The Happiness Group focuses on raising spirits

By Anh Ta

This Spring Term, a series of six weekly discussions titled The Happiness Group will familiarize participants with practices to combat the stress of college life, as well as to promote better well-being and life balance. This approach aims to create a greater sense of fulfilment through focusing on the brighter side of life, rather than on the problems and difficulties.

Spearheaded by Andrea Guenther-Pal, an intern at Counseling Services, the program started Wednesday, April 15, with its first session. In an interactive small-group setting, the participants explored some general ideas about the concept of happiness through a self-assessment exercise on subjective happiness. This was followed by a 30-minute discussion of personal experience to differentiate things that truly make us happy from things that do not.

According to Guenther-Pal, who facilitates these sessions, The Happiness Group series aims to “bring forward principles of positive psychology […] and to focus each session on a topic that has been shown by research to increase happiness, such as practices that you can integrate into your daily life.” The format of these discussions creates an open and safe environment for students to freely discuss and learn from one another through sharing knowledge. At the same time, they can learn some fundamentals of positive psychology to further develop techniques that benefit themselves and others.

As the field of positive psychology and its practices are still a relatively new branch of psychology, there is still much for faculty and students at Lawrence, as well as professionals like Guenther-Pal, to explore. However, the basic principles are simple and do not require expert knowledge to implement.

For the next five sessions of The Happiness Group, Guenther-Pal intends to focus on some simple yet powerful ideas, such as integrating gratitude into our lives, finding truly fulfilling activities to increase flow experience, cultivating optimism and committing to goals.

Guenther-Pal is excited that the impact will be far-reaching to any audience. “My short-term goal is to raise awareness among everyone, whether they come to the group or not, about the world of positive psychology out there that has a lot to offer,” said Guenther-Pal. “In terms of the group of people who come, I hope they can share the knowledge they have and learn some new things from their peers. It is to really focus, not on all the things that are wrong with our lives, but what we can actively do to focus on the good.”

Going beyond arming participants with useful and practical tips for surviving the stress of college life, this program encourages students to adopt a positive and healthy outlook on life. In addition, the group setting is also a great way for Lawrentians to simply connect and interact with one another, and to form meaningful friendships.

Despite its small start, the program promises not only immediate benefits to participants, but also long-term improvements to the Lawrence community. To ensure that the impact of these principles reaches as many Lawrentians as possible, Guenther-Pal hopes that “this is something we can develop and grow in the future; so that Counseling Services can offer it regularly.”

At the present, she hopes that the program will grow significantly over the next few weeks, both in terms of participants and general interest.