As I was planning what classes to take for the semester this Summer, I knew that the transition from Zoom to in-person would not be smooth for me. I had become too comfortable being at home. The idea of moving back to New York from Texas and into a new apartment, far from campus and far from friends, was quite dreadful. With this in mind, I decided to take a course called The Science of Happiness—which quite literally has been teaching me about the science behind happiness.
I’ve always thought of myself as a happy person. I have a caring family, a wonderful partner, supportive friends, a great job, and I'm a student at NYU; what else could I possibly want, right? The reality is that life is hard regardless of what you may have, and during hard moments, it becomes easy to lose sight of that.
I wasn’t wrong when I guessed the move would be hard for me. My first week in New York I was already having mental breakdowns. Thinking of how much I missed home stirred negative emotions, which in result slowed down my productivity, intervened with my fitness journey and set me back in my studies. Thankfully, I have a great support system, and my friends were there to cheer me on. My partner and brother came up to visit too. Feeling the love of key people in my life helped put me back on track and reminded me of who I am and why I'm here. From this previous week to today, I have read chapters from different books on self-care and growth, published a portfolio page on this site, and caught up on my Microeconomics class (and yes, this means I understand the concepts—so exciting!).
For my Science of Happiness class, I am required to read the book published by my amazing professors, Dan Lerner and Alan Schlechter, U Thrive— I definitely recommend it! I have yet to finish the book, but it has impacted me so much that I had to begin writing a blog on it. My entire blog was created around the idea of success and is a combination of financial, academic, and social experiences that have allowed me to grow and become the best version of myself, and it is with privilege and honor that I share all I've learned with you.
Countless of studies have been made to determine the effect of happiness on success. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University found that positive emotions can lead to higher pay just 18 months after you review your diploma. At the University of Illinois, a study concluded that "happiness in college freshmen was a predictor of higher income nineteen years down the line” (Lerner and Schlechter, 35.) Isn’t that mind blowing? Additional studies also show that bosses rate their happy employees higher in quality, productivity, dependability, and creativity.
I know that being happy is easier said than done, especially if you feel like you don’t have it all together, you're encountering obstacles and challenges, or are simply having a difficult day. But it doesn’t hurt to try to have a positive outlook on the situation. If you failed a quiz, don’t be hard on yourself and let it affect the way you perceive yourself. Instead, learn from it, take note on what you didn’t understand, prepare, and believe that you will do better on the next one. A positive mind is powerful, and there is so much research that backs it up.
Did you know that positivity is powerful enough to boost your health? A study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University shows positive emotions can improve our immunity systems. Participants in the study were purposely infected and quarantined for 5 days, and the results were incredible! Those that assessed to have higher positive emotions "were only half as likely to get sick, and if they did, they experienced milder symptoms and recovered twice as quickly as their more negatively affected classmates” (Lerner and Schlechter, 21.)
I’d like to share a personal experience. If you follow me on social media, then you’re aware I am passionate about my fitness journey. I've been training since February of 2021, and I;m quite obsessed with the results, constantly working towards more. Like many others in the fitness industry, I reached a plateau, which refers to a decrease in noticeable results. I didn’t feel like I was progressing, and I couldn’t seem to lift past a specific weight anymore on my squats, deadlifts or bench press. In simple terms, I felt stuck.
One day, I was working out my leg muscles and attempting to lift 225 pounds. I kept pacing around, staring at the weights, and breathing hard. Someone at my gym noticed and walked up to me, telling me that I could easily lift that after seeing my previous set. I told them I didn’t think I could, and he said, with no hesitation, that my issue was my “weak mind.” I didn’t really understand the concept then, but now I’ve realized that it meant I had the physical strength required but not the mental capacity to believe in myself. It wasn’t a question of my physical strength but rather the state of my mind. I was setting myself up for failure by thinking and believing I was incapable. So what did I do next? I decided to take his comment to heart, believe in myself for a split second, and lifted those 225 pounds at my next gym session… six times! I hit a personal record for more repetitions than I thought possible at that time.
I will conclude with this; the key to success isn’t working hard for long hours until you mess up your sleep schedule, and become stressed and overwhelmed. The key to success is shifting your mentality to one of positivty and taking on the world with an attitude of happiness and gratitude.
I may not know you but for what it's worth, I believe in you. Now it’s your turn to believe in yourself too.