New campus group studies happiness at PAC
This spring, a new student group focused on the importance of happiness started meeting at Palo Alto College. Participants in the Art of Happiness group are learning activities and practical habits they can develop to build optimism and move toward a happier life.
“We all are born with a certain amount of genetics that will dictate our level of wellbeing, our level of happiness. 50 percent is inherited, another 10 percent is based on your circumstances, but studies have shown that a full 40 percent of your happiness level is changeable. By taking certain actions, you can move toward it,” said Palo Alto College’s personal counselor Rhonda O’Cana.
National studies have shown that depression rates today are 10 times higher than they were in the 1960s, despite the average American’s income rate being higher. Furthermore, 50 percent of college students report having been depressed to the point of having difficulty functioning at some point during college. O’Cana said that the symptoms of depression can impact focus, memory, attendance, course completion, and overall success in both school and life. However, a shift to positive thinking has proven to increase individuals’ success and overall quality of life.
“Optimism is a bigger indicator of success than IQ. If you have an optimistic attitude, then you’re going to be much more likely to do well and succeed in the things you want to do,” said O’Cana.
O’Cana and art professor Alba De Leon collaborated to launch the Art of Happiness group as an unconventional approach to teach students about habits that could lead to an increase in their happiness levels — and ultimately allow them to be more successful. Activities done in the group will apply the truths learned through studies of Positive Psychology (or the study of wellbeing) and various methods of creative expression.
“The ability for participants to express themselves through art allows them to understand who they are, and the possibility of being creative. Feeling that creativity is a source of happiness,” said De Leon.
In addition to art-based activities, the group will also learn about meditation and mindfulness—the act of living in the moment. The group has something for everyone, including individuals who don’t believe they have artistic talent.
“Someone who is maybe more logically-oriented or more task-oriented, they may need that time to balance out and go to the other side of the spectrum a little bit—even more so than the self-proclaimed artist in the group. We all have something creative within each of us,” said O’Cana.
Ultimately, the group seeks to set students up for a successful, happy life here at the College and beyond.
“When I am happy, I’m more productive, I’m more engaging, and I’m able to think outside of the box,” said De Leon. “The world seems more full of possibility when you’re looking at it from a standpoint of being happy.”
The Art of Happiness group meets Tuesdays from 2:30-4 p.m. in Pedernales 104. For more information, click here.