In the middle of reading week, I found myself feeling more sad and isolated than usual. Although I was relieved to get a break from lectures, I quickly felt bored and restless with less to do to fill my days. When I registered for the event, “What Makes you Happy? Looking at Ourselves Through an Interfaith Lens,” I was mainly looking forward for something to do. But the group’s activities raise my spirits more than I expected. The event was organized by a group of students from the Interfaith Leadership Cohort and they focused on interfaith happiness. This meant that, during our discussion, participants could draw on how their joy is inspired by their faith or traditions. The group was fairly small, yet many different faiths were represented. For example, Jewish, Hindu, Christian, and Wiccan participants were present. That being said, the main purpose of the meeting was to discuss happiness and what it means to each person, inclusive but not confined to religious affiliation.
The discussion began with ice breakers so the ten of us could get to know each other better. Afterwards, the group was put into breakout rooms so that we could get the chance to discuss in more detail our thoughts relating to happiness. We were prompted with the question “what makes you happy,” although the question launched most of the groups into a more philosophic discussion of what happiness means. For example, happiness can fluctuate and it’s unrealistic to believe that we can be happy all of the time. Maybe it’s more important to make peace with the fact that happiness will come and go, and appreciate the moments where you can find joy. My discussion group specifically talked about how enticing it is to reflect on childhood happiness, and how we become more jaded as we age. I know that as I’ve grown older, I tend to overcomplicate things or become fearful that I’m falling behind. The future feels particularly scary and uncertain right now. While we reminisced on childhood joy, I thought about how the happiness you experience as a child is pure, and we look at the world, at nature, at loved ones, through wonder and amazement. Life will always be hard at times, but I think it is possible to tap into that childhood excitement, where you can freely recognize that the world is beautiful, even in the most ordinary circumstances.
After breakout rooms, we began the “identity scavenger hunt”. As a group activity we were asked to get one object in our rooms or house that reflects you. Group members showed journals, their pets, books that held special meaning to them, or knick knacks that they felt represented aspects of their personalities or feelings. Like a few others, I chose my journal as the object that feels representative of me. My journal is filled with a lot of random thoughts, lists, doodles, little observations I make throughout the day, song lyrics, etc. So I couldn’t think of another object that reflects me more than the thoughts in my head scribbled down.
The next item we had to search for was something that made you happy or brought you joy today. Although some people found objects that brought them joy, others mentioned things that couldn’t necessarily be shown, like a project they were working on, or spending time with someone in their life. Because my friends specifically bring me a lot of joy, I mentioned that an app on my phone allows you to make private mini-podcasts with your friends. The app is called Cappuccino, and each day my friends and I prompt each other with a new question for our group. When I listen to them every morning, it brings me a lot of joy to hear their answers and get to know them even more.
The event was only an hour long, but it was enough time for me to get to listen to others’ perspectives on happiness, and how they find joy in an undoubtedly depressing time. I was able to walk away from the group with an attuned sense of appreciation for everyday occurrences. Life is dull currently, but I can choose to appreciate the little things—like my cat, my friends and family, a good TV show, my journal, etc. I won’t be happy all of the time, but that’s also okay. As long as I can appreciate happiness when it comes, and hopefully find it in pockets throughout the day.