“Completed” Science of Well-being Course

Wow! Has it been a month since I last posted? That’s what happens when you are in the “flow”, I guess!

In that month, I have “completed” the Science of Well-being course I had been blogging about in the previous while. “Completed” is in brackets because I have done all the course work except the 4 weeks long final assignment to practice at least one of the various “rewirements” in the course so that it becomes a habit, then write about it, and give feedback on a fellow student’s assignment as one will give feedback on mine. The four weeks are almost through, and here is the gist of my report.

The final assignment

I decided to take on the multiple “rewirements” of:

  1. Living out my Signature Strengths;
  2. Getting more sleep;
  3. Making more conversations with strangers, with my own twist of doing more active listening where I can rather than talking equally, to practice that skill;
  4. Daily “gratitude” from my existing routine to ask myself the best moment of the day before I go to sleep (along with what I could have improved), alongside other regular gratitude; and
  5. Re-experience, which is like living through some “tougher times” again to appreciate something one might have taken for granted now, that is like gratitude in a lot of ways.
  6. Less social media time.

I took on all these rewirements rather than just one or two, as advised to help them “stick” since habits are hard to form, because there were things I could do in life that would ensure I would have to do those things, and some had already started to stick as habits so I’m more maintaining than trying to create new habits.

For my Signature Strengths of Creativity and Curiosity (love of learning), I signed up for two additional online courses that, if I were to follow through properly, I would be learning a lot, as well as be creative. One course is a more serious, free, 10-week course on the Science of Happiness offered by the UC Berkeley on their edX platform that is much more in-depth than this one, though I would recommend this one for the casual person. The other course is IDEO’s Human Centered Design that requires a lot of creative thinking, and is also free. I jumped into them with zest that was also a Signature Strength, and have used the other ones regularly. You might recall a post where I did a fundamental shift in life to live it more exploiting my Signature Strengths rather than covering for my “weaknesses”. It’s working out very well!

For sleep, I have my “bedtime alarm” as a nightly reminder Sun-Thu nights before when I have to get up earlier than I would like for work. The other two days, I make sure I am in bed more than 7.5 hours, and sleeping where I can. That’s up from 7 hours or less per night before this course. I don’t follow it super strictly every night when it goes off at 11:15, but I’m in bed by midnight, which is a lot more than I could say before I put it into use!

With regards to talking to strangers, I do it maybe once a day, but on average. Maybe two one day, and none the next, pending circumstance. I’m a reluctant extrovert who generally only becomes one when needed, rather than just being one all or most of the time.

The daily gratitude routine is pretty self-explanatory above and was a habit for me already.

The “re-experience” one was my idea, though not a new idea. Every now and then, I put myself through how life used to be in some aspect for a month, to make sure I appreciate it and what I have today more than just by “imagining” or “remembering” it. It’s not the same to roughly recall or imagine details as taking myself through it! I can’t replicate life at any point in the past entirely without a lot of work to mess up my current life, but some aspects I could, like penny-pinching on my food and drink budget to appreciate what it’s like for the less fortunate to live on less and not be able to afford to eat out, or join friends at such social events. I went through March on $84 for all food and drink, making practically all my meals and missing out on a big city social event called Burger Week. Such real life self-constraints brought home the point far better than just imagining what it might be like!

In April, I added what I called the “Tinder trials” to see the bias women in Nova Scotia in my dating demographics had against Asian men. Create two basically identical text profiles, one Asian (me) and one Caucasian (no person’s picture) and see the interest difference. It’s the most soul crushing experience I know for myself outside of something like a death of a loved one, to be so desirable if i were only Caucasian despite a lack of a picture, rather than being Asian as shown. However, I am happy to say I not only came through both trials just fine despite them being “shocks to the system” in my life that should have dented my happiness, I finished the course at the end of April (before the 4 week assignment) with a higher happiness score than when I started! I was ahead of about 76% of a Happiness Index takers when I started and ended up ahead of 87%!

I am currently going through a non-materialistic month where I’m not spending any money except necessary. It’s May 12th as I write this and I haven’t spent a cent outside of rent. It all kept me in the “flow” that I will post some time in the near future, a general way to attain happiness that was briefly mentioned in the course, but was a life changer for me.

Finally, less social media time has seen me not only post and read a lot less on Facebook, but also blogging like here. That habit should be easy to continue.

Final thoughts

The “rewirements” in this course are crucial to one’s happiness because it’s what will keep you happy. You cannot pursue happiness like constantly looking for the next high, or trying to get happier all the time. That will ultimately lead to insanity, or neurosis as has been proven, something I had believed but confirmed through that more detailed UC Berkely Science of Happiness course. You have to work at happiness, but work is different from pursuit. Work is something you just do. There is not much to pursue as things to carry out.

As for greater happiness, the goal is not constantly increasing happiness. Definitely not constantly increasing in momentary, or even daily, happiness, and not general happiness, either. The goal, which I did not think was very well stated, is a higher average level of happiness than if you didn’t work at it by having some of these “rewirements” as habits in your life. That’s different from constantly higher average level of happiness. You might well go down some months or years, and quite possibly as you age (pending your circumstance in later life years like for health). However, you will still be happier, on average, than if you did not have these “rewirements” in your life, and that’s about all you can ask for in what you can do about your happiness.

I thought the course was excellent overall. The shorter format that isn’t as comprehensive as the UC Berkeley one has its value for those not wanting to, or might be intimidated by, a 10 week with more homework sort of course. This course also has its values for those not caring all that much for all the reasoning behind why some things work, but just wanting a general “hands-on” course with a little bit of the most important theory to go with it… enough to keep your mind at peace to believe you know what you are doing is the right and good thing for you to do. I am really glad, and happy, I took the course and would highly recommend it to others. As for the final few weeks that I didn’t blog about, well, I encourage you to take the course via the link below to see for yourself. 🙂

Now, on to the Science of Happiness course from UC Berkeley and Human Centered Design! And blog posts to come! Thank you for reading. 🙂

To see more posts related to the Science of Well-being course, please click here.

And click here if you want to register for the Science of Well-being course, by Professor Laurie Santos, free on Coursera!

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