Before she was elected as the next executive vice president of the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC), Olivia Hussey, chair of campus climate within UGBC and A&S ’17, watched the central event of her Happiness Project initiative fall victim to snow.
The Happiness Talks took place last Monday night with students sharing their thoughts on finding genuine happiness. Sponsored by UGBC and the Office of Health Promotion (OHP), the Happiness Project is a campaign based on Gretchen Rubin’s bestselling book of the same name.
The BC adaptation was scheduled as a week-long event in January with tables in dining halls where students were given “happiness tasks.” Students also took photos with Instagram frame cutouts and added input on posters to spread awareness. The Happiness Talks were originally scheduled for Jan. 27, but were pushed back due to weather.
“We are so happy with the fantastic turnout, and it really speaks to the power of collaboration between UGBC and OHP,” Hussey said. “All of the speakers were so inspirational and gave the entire audience quite a bit to walk away with.”
At the Happiness Talks, Hussey hosted, while Fr. Michael Himes, Teddy Mitropoulos, A&S ’15, Stephanie Schwartz, CSOM ’15, and Jono Keedy, A&S ’16 discussed what genuine happiness meant to them and how they tried to find it in their own lives. Hussey discussed why she thought the event would be effective for students. She said students find themselves caught up in their busy schedules without reflecting on what truly makes them happy.
“By starting this dialogue about what happiness is and where it stems from, we are on our way to creating a more positive and authentic campus climate,” Hussey said. “Remember that while joy has a different meaning to everyone, at the end of the day it comes from caring for others. Although the talk was only an hour long, I hope that the message can be carried on in the future.”
Before delving into the talks, however, Harleen Singh, a member of the 4Boston council and A&S ’15, led students in a self-examining reflection. She reminded students of the moments where they should reflect on what makes them happy and how to keep that happiness throughout their day.
Afterwards, Himes discussed happiness and personal growth. He provided students with his definitions of happiness and joy and how they differ. “I make a distinction between joy, which is something internal that springs up from within us and happiness, which is contingent on a whole array of external circumstances,” Himes said.
He further explained that happiness is something that changes regarding the circumstance, but true joy is something that lasts. He described the happiness and joy he found in his 46 years as a priest.
“If someone had asked me if I had been happy all my time as a priest? Well, of course not,” Himes said. “I’m not mad, but if someone were to ask me if I would do anything else, the answer is no. There have been days I have not been happy, but there has not been a day that I would want to do anything else.”
Himes believed that the key to being truly happy is by paying attention to others. Instead of focusing on one’s own happiness, Himes suggested listening to others and trying to give them joy. By doing so, Himes stated, we become one step closer to genuine joy.
“Happiness is always a byproduct, it is never the center of your lives,” Himes said. “If one thinks that one is looking for contentment, for beingcomfortable, for being in control in life, if that’s what you think happiness will be, then I suspect your happiness could easily end up destroying you.”
Mitropoulos opened up the student talks with his own perspective on what happiness meant to him. Even when faced with personal struggles, Mitropoulos explained that he found his happiness when he was able to get away and reflect.
“For me, there are two types of happiness: an immediate one, and one that brings me genuine joy, putting my soul to rest,” Mitropoulos said. “It is in these moments on this rock that I am reminded of how blessed I am and what really makes me happy.”
Explaining the BC dynamic, Mitropoulos emphasized how often students forget to take care of themselves, especially when they need to most.
“Unfortunately, this type of happiness is hard to come by. How often do we take care of ourselves?” Mitropoulos said.
Mitropoulos told students that before he realized how to properly take care of himself, he resorted to the “hook up culture.” He explained that instead of finding true happiness, he was simply running away from his issues rather than facing them.
Schwartz then examined her years at BC and looked back at the struggles she faced. She warned students of the effects of superficiality, telling the story of her own experiences.
Keedy, the final student speaker, left the audience with some final thoughts on appreciation and personal growth. Keedy described how his life transformed once he had changed his mindset in regard to what true happiness meant and said his experience at BC allowed him to learn the meaning of joy and personal growth.
Concluding his talk, Himes left students with final words of wisdom.
“By focusing on others, I was able to assist them in their journey for joy,” Himes said. “Give yourself away. Give joy away. You will never run out of it.”
Featured Image by Clare Kim / Heights Staff