News, On Campus, Featured Story

‘The Happiness Project’ Arrives At BC This Week

UGBC and the Office of Health Promotion bring “The Happiness Project” to Boston College with the goal of promoting a “science” of happiness on campus.

Gretchen Rubin’s New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project has been published in 35 languages, sparking a global movement aspiring toward a science of happiness, which attaches empirical research to longstanding notions of the “happy” state of mind. This “Happiness Project,” initiated by Rubin’s work, will arrive on Boston College’s campus this week.

In collaboration with the Office of Health Promotion (OHP), the Undergraduate Government of Boston College (UGBC) will host The Happiness Project from Jan. 26 through the 30th, featuring a series of speakers, tasks, and activities during the week, with events designed with the idea of engaging the broader BC community.

“At BC, we often walk around feeling like we have to be perfect and happy every minute of every day, when the fact of the matter is that sometimes we’re just not—and that’s okay,” said Olivia Hussey, chair of campus climate within UGBC and A&S ’17. This question of “genuine happiness” inspired Xijun Zhu, A&S ’15, and Hussey to organize The BC Happiness Project: The Happiness Talks, a weeklong initiative to promote reflection on joy and happiness.

“Really, the point of the week is to spread happiness and ask, ‘What makes me happy and how can I make others happy too?’” Hussey said. Alongside her in terms of leadership are Megan Flynn, a member of the UGBC Be Conscious team and A&S ’17, and Lindsay Stone, part of the undergraduate student volunteer health coach team within the OHP and A&S ’17.

The initiative’s main event, “The Happiness Talks,” will be comprised of a series of speeches surrounding the concept of personal and extensive happiness. Beginning at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 27 in Cushing 001, five selected students and keynote speaker Rev. Michael Himes will discuss their respective interpretations of genuine happiness, obstacles to achieving it, and where it is that they find it in their own lives, according to Hussey. UGBC’s campus climate committee—a division that deals closely with mental health, AHANA, women and gender issues, and community building at the University—chose the speakers from members of the student body who submitted applications online, and those sharing with the University on Tuesday come “from diverse backgrounds, grades, and are involved in an array of various clubs and organizations,” Hussey said in an email.

Once Hussey and her team knew that the central event would involve “The Happiness Talks,” Himes immediately came to mind for the keynote address.

“When we were brainstorming a list of what the big event would be, we knew we wanted it to be genuine and engaging so that students could take part,” she said. “And after we decided upon the speeches, Father Himes was one of the first people we considered. He responded right away … I think it’s really at the core of what he values.”

In addition to the “Talks,” the week will include several other activities and ongoing events. There will be tabling in the Rat, McElroy, and Corcoran Commons, with opportunities to answer, “What makes you happy?” at the former, and stickers, merchandise, and tasks available in the latter two dining halls.

Completion of the projects—and a post to the BC Happiness Project Facebook page to prove it—will allow students to be entered into a raffle for BC Bookstore gift cards. Similar to the “Before I Die” art projects in many major cities, near O’Neill a wall with the question, “What makes you happy?” will stand so that students can offer their own personal contemplations on happiness through writing.

“The goal is to have it be a kind of visual expression of positive energy on campus,” Hussey said. Further, the Project’s organizational team will offer personalized “coffee sleeves” with the inscription “What makes you happy? #HappinessProject.” These cozies, too, are meant to serve as reminders of what truly matters in life, and how to lead a better one.

“By starting the conversation about what genuine happiness is, we are striving to break down that perception of perfection [at the University] and get back to authenticity, one small act at a time,” Hussey said. “Although the Happiness Project is only a week long, I truly hope the message behind it resonates much longer and carries into all of our own day-to-day lives.”

Featured Image by Arthur Bailin / Heights Editor

Correction: An earlier version of this article identified Rev. Michael Himes as a Jesuit. He is not.

Correction: Additional information given by Olivia Hussey has been added to the earlier version of this article regarding Xijun Zhu’s involvement in the BC Happiness Project. 

January 26, 2015