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Perspectives of Happiness A HappyHap Publication

Spring 2012*

Volume 2

Editor-in-Chief: Carolyn Farnham Guest Writers: Patrice Gresham, Elizabeth Riezinger Contributing Writers: Antonia Czinger, Sunnie Tรถlle, Cristina Ruiz, June Gruber Faculty Advisor: Assistant Professor of Psychology June Gruber Contributing Photographers: Jen Mulrow, Ben McLaughlin, Austin Lan, Greg Hindy The HappyHap Team: Sunnie Tรถlle, Carolyn Farnham, Ploy Urapeepatanapong, Summer Baxter, George Ramirez, Benjamin Symons, Serena Gelb, Chihiro Isozaki, Christian Rhally, Uriel Kejsefman, Brittany Webster, Cristina Ruiz, Vela-Susan Park The HappyHap Advisory Board: Dean John Loge, Duane Isabella, Jeanne DeChello, Sharon Kugler, Jeffrey Kwolek, Mario Chamorro, Lionel Ketchian

This publication is published by Yale College students. Yale University is not responsible for its contents.


“It’s exciting that over the past few years, I’ve gotten clarification on a concept Howard Zinn helped me get to. When I was shooting I Am, which Tom Shadyac produced, I asked Howard, who was 86 at the time, if—after studying all these social movements, political movements, revolutions, ideologies and religions—he could offer me that morsel of wisdom, some truth that my generation doesn’t know, something that would help us understand what he knew. What he said was, ‘People don’t understand the power of their individual voice. Think of the big decisions in your life, how you met your spouse, where you decided to go to college. If you think hard, you can usually trace the decision back to a single idea or conversation.’ “That’s really interesting. Every gesture we make, every smile we share with someone or don’t, every time we flip somebody off in traffic or let them in— every gesture has an effect. Not just on other people but on ourselves. The science of neuroplasticity shows that your actions and your behaviors physically affect the structure of your brain, that brains change structure because of what we do. The power of our own voice is something we’ve been taught to not believe in any more. We’re taught to believe in systems, brand names, movements, but not the power of ourselves. I think that’s a mistake.”


- Roko Belic film director of Happy

Inside: 6

Perspectives of Happiness Photo Exhibit Winner Taken by Jen Mulrow


Letter From the Editor By Carolyn Farnham

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Pop Up Photography Exhibit: Perspectives of Happiness By Sunnie J. Tölle, Photo by Austin Lan


What is Happiness? By Elizabeth Riezinger, Photo by Austin Lan


Smiling in the Midst of Disaster By Patrice Gresham, Photos by Ben McLaughlin


The Quest to Capture a Nation’s Well-Being Adapted by Sunnie J. Tölle, Photo by Uriel Kejsefman

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Cheer Up: How to Make Yourself Happier By Cristina Ruiz

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What Is Happiness? Thoughts from and around Yale Reported by Carolyn Farnham, Photo by Greg Hindy

Seeking Happiness (Or Not) By Antonia Czinger, Photo by Austin Lan

Is There a Darker Shade of Happiness? By Professor June Gruber, Photo by Austin Lan

Interview with Roko Belic: Film Director of Happy Reported by Sunnie J. Tölle How To Get Involved By Sunnie J. Tölle



Letter From the Editor Dear Reader, What you hold in your hands is the product of a long, sometimes stressful, and always hopeful journey. As only the second HappyHap publication in our club’s history, this process was very much a mystery at its onset. Looking back, I have seen those who have been involved mature in amazing ways, and I am whole-heartedly proud of the final product. Often times when I tell people about The HappyHap Project, I am met with confusion as to what we do. In short: we seek to inspire people with innovative projects and ideas that focus on the theme of happiness. We give each member of our team the freedom to create projects about which they feel passionate. After selecting a project, that team member has complete responsibility over it.

volved in this magazine has brought to light different ways in which happiness has the power to help and invigorate, whether it be through volunteering during a natural disaster or finding a new appreciation for sadness. It has truly been a joy to work on (and possibly even more of a joy to complete). May it bring a smile to your face and enliven your day. Most happily, Carolyn Farnham Editor-In-Chief TD ‘13

My enterprise this year has been this publication. I hope as you read it, you are struck by the ways happiness can effect daily life. Each individual in-


Pop-Up Photography Exhibit: Perspectives of Happiness On September 30th 2011, The HappyHap Project in collaboration with the Yale European Undergraduates and the International Student Organization launched “Perspectives of Happiness,” a collaborative photography exhibition that benefits SmileTrain and aims to celebrate intercultural understanding, the diversity of different perspectives, and the universally shared value of happiness. Initially on display in Maya’s Room of Silliman College, each photograph showcases a different perspective of happiness as seen through the eyes of a Yale community member. Since then, it has traveled as a pop-up exhibit to Berkeley, Davenport, and Timothy Dwight College. At each location, we collaborated with the respective Master’s Office to hold a dessert study break for the opening reception. Students were invited to enjoy delicious sweets, relax in a feel-good atmosphere and reflect on their own perspective of happiness. In the upcoming spring term, the exhibition will continue its journey with the aim of spreading happiness to different colleges and raising awareness for SmileTrain. The ultimate destination: an outdoor exhibition on Cross Campus. Online Gallery If you don’t want to wait until “Perspectives of Happiness” comes to your residential college, go to, a virtual gallery space that continues to invite photography submissions of your perspective of happiness. Send us a photo (or several) to


Give A Smile “Perspectives of Happiness” wants to raise $1000 by May 2012 for SmileTrain, an organization that provides cleft lip surgery for children in developing countries. To make a donation, please follow the “Give a Smile” link on or come to one of our events next semester! - Sunnie J. Tölle Founder of The HappyHap Project TD ‘12

Seeking Happiness (Or Not) “Happiness is a lie.” My friend was stressed out and sleep deprived when he said this, but I ended up arguing with him anyway. I was trying to get him to look at his situation from a more positive perspective. He was trying to get me to realize that the world is shit. To be fair, his argument went beyond this general claim: he believed that to look away from the pain and suffering of life was both trivializing and untruthful. I insisted that while it makes sense to think about the bad when there is opportunity for action, rumination about the negative is pointless, but he only shook his head. To do so, he said, was to make light of life. He did not buy into my “choose to be happy” philosophy. “But it’s impossible to be completely objective!” I cried. “You can’t consider everything at once! Isn’t it legitimate to focus on the happy over the unhappy?” Although I do not buy into my friend’s “be miserable” philosophy, common conceptions of happiness are often both damaging and trite. We live in a society were the pursuit of happiness is overemphasized. Prozac and Zolaf advertise on mainstream TV, personal contentment is favored over sacrifice to the greater good, and we are always expected to feel fine. We live in an increasingly mobile, flat world in which we have the (supposed) opportunity to do anything and be everything. Nothing but the best is acceptable, and there is no virtue to accepting one’s lot or being satisfied with less. If we are unhappy, something is wrong; we have failed, need medication, or have been wronged. Happiness is considered a right and it seems almost un-American to sacrifice it for the benefit of the community at large. Thus, we feel enormous pressure to be happy.

“...we imagine happiness as something to be obtained rather than maintained through striving.” In order to ease the burden of happiness, consumer culture attempts to sell contentment, marketing it as easy and available, while creating a conception

that is both shallow and clichéd. Happiness sells well, but unfortunately, the type of happiness that can be sold is rather two-dimensional. As a commodity, happiness must be easily recognizable, understood by the masses, and, most importantly, tangible. Commercials tell us that a certain object or living situation will make us happy, causing us to become convinced that we will find contentment only if we have that new computer, dress, or law degree. Looking at the shiny billboards, we imagine happiness as something to be obtained rather than maintained through striving. True happiness is intimately connected with effort; it is impossible to gain lasting satisfaction from any one thing. Once we have reached a certain goal or gained possession of a certain desired object, we may feel a momentary thrill, but the feeling soon wears thin. Luckily, this phenomenon is actually a good thing. After all, it would be terrible if after writing that first successful paper we felt forever satisfied and never opened Microsoft Word again. Happiness comes from chasing after our desires, hopefully fulfilling them, and then being able to move on. Striving is an important component of happiness. Indeed, most people derive more enjoyment from the things they earn than from those that simply fall into their laps. Work is part of happiness and friction is a source of interest. There are moments when happiness does slam into us unexpectedly, but even those moments require something internal. Types of pleasure are not ranked on some ineffable scale. Chocolate cake, piano recitals, and good company are all enjoyed subjectively according to the taste and the current state of the person enjoying them. Delightful occurrences are wasted on someone filled with inner turmoil and the determination to think the worst. It is hard to be happy if we hate ourselves or if we feel we deserve no good. It is equally difficult if we are determined to hate the world and think badly of it. Self-satisfaction and a willingness to be impressed are both honest ways to be open to happiness. It takes a lot of work and personal integrity to be self-satisfied. Even the smiling fool (if he is truly happy) feels at peace with himself, though no one else approves. When we are in miserable situa-


tions and rise above them, we do not ignore the negative, we just think of the positive as stronger. Meanwhile, a positive outlook requires the generosity to let other things appear good. My stressed out, sleep deprived friend was right about a few things: the selfish, trivial happiness emphasized by our culture does indeed make light of life, and the refusal to accept sadness is equally damaging. As John Stuart Mill wrote, “Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness; aiming thus at something else, they find happiness along the way.” It is this sense of aiming at something else, this sense of striving that helps create that inner happy state, that sense of personal fulfillment and generosity of enjoyment, which is ultimately so much more important.

“What is important is not that lighthearted sensation but the knowledge that we are alive.” In fact, provided that the inner state is as it should be, moments of apparent sadness need not be considered negative. There are so many worthwhile


emotions beyond the confines of giddy joy. What is important is not that lighthearted sensation but the knowledge that we are alive. It is good to feel sad sometimes. Happiness feels wrong after the death of a loved one. We go to movies to cry. We bawl our eyes out after heartbreak and then feel better. Melancholy on a cloudy rainy day can be delightful. Anger can be cathartic. Thus, it seems my friend did have the right to be sad—and maybe even enjoy it—although it probably would have been best if he had just gone to bed. -Antonia Czinger TD ‘13

What Is Happiness? A note from the editor: In order to create a more diverse view of happiness, we asked a few high school students to submit pieces regarding what happiness meant to them at this stage in their lives. After reviewing all of the submissions, this was our winner. If you asked a handful of high school students what happiness was, you would probably get at least one or two to admit that it comes to them in the hand that holds an ice cold beer, weed, or hanging out with the “love of their life” that they’ve known for a week and yet will be with “forever and always.” How can I be expected to write about happiness when I don’t know what it really is? I’m not being a melodramatic teen saying that happiness doesn’t exist because of course it does. But I think we convince ourselves that things make us happy when they don’t. I think that happiness is always tinged with a little bit of disappointment, sadness, or fear.

less swim meet with these seniors, and it would all be over before I knew it. And this was scary; it was the only place I felt I belonged—with these people, all go-

…………………………………………………….… Sitting on the dark bus after swim meets: wet hair, windows fogging up, blurred lights through my ice frosted window, the taste of bubble gum, the sharp crack as swimmers pop it between their teeth, a nervous habit maybe, or an attempt to annoy half the people on the bus. Besides that, it’s quiet. Cell phones and iPods fleetingly penetrate the darkness that envelops the seats, heads lean on windows, lost in reflection of the days achievements or lack thereof. The bus is full of sweat pants, hoodies, and chlorine dried skin without any scent because no one really even notices it anymore. The few swim team couples lean their heads together—quiet, half-asleep, coveting each other’s warmth. Neon lights from fast food places or outlet stores reach out to our bus, but only get trapped in our drifting eyes before moving on to something else. Always moving. It is these moments where I have felt more than contentment. Happiness. The team has this unmistakable bond, silent rather than spoken, that no one has to admit. I could envision the next half hour after stepping off the bus throwing snow balls at no one in particular or huddling in school until the car came that would take me home. But I knew that on that bus, we were all equals. As we neared the school, I thought that this was one less bus ride I’d get, one


ing out for lower times and a place in the top. But the bus doors would bang open eventually, and what I’d come to know as magic would break with the clattering of high school swimmers making a mad grab for their bags and sneakers, shoving cell phones in their pockets and grabbing car keys. I look into it more than anyone else, but the feeling that drowns me in the dark seats of that bus is one thing I feel I can call happiness. …………………………………………………….… His voice radiates through the surround sound system, deep, bass, and almost just from hearing it I can remember what it felt like hearing that voice touch mine, the vibration fluttering in his chest when I am cocooned in his hug, my little kid voice chiming like bells and his old timer words dancing together like a ballet. Just his voice is enough to send me to tears, but that is insubstantial to how happy I am that I can hear it in some form. Those home videos might gather months of dust and neglect, but once in a while when I really get to missing him, I’ll drag them out

“Unnoticeable tears might track down my cheek, but in that moment is true happiness.” and make an evening of remembering. He was mostly behind the camera, recording my birthday or our time at the fair, but his voice digs through my ears and plucks at my heartstrings. He isn’t really there, but he’s there enough. It’s like going back in time, reliving my younger years, where my family was together and he was still alive. I forget where I am, the moment, the time. All that matters is my little five year old frame doing cheers before cheerleading practice for my father. Unnoticeable tears might track down my cheek, but in that moment is true happiness. For some people, when someone they love dies, they’re gone. They might have pictures of them, or something they wrote or drew, but I have a living record, something that breathes and talks to me if I get sad. For that, I’m lucky. In those videos, is my happiness, crystallized and saved, fossils of a past life. In these moments, you have to pay a price to achieve happiness. The fear behind losing the people who make you happy or forgetting what defines happiness will drive you to really appreciate happiness


while you have it, if you find it. Maybe material people are happy with small trinkets, how people see them, or their latest conquest turning into a new relationship, and I suppose there isn’t anything wrong with that. But their views on happiness will drastically change in the next few years, as they grow up and learn that things like that don’t mean as much. I feel like mine, however, won’t really change. I know what lies behind happiness. For me it’s not those parties you go to that you don’t remember in the morning, car rides down the street in a car full of your friends with music blasting, or a movie night with the boyfriend or girlfriend of the month. For me, it’s something simple. Bus rides tinged with a little disappointment, especially now that I’m a junior and half my time in those pools is over. Memories captured on camera, impossible to truly relive. But happiness in its pure form eludes me, eludes most of us if we’re being honest. Because there’s always something behind it, the secret behind the curtain, the twist in the story you don’t want to see coming but know lies in wait. Happiness can’t really be appreciated without a little sadness sprinkled in. -Elizabeth Riezinger Springfield Central High School ‘13

Perspectives of Happiness: Smiling After Disaster

What do God, prom, a hundred dollar bill and a tornado have in common? The Storm

A few moments later, we were at Aunt Michele’s new Wilbraham home getting the prom-goer primped and polished in her scarlet gown and matching June 1st, 2011 was a Wednesday that started shoes. “Dorothy,” we called her. And just seconds after out similarly to many other days marking the beginthat, the lives of pioneer valley residents everywhere ning of summer. It was average in temperature, the sun was shining and the skies were a middling shade were changed. Inside of a house less than a quarter mile away of blue. Children lined up on the sidewalks to mount from disaster, all was silent. It was hard at first to measchool buses, cheerful because the school week, if not the year, was nearing its end. In fact, I personally sure the danger, but within moments it became evident that something was very wrong. The skies had turned a was reveling in the cool breeze hitting my face as I rode my ten-speed along a familiar stretch of road in dusty shade of gray and debris seemed to be suspended in the air, as if the earth were holding her breath. We Springfield on the way to my boyfriend’s house. It went in the basement when the power went out. We was not perfect, but it was a lovely day. Coincidentally, June 1st was the day of the Senior Prom at Min- closed the windows and lay on the floor, frightened by nechaug Regional High School, mixing a little razzle- what we saw and didn’t see. dazzle into to this otherwise nondescript day. “Homes had been speared by As a long time friend of the family, I was going to accompany my boyfriend’s younger sister, hundred year oaks; roofs were Ant, to her hair and makeup appointments. Little did I flattened and live wires littered know, something much larger than prom was about to rock the city of Springfield’s unsuspecting world. the sidewalks and streets... ....................................................................................... preventing emergency per I was in a car full of jovial females thrilled at sonnel from entering. It was a the glamour of prom when the first warning sounded. nightmare.” A robotic voice came over the radio, sounding very old fashioned and very much out of place: Stay inside; tornado warning and golf ball sized hail. Find shelter. Prom and a Hundred Dollar Bill The vehicle filled up with laughter as we all mocked Upon investigation we found that, although Mithe warning. “Watch out for the wind,” someone joked. I rolled my eyes thinking what I knew was on chelle’s side street had seen minimal damage, the main everyone’s mind: “Oh, New England and its dramat- road, Tinkham Rd., had been mutilated in ways we could not fathom. Homes had been speared by hundred ics.” year oaks; roofs were flattened and live wires littered Everyone but the driver, Aunt Michele, expressed amusement at the mere idea of such an occur- the sidewalks and streets. For an entire mile, there were ancient oak trees casually strewn about, preventing rence. She immediately picked up a cell phone and emergency personnel from entering. It was a nightmare. began calling her friends and family. In retrospect, We were no longer laughing. Michele, a long-time resident of Springfield, said, “I So, around 8 o’clock that night we were all take these things seriously. I knew it wasn’t going to trapped in a house with no electricity, minimal cell be good.” If we’d had any sense, the rest of us would phone service and no way back to our own homes. By have followed suit.


this time, we had given up on leaving, on electricity, and on prom. We sat listening to a windup radio, make-up washed off, pajamas ready, prepared to bunker down for a natural disaster slumber party. “Well,” sighed Ant. “No prom, but at least this will be one for the grand kids!” Naturally, we thought, there would be no prom and no way home for a while. Life had to be put on pause. ....................................................................................... Someone’s phone rang. Every time a mobile rang, we were all so amazed by the miracle that we rushed to pick it up at once. The only two other times a phone previously rang it had been my father and my boyfriend. My dad called to say that my uncle’s house was simply gone. My boyfriend called to say he was safe but stranded in our pitch black city. So naturally when Ant’s phone rang, we hoped it was another important call, news about the safety of our loved ones. When it was a young woman’s voice yelling over the sound of loud pop music, we were surprised. “Ant, where are you? Why aren’t you here? Why aren’t you at prom?” Prom had survived the tornado, and kept right on going. Although Minnechaug is located in Wilbraham, MA, the prom was being hosted by Springfield’s own MassMutual Center in the downtown area, a quarter of a mile from where the tornado touched down in the city. And believe it or not, the prom went on. Not a single authority figure in the school department had thought to call in and cancel it. We were only in a state of emergency, after all. The MassMutual Center was only being used as a shelter for families without homes (which we didn’t know until the next day but prom attendees would have). Ant was in disbelief. Hair taken down, makeup washed off, and twenty-something trees barring us in, there was no way we could get to prom. Her eyes started to glisten in the light of a flashlight. For a long moment, no one knew what to say. “Put your dress in a bag. Get your shoes and put on your makeup,” said Aunt Michele, breaking the silence. “We’re getting you to the prom.” In the dark, we pinned up her hair and put on a little makeup. Four of us, Michelle, Ant, her other aunt Jess, and myself put on some sneakers and headed out the door. Operation prom was a go. Our plan? Well, we hadn’t quite thought of that yet. We didn’t have a


car, we didn’t have any cash, but somehow, we were going to get to prom. We walked along the path of destruction, waving at the families we saw. Michele saw a familiar face and stopped. She told her neighbor what was going on. He was happy to help. “I got home after the storm, so I had to park outside of all this mess. My car is about a mile down the road. You can borrow if you need to.” He handed us the keys. In awe of his generosity, we thanked him and hurried along, thrilled to have a destination. We cut through a cemetery; it was ominous. Trees were down every twenty feet; even the oaks that had fallen were taller than us. We were able to get to the road, and the traffic was absurd. We saw an allterrain vehicle zooming toward us past the line of still cars. It was another neighbor, Bill G. of Wilbraham. He asked what we were up to, and again we related our mission. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a hundred dollar bill. “Here,” he said. “In case you need to put gas in the car and anything else you might need.” We were again astonished by such an act of generosity. We thanked him and continued on. When we got to Springfield, the lights were out in most places. We pulled into a gas station where Ant began to change into her gown and scarlet shoes. Michele turned to face us in the backseat and smiled as she said, “We’re really bringing Dorothy to her Wizard.” But there was another hiccup. Even in a time of disaster, with no working credit machines, no one would break a hundred dollar bill. A man we didn’t know overheard the dilemma and offered twenty dollars. “Here, take this. I hope it helps.” In the dark of night the destruction seemed minimal. We drove through most of it unabashed and finally sent Ant on her way to the prom. “Have fun, Dorothy,” we said in unity.

The Facts On June 1st, 2011 at 4:17 pm, a one- half mile, EF3 tornado touched down in Westfield and travelled 39 miles through Worcester and Hampden counties. The National Weather Service Forecast Office in Boston reported the following: “A super cell thunderstorm developed over Western Massachusetts Wednesday afternoon. This storm strengthened and produced a long-lived, very significant tornado that did extensive damage across

southwest and south- central Massachusetts.”

The Smiles Beyond the Disaster I remember going home the next morning and seeing everything in light for the first time. I hopped on my bike and went to my house and my grandfather’s house to confirm their well being with my own eyes; they were miraculously undisturbed. My uncle’s house was flattened, and I knew of many other families whose homes had taken flight, leaving behind only a front stoop. I cried for all the people without houses, and for myself and how trivially I had treated the situation the day before. I praised God for my safety, and prayed for the victims, the injured, and the families of the three people who had been pronounced dead across the city. I rode my bike around the city. I had a backpack full of water and first aid, trying to see if there was anything I could do to help. When I got there, it was hard to continue on. My normal route was unrecognizable and looked like a war zone. The street once lush with New England foliage was bald and exposed in a way that felt like a violation. There were places where the floors of people’s homes stood vertically. I could see right through some houses and in many cases, less than a quarter of a house was left standing. I felt small and helpless, and for a moment I lost faith in the ability God gives us to help our neighbors. Then I remembered the way the people had made me feel the night before; by the grace of God they had reached into their own lives and gave aid to strangers— and for something as insignificant as prom. All of us were able to make one girl smile. I imagined what we could do for the hundreds who were suffering. I called my pastor, Tracy Johnson, and asked if I might use our church as a donation drop-off zone. I was organizing a relief effort. I called it “Hugs for Clothes.” I wanted to collect as many clothes and do as much work as possible in the three weeks I had remaining before I left for my out-of-state job. Incidentally, he was already in the process of turning our Christ Presbyterian Church (CPC) into a shelter and Relief Center for Springfield. Lisa Baker, a Springfield resident, was soon ap-

pointed coordinator of the Springfield Tornado Relief Effort.

“We set aside our lives and our differences and embraced the love and compassion we didn’t know we had for each other.” Together, we all worked to bring happiness and help to many of the suffering residents, Springfield being our focus. Baker partnered up with CPC members and outside workers to organize volunteer work for house reconstruction, yard clean-up, transportation and many other forms of assistance. CPC collaborated with FEMA to transform our church into a licensed shelter by installing new showers where our storage rooms once were. Many church members and friends volunteered for the positions I needed to make the Hugs for Clothes project possible; Salvation Army agreed to clean and process our clothes and distribute vouchers to the tornado victims so they wouldn’t have to pay and could be offered charity in a dignified manner. In the face of disaster, everyone extended a helping hand. I pushed strollers filled with water coolers through the disaster sites when we weren’t collecting and working. The volunteers and families working on their projects would always accept them gratefully, and the cheer on their faces was remarkable, chiefly considering the conditions of these areas.


compassion we didn’t know we had for each other. .....................................................................................

When asked about the relief effort, Baker said, “Since June 6th I have been coordinating volunteer efforts to clear debris and be there for the survivors. When I look at the before and after photos or when the homeowner calls and says how grateful they are, I know [our effort] was effective. It was a real blessing to the affected and those who helped the affected. The grace in the storm was the connection to community. People left their neighborhood, got dirty and worn out with those in need. They came from various cities towns and states. They came from Norway, even! All who have come into my life this summer have added one piece of hope in a city that has had so little to hope for recently. “We saw what a little money and a lot of will power could do. Trees the size of coffee tables were dismantled and removed by people who normally sat at a desk or worked in Burger King. People who did not normally talk are now talking… it is amazing.” I was relentlessly taken aback by how quickly God moved through people during this time. Hugs for Clothes rapidly took off, and we grew into a donation center for food, clothes, and toiletries as well as kitchen, bedroom, and baby wares. We filled an entire room three times in three weeks. Over twenty volunteers helped me transport the goods to two Salvation Army locations. The generosity and the grace were overwhelming. I couldn’t praise God enough. As Baker stated, Springfield has been a city without a lot of evident hope in the past. During this catastrophe, however, everyone was affected: home owners, renters, subsidized residents, blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, wealthy, and struggling. We set aside our lives and our differences and embraced the love and


For me, this began as the story of a prom, a disaster, and a few generous strangers, and it changed into inspiration for me to take charge of my resources and help my brothers and sisters. So what does God have to do with prom, a tornado and a hundred dollar bill? The answer is grace. God makes sure that we find light in everything, and that is the truth beneath all the hectic elements of our lives. Through all the sadness and all the tears, there is a blessing to be found. Our blessings were the community we formed as a city, and the light we found that had been instilled in us without our knowledge. So the next time you are trapped in a city post disaster and your first priority is to get to prom with a hundred dollar bill that a bighearted person hands you, think of God, and think of what you can do if you multiply that generosity by 100 to help someone find their last hope instead of their last dance. - Patrice Gresham UMASS Amherst ‘11

The Quest to Capture a Nation’s Well-Being For the past half-century, the success of a nation has traditionally been measured by a single variable: the Gross Domestic Produce (GDP). In the last few years, however, economists, concerned citizens, and even top-level politicians have been asking how accurately GDP captures a nation’s well-being. Robert Kennedy voiced his concerns as early as 1968. While speaking to students at the University of Kansas, he said: “Too much and for too long, we seem to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, if we judge the United States of America by that, counts air pollution and cigarette advertising and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for people who break them; it counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl; it counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for police to fight the riots in our cities; it counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife and the television programs that glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. “Yet the Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.” One must concede, however, that the number has its uses. Before the economist Simon Kuznet produced the measurement in 1941 after working for 14 years to understand what was going on during the Great Depression, presidents and policy makers had little information to help guide their economic deci-

sions. Herbert Hoover, for example, kept predicting that the United States was on the road to recovery. It was not that he was deliberately misleading the nation; he just didn’t know. In contrast, a few years later, Franklin Roosevelt used Kuznets’ GDP calculations to put the United States on a solid war footing.

“...not only is a single minded focus on wealth creation economically unsustainable, but it also does not lead to a fulfilling life.” Unfortunately, what was once a tool has become an end in itself. Politicians and economists are addicted to GDP. Is it growing? By how much? How does it compare to other nations? Of course, America always wants to have the biggest. Until recently, the fact that Kuznets himself warned that GDP should not be used to judge a nation’s well-being has not had much impact. The wind, however, seems to have shifted in the past five years. Around the world, people have begun to realize that not only is a single-minded focus on wealth creation economically unsustainable, but it also does not lead to a fulfilling life. The idea that policy makers should at least consider other measures of progress and prosperity is, increasingly, a mainstream position. The Global Project on Measuring the Progress of Societies, launched in cooperation with the European Commission and the World Bank, organized a forum in 2007 at which many international organizations including the OECD, the United Nations, the World Bank, the European Commission, and the Organization of the Islamic Conferences signed the Istanbul Declaration. It proclaims that there is now “an emerging consensus on the need to undertake the measurement of societal progress in every country, going beyond conventional economic measures such as GDP per capita.” Ever since, thousands have participated in these discussions. While economists are involved, the


questions are actually philosophical. One of the fiercest arguments revolves around the role of wealth. Many studies indicate that once you’ve achieved a certain level of affluence, more money doesn’t increase your happiness. Other studies disagree. Equally problematic is the calculation of so called externalities: should a nation’s air pollution, for example, be subtracted from its wealth creation to measure its overall well-being? At the moment, there is no consensus. And that's fine. Whatever measures are eventually adopted should not be imposed from the top but should grow from numerous conversations all around the world, at conferences, on the web, in living rooms, universities, and workplaces. Our measures of happiness and progress will only be valid if they reflect our diversity as nations, communities, and individuals. -Adapted by Sunnie Tölle TD ‘12 from “What Makes Life Worthwhile? GDP Won’t Tell You” by Kathleen Kennedy- Townsend. Published in The Atlantic on June 13th, 2011.


Cheer Up: How to Make Yourself Happier You’re stressed, irritable, and not the most pleasant person to be around today. You have two problem sets due Tuesday, a midterm Thursday, and a paper due at midnight on Friday. In addition, you need to juggle all of the sections, meetings, and commitments that are regularly sprinkled into your week. And you just broke up with your boyfriend. Perfect. You don’t know how you’ll survive this week or if you will ever regain the happy feelings you used to experience so regularly. What can be done?

“...we need to be wary of focusing too much on our own happiness.”

In positive psychology, happiness is thought to include three factors: increased positive emotion, decreased negative emotion, and life satisfaction (Diener, Scollon, & Lucas, 2003). Positive emotion cultivation is the theory that certain cognitive and behavioral techniques can increase one’s positive emotion (Fredrickson, 2000). Barbara Frederickson has discussed numerous methods in her articles on positive emotion, including relaxation therapies that seek to create a calming sense of contentment, behavioral therapies which increase the amount of pleasant activities in one’s life, and coping strategies with goals of finding positive meaning within and in spite of setbacks. The expression of gratitude has also been found to increase positive emotion. In an experiment by Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, participants were asked to write in journals daily or weekly (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). One group of participants was asked to write down hassles, another wrote about neutral life events, and the third was told to write down things for which they were grateful. The participants in the gratitude journal condition felt better about their lives, reported more positive effect, and were more optimistic compared to the participants who recorded their troubles or neutral life events. The gratitude journal participants were also more likely to have made progress toward academic, social, and health goals. Furthermore, the gratitude journal par-

ticipants were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or offered emotional support, which suggests increased prosocial behavior. We need to be wary of focusing too much on our own happiness, however. Studies have found that if participants strove to be happy in explicit ways, they usually were less happy than the participants who found more indirect ways of increasing their happiness (Kesebir & Diener, 2008). Also, it is important to not be scared of negative emotions. Psychology professor June Gruber studies how too much happiness can have negative consequences, and a good balance is approximately three happy emotions to one unhappy emotion. Learning how to cope with negative feelings and finding what works for you in cultivating positive emotions— either consciously or unconsciously— can help you find and maintain happiness. - Cristina Ruiz TD ‘12

References: Diener, E., Scollon, C.N., & Lucas, R.E. (2003). The evolving concept of subjective well-being: The multifaceted nature of happiness. Advances in Cell Aging and Gerontology, 15, 187–219. Emmons, R., & McCullough, M. (2003). Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389. Fredrickson, B. (2000). Cultivating Positive Emotions to Optimize Health and Well-Being. Prevention & Treatment, 3, 1-25. Kesebir, P., & Diener, E. (2008). In pursuit of happiness: Empirical answers to philosophical questions. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3, 117–125.


Is There a Darker Side of Happiness?

A note from the editor: Inspired by The World Book of Happiness in which one hundred professional researchers each share a thousand words on what they know about happiness, we asked our faculty advisor, Professor June Gruber, to do the same. In this way, we hope to make her research at Yale’s Positive Emotions Lab more accessible to the student body. The experience of happiness, and of positive into adulthood, given engagement in risk-taking emotions, is a building block of human nature. Posibehaviors (Friedman et al., 1993). Building on this tive emotions motivate us to pursue important goals, line of work here at Yale, we have found that those savor experiences, buffer against the effects of stress, among 20,000 healthy participants across 16 different and maintain vital social bonds. However, a relatively countries, the highest levels of well-being were found untouched question remains— can positive emotions among participants with a moderate ratio of positive also be a source of dysfunction? Can feeling good to negative emotions in their daily lives rather than sometimes be bad? those who tried to maximize positive emotions and There is a fair amount of research on associatminimized negative emotions (Kogan, Gruber, Cheng, ed difficulties of negative emotions like fear in anxiety & Mauss, 2011). We have also found that a stable and disorders or sadness in depression. We know almost moderate (not variable or extreme) degree of positive nothing about the potential negative consequences emotion is associated with reduced symptoms of of positive emotions. My work focuses on exploring this surprising and counterintuitive possibility by delineating the nature of positive emotion disturbance along a continuum in people with normative degrees of positive emotion (college students and community samples) as well as clinical patient samples characterized by extreme degrees of positive emotion (bipolar disorder and depression). I take a multi-method approach in my work by measuring experiential, behavioral, and biological indices of emotion. My work focuses on four broad questions centered on trying to understand this other side of happiness and positive emotion, including the following.

“...moderate–but not extreme– degrees of positive emotion appear to be best for us.” 1. Can there be a wrong degree of happiness?

Can happiness lead to negative outcomes when it is experienced too intensely? Aristotelian definitions of emotional health argue that happiness has benefits up to a moderate degree but can incur costs when experienced at an extreme degree. For instance, whereas moderate levels of positive emotions engender more creativity, high levels of positive emotions do not (Davis, 2008). Furthermore, highly cheerful children are associated with a greater mortality risk when followed


depression, anxiety, and increased life satisfaction (Gruber, Kogan, & Mauss, under review). Thus, moderate—but not extreme—degrees of positive emotion appear to be best for us. 2. Are there wrong types or kinds of happiness? Happiness comes in different flavors varying on dimensions of arousal (e.g. excitement vs. calm) and social engagement (e.g. compassion vs. pride). Here, my work has argued that certain types of happiness that are too self-focused may confer maladaptive outcomes. One example is pride, an emotion associated with achievement and heightened social status. Pride can be good in certain contexts and forms, but has also been associated with aggression towards others and, as seen in work done in our lab at Yale, is associated with risk for the onset of mood disorders such as mania (Gruber & Johnson, 2009). We are currently extending this work with a graduate student in my lab, Hillary Devlin, to test the hypothesis that pride is associated with selective deficits in empathic accuracy, given its heightened self-focus that hinders adaptive social processes. Other projects in my lab are geared at teasing apart just how “healthy” and “unhealthy” types of happiness differ by looking at relationships with personality and emotional dispositions (Kirkland, Cunningham, & Gruber, 2011). The ultimate aim of the work we do here is to try to parse apart what ways positive emotions can both “bad” and “good.”

4. Cultivating healthy happiness? When considering the “dark side of happiness,” it is also important not to forget to focus on the many ways that we can cultivate or nurture healthy positive emotionality in our lives. Work in my lab with Yale colleagues has focused on mindfulness meditation as one route to nurture healthy happiness, so to speak. For example, in a current review we have suggested that mindfulness may promote positive emotions via the discontinuation of highly automatized mental processes (e.g. rumination) by facilitating a more conscious awareness of one’s emotion state in the present moment, which enables greater mental control over this state (Kang, Gruber, & Gray, in press). We have also been working on experimental manipulations of mindfulness in the laboratory in order to examine behavioral and physiological signatures of mindfulness compared to less healthy forms of emotional control, such as rumination. - Professor June Gruber If you are interested in reading more about this line of work or getting involved in research in Dr. Gruber’s lab, see: or email june. Dr. Gruber has taught courses in Human Emotion (Psych 131: http://www.yalepeplab. com/teaching/psych131/) and is teaching a course on the Science of Happiness this Spring (Psych 231).

3. Wrong ways to pursue happiness? Philosophers and researchers have observed that the pursuit of happiness does not always appear to lead to the desired outcomes. In fact, at times, the more people pursue happiness the less they seem to be able to obtain it. It has been suggested that the more people strive for happiness, the more likely they will set a high standard for happiness that will result in disappointment when it is not met (Mauss et al., in press). These findings demonstrate that the pursuit of happiness can have negative effects on individual wellbeing. Recently, we have extended this work further to find that the pursuit of happiness is associated with a risk marker for the onset of depression and mania in healthy young adults, too (Ford, Mauss, & Gruber, 2011).


What is Happiness? Thoughts from and around Yale “Happiness is not thinking about happiness. -Cambrian Thomas-Adams, BR ‘13

“To me, nothing is more important than completely embracing the things you care deeply about... I don’t know where I will be in four years or thirty-four years, but I can only hope that I have maintained my ability to put my happiness over my sucesses because without happiness, success can never be satisfying.” -Bianca Couture, high school student “... happiness is doing spontaneous things out of the ordinary and having friends and family around you supporting your dreams with compassion and love.” -Jade Seal, high school student “Happiness is eating warm chocolate chip cookies by a lake after a late-spring picnic with everyone you love just before your best friend dive-tackles the two of you into the water”. -Aaron Lewis, BR ‘14 “Happiness is sharing good food with good friends.” -Becky Poplawski, TD ‘13

“Happiness to me is having things in life that just put a smile on your face. It’s like never having to grow up.” -Katie SeSellier, high school student

“Happiness means being satisfied with the universe. It’s not a spur of the moment thing. It’s a calm, mellow contentment with the state that things are in.” -Patty Lan BR ‘15 “All in all, happiness, to so many, is that perfect moment filled only with something we love. When thought about briefly, it is just one big, fat, cliché...” -Catherine McDonough, high school student


“Happiness is a serendipitous wrinkle in the fabric of Being.” -Chase Ebert MC ‘13

“Happiness is feeling at peace with who, what, and where you are, and not feeling the need to wonder why.” -Hilary O’Connell TD ‘14 “This is my happiness: feeling a snowflake brush my lips and thinking it’s a kiss from the sky; eating left over chocolate cake for breakfast the day after my birthday; watching the Christmas tree light up in the dark.” -Iva Popa SY ‘14 “Happiness is no more than a social view among on-lookers to perceive whether or not someone has done something with their life in a matter of obtaining a respectable duty... The idea of pursuing happiness is a social aspect.” - Boguslaw Janiszewski, high school student “Happiness is music! And vice versa.” -Sudie James Simmons, JE ‘13

“Happiness is in everything that is around us; it’s engraved into our memories and experiences.” -Abigail VanSickle, high school student

“This is my happiness: my family.” -Vicky Katko, high school student


Interview with Roko Belic: Film Director of Happy Sunnie, Christian, Vela, and Brittany, four HappyHap Project team members, went to see the documentary Happy at the Mountainfilm On Tour Festival at the Lincoln Center in New York City on October 22nd. After the screening, they had the opportunity to interview the film’s director, Roko Belic, about his inspiring feature documentary that deals with many of the fundamental issues regarding the art and science behind happiness in today’s society. Sunnie: What motivated you to make the documentary Happy? Roko: Happy was inspired by a phone call that I got from my good friend Tom Shadyac who suggested we should make it. Tom is a renowned Hollywood filmmaker who directed The Nutty Professor, Liar Liar, Bruce Almighty, and I Am. He had seen an article in the New York Times that morning which ranked countries by the happiness of their citizens. What Tom learned from this article is that despite the fact that America is one of the richest countries in the world, it’s nowhere near the happiest. He had some insight into that paradox because he had made a lot of money and was surrounded by people who had even more money, but many of them weren’t happy. He was living the Beverly Hills lifestyle: a mansion on seven acres with thirty people working for him. Many of his peers were living even more elaborate lifestyles, but many of them, he thought, were less happy than his gardener and his housekeeper who had genuine smiles every morning. People who had achieved the extreme version of the American dream weren’t made happy by it. So he had a sense of what didn’t make one happy, but he wanted to explore the true causes of happiness. When he called me he said, “I don’t know how to make documentaries, but you do.” He was so compelled to find answers that he offered to fund the majority of Happy out of his own pocket. It was a bold gesture that doesn’t happen very often in our culture. He said to me, “I’m going to empower you to find answers that are true. Whatever agenda I have is totally


irrelevant. Have one hundred percent integrity and make it happen.” Sunnie: After this initial phone call, how did you go about capturing a topic as broad and multi-facetted as “happiness”? Roko: Very early on, I discovered that there was a whole field of research within psychology that focussed on happiness, so one of the first things I did was order a bunch of books about positive psychology. From there, I decided to interview some of the authors and main researchers about whom I had read. But I didn’t just want to make a documentary about research. For a movie to be powerful and make an impact on the viewer, it has to be personal and emotional, too. And emotions are impacted by people and their stories, not by research and opinions. Any image, sound, or bit of dialogue is there to add to the emotional experience. I set out to find narratives that would illustrate the research findings, and since Americans are not the only ones who have developed ideas about how to be happy, I set out to collect personal stories from around the world.

“...put yourself in a position where you can pursue things that you suspect will bring you joy, even if they seem risky. Because the only way to definitely fail at your dreams is to not try in the first place.” On my journey, I was invited to join Professor Robert Biswas-Diener in the slums of Kolkata, India where he was conducting a study on happiness. One day he notified me about this guy who was apparently just as happy as the average American. Of course, I had to meet him and his story would later become the first narrative of the documentary. Another time, a friend of mine insisted that I had to meet this guy who

was writing a book on optimism. We met and had an amazing conversation. After lunch, he invited me to sit in on an interview he was doing for his book. For the next two hours, I heard Melissa Moody tell her story about being run over by a truck. Then sometimes it would be that I’d have a specific question on my end: for example, what made us happy before the digital age? To find an answer, I decided to go somewhere they don’t have all of this, which led me to the indigenous people in Namibia. Sunnie: What was the biggest challenge when making Happy? Roko: Editing four hundred hours of footage is a big challenge because you need to put it in an order so that it builds to a cinematographic experience. Sunnie: Happy - the movie, the movement. Can you say more about the movement? Roko: The Happy Movement is a movement comprised of people from all walks of life who recognize that we can all lead better, healthier, more fulfilled and more sustainable lives if we focus on what really matters to us. The Movement is carried by business people, artists, students, journalists, parents— basically everyone who wants to consciously improve their own happiness and the happiness of their family, community and world. Sunnie: What’s the role of young people in this movement? Roko: In general, young people are more open to new ideas than older people. For the Happy Movement, this means that young people should use their energy, their values, their vision, and their creativity to create the kind of world that they want to raise their children in one day. Sunnie: You mentioned previously the idea of focusing on what really matters. I think especially for young people it is sometimes hard to figure out what the most important things in life really are. Any words of advice after having worked on Happy since 2005? Roko: To make space for what really matters, you need to first question the pressure points that your

peers, your family, and society at large impose on you. By pressure points, I mean picking the job that gives you security, a solid level of comfort, status, and a big paycheck at the end of the month. Once you stop prioritizing things like that and shed the pressure, a whole new world of opportunity opens up— opportunities that let you listen for the truth of what makes you feel alive. It is key to put yourself in a position where you can pursue things that you suspect will bring you joy, even if they seem risky. Because the only way to definitely fail at your dreams is to not try in the first place.

“...the key ingredient for successful people is that they love doing what they do.”

When I started shooting my first real film, I was twenty-three and fresh out of college. It took me four years to complete, and then in 1999 Genghis Blues was nominated for an Academy Award. But during those first four years many people thought I was taking on too much risk, kept on asking me when it would be finished, and expected me to move on. Looking back, I know that once you have a hunch of what it is that you love doing, you should look for a way to do this activity for the rest of your life. Maybe you love sculpting, helping other people, or dog walking— it doesn’t even have to be something that seems important to you at first. But as Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Outliers clearly shows, the key ingredient for successful people is that they love doing what they do. From my own life story, the many travels I’ve taken, and the people I’ve met, I know that people who have a lifestyle that closely reflects their personal values are consistently the healthiest and happiest. Furthermore, research shows that happy people tend to be good people. People who care about each other, who are willing to help a stranger, who are creative, inspired, and feel a part of something bigger are less likely to go to war, less likely to pollute the environment. All the things I’m bummed out by are directly related to somebody’s happiness. Unhappy people make a miserable world. Happy people make a happy world. So nurturing your happiness and finding ways to pursue your passion is not only important for yourself. Your happiness is important for all of us. -Reported by Sunnie J. Tolle TD ‘12


Get Involved in the HappyHap Project! We are a Yale student organization driven by creativity, friendship, and inspiring projects. Founded in November 2008 we initially set out to create www., a web platform based on the idea that happiness is contagious; anyone can post a few lines, a photo, or a video of a happy moment and dedicate it to others. Since then, we’ve grown into a project lab for creative initiatives that push happiness forward on Yale’s campus. To date, we have made an interactive website, published a magazine, produced three amateur short movies, coordinated multiple speaker events and study breaks, curated two photography exhibits, held a charity fundraiser for SmileTrain, launched our our blog ( and participated in several research initiatives in the field of positive psychology and economics. As a young and dynamic student organization, our signature strengths are our minimal internal hierarchy (i.e. we’re a team of friends), instant access to project ownership, and an entrepreneurial attitude that permits learning by doing. In addition, we also pride ourselves on a strong culture of mentorship, both from upperclassmen team members as well as from our advisory board that is composed of several Yale faculty members. This academic year, our main initiative is “Inspire Yale,” a set of six projects united in their aim to contribute towards a more optimistic campus. These projects include: Outdoor photography exhibition on Cross Campus Master’s Tea with Professor June Gruber Collaboration with the MIT Media Lab Publishing our own magazine (this is it!) Expanding our blog TEDx New Haven: “The Art and Science of Happiness” In order to further raise money for SmileTrain, HappyHap will also be selling posters of our winning photos. Look for the upcoming Facebook event!


If you are interested in getting involved in any of these projects or joining the HappyHap team, send an email to

When Happiness Happens, Make Your World Smile.

Perspectives of Happiness  

This magazine is dedicated to portraying different "Perspectives of Happiness" from a range of disciplines spanning positive psychology, eco...

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