Amber Gravitter, Intern Counselor, MSOE Counseling Services
January 2011

As we begin another new year, many individuals are making resolutions to improve their lives in one way or another. The ultimate goal in fulfilling the majority of these resolutions is to improve one’s quality of life. In one word, what they are seeking is “happiness.” Most people tend to think of happiness as a temporary warm fuzzy feeling. Within the last decade, happiness has become a legitimate topic of scientific inquiry. The newly emerging discipline of Positive Psychology studies the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. A leader in positive psychology research is Dr. Martin Seligman who heads the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. As a way to collect data for their research on happiness, the University of Pennsylvania has created a website on which they have questionnaires and assessments pertaining to happiness. You can find it here. On this website you can take questionnaires on subjects like life satisfaction, general happiness and the compassionate love scale.

The critical question surrounding happiness research is: Can we enhance our overall happiness? According to Seligman? research the answer is yes. We do this by looking at ways to enhance the three components of happiness which are: getting more pleasure out of life, becoming more engaged in what you do and finding ways of making your life feel more meaningful. One way to approach these components is to work on self-improvement and being happy with who you are.
A great resource for working on self-improvement is to complete a strengths assessment which can be found here. Learning ones strengths not only gives you a sense of self-satisfaction, but encourages personal growth.

Some additional tips from positive psychologists on enhancing your happiness include:

  • counting your blessings
  • practicing acts of kindness
  • savoring life’s joys
  • thanking a mentor
  • learning to forgive
  • investing time and energy in friends and family
  • caring for your body
  • developing strategies for coping with stress and hardships (Wallis, 2005)

The single most effective way to enhance your happiness is to participate in what Seligman calls a gratitude visit. A gratitude visit means writing a thank you letter to anyone you admire and then visiting that person and reading that letter to them. Individuals that did the gratitude visit were found to be less depressed than individuals that did not a month after the experience.
Another simple activity you can do is to keep a gratitude journal and write down three things every day that you are thankful for and why (Wallis, 2005). In 2011, give some thought as to how you might incorporate these suggestions for increasing happiness in your life.

So as we head into this holiday season there are many things you can do to make your holidays happy, not only for yourself, but others as well.

Wallis, C. (2005). The New Science of Happiness.

Don’t forget MSOE’s Counseling Services! Counseling Services provides a setting in which students may discuss in confidence with a counselor any problems that affect them. The counselor can help students focus on realistic solutions to these and other potential problem