Happiness Club begins to spread positive psychology

February 17, 2016 by Rachel Scharf, Features Editor

The Happiness Club is a relatively new organization making a positive splash on campus. Although “happiness” can often seem like an abstract or daunting term, this club is working to make its conception of happiness accessible and find simple ways of promoting it across campus. Through its various initiatives, the Happiness Club is trying to change the way that students at the College approach their happiness and that of others.

The Happiness Club was founded in the spring of 2015 and, after getting recognized by College Council, had its first official semester as a club this past fall. This semester, it is working to grow the club and begin new initiatives.

The Happiness Club approaches happiness through the idea of positive psychology. “Normal psychology looks at people who have below-average happiness and says, ‘How do we bring them up to the average?’” club member Franky Barradale ’19 said. “Positive psychology looks at the happiest people and says, ‘What can we do to be more like them?’ Positive psychology is less about trying to cure certain people and more focused on increasing the happiness of everyone.”

Club members work to promote positive psychology on campus through three different channels. The first method is employed within its own club meetings. “We do these exercises called ‘Positive Interventions’ and get people acclimated to these concepts of positive psychology through these activities,” Alex Huang ’17, the club’s chair, said.

Performing random acts of kindness on campus make up the club’s second initiative. These activities work to uplift non-club members and make the campus atmosphere generally more positive.

The club’s third channel of positivity focuses on large-scale campus events where people can both have fun and learn about the club’s happiness mission. “[We want to] have these big events that happen on campus and get people excited about positive psychology in a way that doesn’t feel like they are being taught,” Huang said.

He added that the club’s aim is for people to have fun but also “learn through experience how they can make themselves happier.”

The club’s main large-scale initiative right now is called the Gifting Program, beginning this semester. “[This program] is a semester-long project in which people can donate to a pool and then we disseminate that pool over the semester in fun ways,” Huang said.

Club members are excited about this program and hope that it will engage students across campus and benefit the mission of spreading positive psychology at the College. Registration for the program will begin soon and the club will make a link for getting involved available through multiple channels.

Each member of the group has a unique story of finding his or her way to the Happiness Club. Mike Rodriguez ’17 thought the club would be a great addition to the College. “I got involved with the club because [Huang] approached me last year with this really cool idea about promoting general happiness on campus, and I thought that was a great idea because Williams can get to be a little overwhelming sometimes and it is nice to have some really nice things going on in the background,” Rodriguez said.

Barradale joined the club because of her own personal experience with happiness. “I guess I decided to join the Happiness Club because I did not have a very positive high school experience. I would not have considered myself to have been happy during that time and where I was, and, from that, it took me a while to learn about myself [and find out] who I am and how to make myself happier,” she said. “I saw this club as an opportunity for me to find ways to continue getting happier and also help other people be happy.”

Barradale added that part of her decision to join the club came from a belief that college is a key time to promote happiness and learn how to be truly happy. “I do not like the idea of somebody going somewhere for four years to help them with their future but being miserable at the same time. This is a place where we’re learning and growing, and we want to get happier, too, theoretically,” she said.

Although the Happiness Club has many initiatives in the works, it is still very much in development. “[Right now] is a very experimental, nebulous phase in the organization because it’s just started,” Huang said. “Really, what the club does is based on what we say it does, at this point … I think the fun part, in a way, is figuring out what we want to do and how to do it.”

The Happiness Club meets biweekly on Wednesdays at 6 p.m. in Paresky 112 and its meetings are completely open to anyone interested in working on his or her own happiness or in spreading positive psychology throughout the College. New members are encouraged.

Club members also encourage students to like its Facebook page, Williams College Happiness Club, and email either Barradale or Huang to join the club’s listserv.

As the Happiness Club grows and begins to roll out its initiatives, the community will look to see how the idea of positive psychology can foster lasting change at the College. Overall, everyone can benefit from a little happiness and the Happiness Club’s efforts to make this goal achievable are nothing short of admirable.

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