as a way to cultivate optimism:

Ask yourself when something good happens:

  • What role did I play making this happen?
  • How can I make this permanent?
  • What can I do to have this spill over into other aspects of my life?

Ask yourself when something bad happens:

  • In what way is this also the responsibility of others or circumstances beyond my control?
  • How can I keep this temporary?
  • What must I do to contain the damage or the long-term effects of this event?

My Results

I began by applying the exercises to common, everyday events. Every time something good or bad happened, I would take out my notebook and quickly answer the questions. The event can really be anything – getting a good grade on a test, having a disagreement with someone, etc.

According to the workbook, your happiness set point is determined by genetics (50 per cent), circumstances (10 per cent) and your actions and attitudes (40 per cent).

The workbook focuses on that 40 per cent, the stuff you can control. Surprisingly, the simple task of writing down answers felt therapeutic. The questions are logical, and helped me figure out the strategy behind making positivity last or dealing with negativity and resolving any outstanding negative issues to do with that event.

I found reflecting on the bad things/events to be the most helpful. This is a great exercise for those who tend to put a lot of blame on themselves when minor negative events occur. It makes you analyze what just happened. When I experienced a negative event, I also found that a lot of the time it wasn’t really my fault, but had more to do with circumstances or other people. It might sound like common sense, but sometimes emotions and what you logically know don’t line up so it helps to write it down and figure it out.

After the exercise prompts, the workbook asks a reflection question, “Were you able to flip into an optimistic frame of mind?”

Answering this question was the time to reflect on the impact of the exercises, and I found that most times, I did feel more optimistic about something. It really does force you to figure out how you can either make positivity in your life last and implement this positive energy into other areas of your life, or figure out how to control negative feelings.

I think the real purpose of the exercise is to learn how to celebrate good in your life and control the negative and eventually learn to use this in your overall mindset. It really is powerful to think about happiness and optimism as a choice and something that you control. It’s definitely a good way to identify your problems and look on the brighter side of things, and it’s a technique I’ll probably use again.

You can read or download the workbook at ryerson.ca/thriveru and test it out for yourself – or pickup a print copy in POD-60.

 

About author

Robyn Fiorda

Robyn Fiorda

Robyn is a fourth-year journalism student who likes writing about business and lifestyle stories. Her hobbies include photography, painting, devouring chick-lit novels and figure skating. You can follow her on Twitter @robynfiorda.