Posts Tagged ‘Happiness’

By Sean O’Hara, RMU Student.

As I drove to class this evening I started to ponder the things that make me happy. More so, the things that make me feel personally satisfied, e.g. money, family, that “A” I received on the management paper, etc. But, I really don’t think these things satisfied meProfile-Mihaly-Csikszentmihalyi personally. I mean, I love my family, I make decent money, and grades come and go. I thought to myself, what was this thing that creates true happiness? And then it came to m: ‘Flow’. ‘Flow’ you ask? You see, I learned this concept while taking a psychology class at Harper College in my freshman year. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is the former head of the psychology department at the University of Chicago and the department of sociology and anthropology at Lake Forest College. The idea of ‘Flow’ was introduced by Csikszentmihalyi as a tool to measure genuine satisfaction and true happiness.

Csikszentmihalyi believes that if a task is too challenging and you possess a low skill level 1000px-Challenge_vs_skill.svg_this would create anxiety. By the same token, if a task has a low level of challenge and a high skill level required, one would become relaxed and less engaged. In a perfect world everyone would have high skill and challenge levels; this is where ‘flow’ takes hold. When in ‘flow’, while at work or at play, a person is in a state where nothing else matters. This means focused, productive, and more importantly, happy and satisfied; that mental state where nothing is distracting and you are completely zoned in on the task at hand. The cool thing about this concept is that you can identify when you are in flow, and when you are not. Here is what you can do:

1)      Set the alarm on your smart phone to go off four times a day, every day, for a week. Make sure the times are random, twice in the A.M and twice in the P.M.

2)      Each time you receive the alert write down what you are doing and the level you being challenged and skill level you possess. Rate each of these, level of challenge and level of skill required, on a scale of 1-5, one being the lowest.

3)      At the end of the week take a look at your results and determine when you were being the most challenged and when you possessed the skill level needed to accomplish the task.

Yeah, you are probably thinking, so how is this information useful? Well, the data offers a kind of road map for you to identify your strengths and improve your weaknesses. For instance, if you are finding yourself in the area on the chart in apathy, boredom, or relaxation levels, you probably need to increase the challenge of the tasks. If you have apathy, worry, or anxiety, you may want to increase your skill level when completing those o-buy-happiness-facebooktasks.

Now, I realize that we not always going to be in ‘Flow’. But wouldn’t it be great if we could load the dice and set ourselves up for the highest possible payout? What would you give to be happy and content in life? Believe it or not the happiest people on this planet are not the wealthiest, with the best families, and the best jobs. So find your ‘Flow’ and make yourself happy. It’s worth it.


Here and Now

Posted: January 27, 2016 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

The practice of mindfulness began with the oldest philosophies, yet in a world inundated with distractions and desires it is more necessary than ever.

Everything can be done in a state of mindful focus and intentionality. I am reminded of the “Zen art of sweeping the parking lot” as expressed by a teenage employee who was gently mocking the advice of his boss, the owner of the small convenience store at the end of my road who believed that a well-maintained parking lot is a beautiful thing, achieved with the utmost care and purposefulness. When engaged in what I consider the best things in life: walking, dancing, baking, cleaning, cooking, swimming, I am filled with the joy of the activity, living fully and happily in the moment.

A recent study attempts to measure the impact of mindfulness on happiness, applying technology in an ingenious way while gleaning an astounding amount of insight thanks to the possibility of enormous research participation through an application feeding the findings to the project. A discussion of the discoveries can be found in the TedTalk by Matt Killingsworth.

The results yield fascinating insights, particularly the significant correlation between mindfulness and happiness, determined through feelings of well-being experienced when people are truly present and engaged in the current moment and activity, whatever that may be.

Another extremely encouraging result is that among all the activities human engage in, the one activity that engages us the most, commanding 90% presence in the moment, is having sex. I find this data incredibly reassuring since it provides positive proof of the powerful impact acts of love wield on our imagination, in case the plethora of novels, paintings, songs, and poems weren’t proof enough.

I recall a related definition of happiness from the movie Shadowlands

Jack: Now I don’t want to be somewhere else anymore. Not waiting for anything new to happen. Not looking around the next corner, not the next hill. Here now. That’s enough.

Joy: That’s your kind of happy, isn’t it?

Jack: Yes. Yes it is.

Intentional, intense, and sustained attention can be built also a reliable life skill. Often challenged by the many diversions of modern life, concentration must be established and maintained to accomplishing anything. Thus, the practice of mindfulness and development of focus becomes more crucial; I remain firm in my position that smart phone dependency undermines daily productivity and happiness, among other things. No matter what we are in the midst of, more contentment emerges through finding meaning in each moment.

Recently, my friend Kris created a mindfulness project for his art students, inviting a yoga instructor to expand his students’ understanding and inform their work. He’s the kind of art teacher who ensures learners go on to lead meaningful, creative lives.

As for engaging in moments that are less wonderful, it seems that accepting the difficult days as they are might be the best strategy, too. We must find the strength to live through things. Here, again, Kris offers wise counsel, including accepting the aches which accompany life, “pain now or pain later,” is his sage advice.


Whenever possible, we must seek to live fully and deeply in each moment. Indeed, being fully present is an extraordinary act of choice, one upon which our happiness may even depend.

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty.

A Happy, Happy 2014 to all the people reading these lines (and all other good people besides).

On December 30, 2013, I experienced the joy of looking through the small slips of IMG_20131230_075035369paper that populated my “Happiness Jar.”

IMG_20131231_165947283(1)A “Happiness Jar” is a concept that originated with the author Elizabeth Gilbert, I believe, but the practice of counting one’s blessing thankfully goes back millennia.

I’m a firm believer in celebrating as many things as possible, and so I share two truly lovely lectures on the subject of happiness with my students. One is by Mr. Srikumar Rao, who reminds us all to be content in the present moment, without longing for the fantasy of an elusive and faraway future.

The other is Neil Pasricha’s 1,000 Awesome things project and his “Three A’s of Awesome”.

The cultivation of happiness is not the practice of the naïve idealist; rather, it is a skill, like any other, that can be improved with practice over time.

HappinessThroughout 2013, I amassed “happiness” in a jar. People asked me to explain what, exactly, I put in the jar. I put in happy thoughts, of course, the kinds of ideas that would enable me to fly, should I ever find myself in Neverland.

Another frequent question was whether or not I put something in the jar every day. I suggest that no one is that happy. I’m happy often enough, though, and it is a good practice to remember those moments. Then, at the end of the year, I was able to reflect on what was, to be grateful and amazed by the quotidian beauties of life, and to feel quite complete with happiness, and so the promise of my “Happiness Jar” was fulfilled.

Here, like a true librarian, I shall catalogue my happiness, line it up in rows, and study it more fully, hoping as scholars do to find even more meaning in the minute details.

My Happiness Jar contained 73 items.

The big happiness consisted of four weddings (congratulations to Sarah & Nik, Sarah & Miles, Kait & Alex, and Hanna & Ryan) and two brand-new babies (welcome to the world, Brock & Maeve).

My family happiness happened on trips to my hometown, involving just plain-old togetherness typically talking in the kitchen.

My Urban Family happiness meant outings: a walk along the lake with Kris, a picnic hosted by Clark with everyone at the happily named Lunt Avenue Beach, a visit to The Milwaukee Art Museum, backyard barbeques, a tubing trip down the Tippecanoe River, and several dozen meetings for drinks.

My wanderlust happiness was a trip to California, specifically San Francisco, with a divine day trip to the Russian River valley for a wonderful wine tour with my dear fried Kait.

My visitor happiness hit the trifecta with Emily in July, Stacy in August, and Ingrid in November.

My feasting happiness entailed cooking for the people I love, and making an abundance of meatballs, and drinking fancy champagne, and going to a new restaurant called Azzurra.

My professional happiness continues to be this lil’ turtle, and my RMU CLA All-Stars, colleagues who inspire me and, more importantly, make me laugh every day.

My Lady Woolfs book club happiness consisted of thoughtful questions, generous pours, and laughter galore.

My silly happiness took the form of a tiny plastic dinosaur I found on my kitchen floor after Matt’s birthday party.

My community happiness involved evenings spent at The Whirlaway with the matchless Maria, and a cast of neighborhood characters and plotlines as intricate and passionate as any of Puccini’s operas.

My dogoodery happiness filled the days I spent promoting the aims and ideals of 826Chicago, and in the evening I spent celebrating the tremendous success of my former students (Collin, Chas, & Chris) at the premiere of their first feature-length film, In Bloom.

My loving happiness was, unsurprisingly, an even, infinite vacillation between deciding whether or not I should keep on loving him.

My miscellaneous happiness was picnics and concerts and lectures and bike rides and swims and naps and sunsets.

And for all of these, I am truly grateful.

I am sure I was happier than even these many items suggest, so I shall continue to collect happy thoughts and keep them in a jar, like so many beautiful things, with or without wings.

I have begun my Happiness Jar for 2014, of course, and it already has three slips of paper folded inside. I am eager to fill the coming year with happiness, and hope you are, too.

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

To start 2013, I wrote on the Flaneur’s Turtle about New Year’s Resolutions. In part, I noted how with only hours remaining in 2012, I made a list of 11 resolutions for myself, with “none being particularly easy” because they were all large goals and life changes.

I also said that “one of the problems with resolutions is that they often don’t carry any immediate consequences. If the resolution, for example, is to lose weight and a person doesn’t start immediately, there is always next week, next month, next year.”

I jokingly followed by saying, “To motivate myself, I decided to impose a consequence. If I do not accomplish all 11 items by December 31, 2013, I will purchase a little rowboat and some rations, and push myself out into Lake Michigan until I find either enlightenment or hypothermia.”

However, the truth behind the joke was that I was taking these resolutions seriously, because they all did carry an immediate consequence: unhappiness.

calvin-hobbes-new-years-resolutions-572x433Isn’t that why most people make even the most basic, cliched resolutions? If a person says, “I am going to lose 20 pounds!” it’s likely rooted in that person being unhappy with how they look or feel, or they believe those 20lbs are keeping them from some form of happiness. If a person says, “I’m going to spend less money!” it’s because they are unhappy with being broke and feeling their heart stop in terror at the sight of each bill. That’s what resolutions are: we are trying to resolve our unhappiness.

Likewise, my 11 resolutions were identifying nagging sources of unhappiness that I could fix to push me toward as much happiness as possible. None of this is to say I lead a miserable, unhappy life, nor am I even remotely suggesting my life is “worse” or “harder” than anyone else’s. If anything, I am very fortunate and lucky to have the life I do. Still, I don’t believe in settling. I think we should all continue to work to be better and happier, whether those are small adjustments or massive changes.

Some of my resolutions were public and I blabbed about them constantly to anyone who would listen (like #1, to keep running, working out, and improving my fitness). Others were intensely personal and I never talked to anyone about them. So, I decided to amusingly share the results of my resolutions, without identify what the resolutions was.

The results of my 11 resolutions:

#1: Accomplished, but still working at it.
#2: So-so. I’ll say I failed, because I didn’t do as well as I should have.
#3: Accomplished, technically. But there’s a long way to go.
#4: Yikes. Sort of? Not really?
#5: Significant progress, but not accomplished.
#6: Zero progress.
#7: Complete failure.
#8: Accomplished, just not with the results I wanted.
#9: Accomplished?
#10: Accomplished.
#11: Accomplished.

As we begin 2014, I hope everyone has a wonderful year. I will be updating my resolutions and goals. If you made resolutions, I hope you stick with them and find all the happiness you’re after.


By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty.

Among the many wonderful things that occurred at the wedding this past weekend (wedding post forthcoming) was the opportunity to talk to countless new people. One endearing woman kept pressing me for details about life in Chicago, particularly related to walking in Chicago. Did I really walk everywhere? Yes. So far? Yes, the bride and groom’s home (lovingly nicknamed McTedros Manor) is one mile from my apartment (Tricia’s Treehouse), and yes, I walk there often, and yes, I tend to walk or bike many miles every day. Her questions were amusing because her responses tended toward incredulity. She simply could not imagine a life filled with so much walking, while I feel exactly the opposite.

In addition to the loveliness associated with any walk through my neighborhood, there is always the potential of encountering a friend Imageon the street. I regularly see Bryce out playing with his grey speckled dog, Trapper. I stop to chat with Gregg & Maddie while they are walking to the diner. I meet members of the Urban Family walking to and from the train, and we walk each other home, just because we can.

One of the most enjoyable ways to walk through my neighborhood is with my friend, Maria. She owns “the bar,” The Whirlaway Lounge (I may have mentioned it before), the one most beloved in the neighborhood. She is lovingly referred to as, “The sweetest woman on the planet,” which is a damn-near perfect portrayal. Walking the neighborhood with her is especially delightful, because we can’t get two blocks before someone stops her to say “Hello.” The sense of community experienced while walking in my Chicago neighborhood is unrivaled.

When I was speaking to my friend Clark recently, he said, “So, tell me about your new apartment.”

I thought for a moment and said, “I really love my new walk to the train.”

“How will you like it in the winter?“ He asked.

I replied, “Oh, I don’t mind. I like how quiet it is in the city on a snowy morning.”

I’m certain that I read an article about the benefits of a pedestrian lifestyle, but I can’t find it. The best I can find is an article that warns against the decline in walking (particularly in The United States), called “The Crisis of Pedestrianism” from Slate.

Additionally, Ray Bradbury’s 1951 short story “The Pedestrian” shows the clairvoyance of the best writers. Here is an animated video inspired by the tale.

Like Bradbury’s character, I walk “to see.” I think of all the wonderful things I’ve seen on walks throughout North America; the leafy Imageboulevards of Toronto, the red brick lanes in Boston, the elegant monuments in Washington DC, the bands playing on cobblestone streets in New Orleans, the relentless hills of San Francisco, the stucco enclaves in Old San Juan, and the shady cafes in Puerto Vallarta all hold special memories. I think of the immeasurable stretches of gorgeous beaches I’ve strolled down, and the thought them makes my sigh.

In Europe, I crossed breathtaking bridges. On my first solo trip, I walked The Millennium Bridge in London from The Tate Modern to St. ImagePaul’s Cathedral. I’ve also traversed bridges that have stood for thousands of years: The Charles Bridge in Prague is a sentimental favorite, but the small stonework bridges in rural Ireland are endlessly appealing, especially when they span waterways as impossibly Seussian as the River Sneed.

Walking makes daily life seem more like traveling in my own town. If I pass a building or shop or café that seems interesting, I act like I would on vacation, and go inside. It was in this way that my friends (and newly married couple) Hanna and Ryan discovered an inviting new coffee shop just north on Milwaukee Avenue, eminently comfortable, and far less crowded than the ones just a mile south.

I derive inestimable pleasure from starting and ending my day with a fine walk. This morning I passed at least ten stunning crimson and auburn and gold trees, and I stopped to admire them, the individual trees. Walking affords me the time to look at individual trees. I bear witness to the slow progression of time; feel the seasons move themselves along at a walking pace. The seasons don’t rush to meet each other; they go slow.

Walking enlivens my body and mind. The first Flaneurs were great walkers, so it is only fitting that I am one, too.


By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty.

I’m incredibly lucky to have all that I do. My life is full of tremendous things, and getting to earn a living doing something I love is near the tippity-top of the list.

My good fortune was made particularly relevant in class this week. The text for this week’s class was excerpts from The Manifesto of the Communist Party, by Marx and Engels. Naturally, we spent a lot of class time discussing socio-economic class, money, and spending. My students enjoy class discussion; here’s a chance to talk about real things, and try to make sense of them. From my perspective, the most significant moment of our conversation this week occurred when I told them that I truly believe that having more money would not make my life happier.

Fascinating data provides evidence that, after achieving a set point of “comfort,” enough income to live safely and comfortably, more money does not increase happiness. Look to the work of Dr. Martin Seligman and his fellow psychology professors for the astounding intricacies. In fact, theorists have moved away from using the term “happiness” in their research because it is too often conflated with pleasure (what feels good). Understanding the attributes of a fulfilling life is complicated, but investigating and promoting “well-being” seems to be more productive.

My poor students: this might have been the first time they’d questioned the promise of more money. Imagine the questions that erupted! I had to explain a lot quite quickly. I assured them that I am not foolish enough to suggest that money is irrelevant, or that I remain angelically above the temptations of commerce. Nevertheless, the revelation isn’t about me. It’s about the perception that more money will mean more happiness. Not some money, more. Always more. Happier with more. The endless futility of this logic should be obvious, but many of my students remained unconvinced.

Interesting what a “tough sell” (pun intended) this is to my bright, inquisitive, ambitious college students. And why shouldn’t it be so? How many times they are encouraged to go to college to “make more money”? College is bought and sold like a product, and nearly every other aspect of daily life is packaged as a commodity. When told that college is an “investment,” they all “buy it.” I’m not the first person to point out that metaphors matter. If we continue to frame life in economic terms, we will be eternally disappointed. The repercussions are far beyond the scope of this diatribe, but consider how infrequently students are asked to question the capitalistic motivations in their lives. Living an enriching life is not about more money. Students need to know that how they choose to spend their time and apply their talents, in college and beyond, should be not be motivated by the desire to have more, but the determination to be more.