H = ? + ?

Can you fill in the blanks to your happiness equation?

Can you list the 3 things that you like most about yourself?

Can you list the 3 things that you like least about yourself?

Can you list the 10 qualities that make you your best self?

These are questions a group of 100 3rd year VJIET students thought about today. Jayashree Sanghani, one of the psychologists who co-founded the NGO Reach Beyond, led an afternoon discussion on “Managing Stress: Feeling Good, Doing Well.” Reach Beyond is a Centre of Positive Psychology founded on the vision that, “there is a scope for lasting and authentic happiness and well being of individuals.”

Jayashree Sanghani introducing PTSD

Although we are tremendously grateful for Reach Beyond’s willingness to conduct a session with students, the driving force behind this session was a 3rd year VJIET student. He was one of the students who survived the terrible Beas River tragedy last year and lost several of his classmates as well as his best friend. He felt the best way he could make meaning out of this tragedy was to raise awareness – both about safety precautions everyone should follow in certain terrains and about the emotional impact of such an event on family, friends, survivors, etc. He held an event at VJIET’s cultural fest Convergence about safety precautions and had a guest lecture from the National Disaster Response Force on emergency/disaster preparedness. He asked Mana Maali initiative if we could host a followup session on emotional preparedness and awareness.

In collaboration with Reach Beyond, we held a 2-hour session on “Managing Stress: Feeling Good, Doing Well.” We started with a discussion on Post-Traumatic Stress and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder that a person may develop after experiencing or witnessing an extreme, overwhelming traumatic event during which they felt intense fear, helplessness, or horror. Core symptoms of PTSD include intrusive, repetitive, unwanted flashbacks of the event, avoidance of memories of the event, and hyperarousal (flight-or-flight reaction that occurs in response to a perceived threat), for more than a month after the occurrence of the traumatic event. Many associate PTSD with soldiers returning from war and overlook the fact that it can occur among those who both experience and witness tragedies, ranging from war to sexual violence to natural disasters. “Survivor’s guilt” is common among those who survive a traumatic event and is a common symptom for PTSD.

Many of the 3rd years in this group were directly involved in the event, like the student who initiated this event. Others were aware of the event but had never discussed PTSD and its causes and risk factors and treatments. We hope that bringing awareness to the term not only educates students but empowers them to continue learning, ask questions, and empathize with others who might be going through it. After discussing some facts and myths about PTSD, we turned to coping. We first discussed how to help a friend who might have PTSD.

  • Offer emotional support by talking and listening, understanding…with patience and encouragement.
  • Listen to feelings your friend expresses and be understanding of situations that may trigger PTSD symptoms.
  • Invite your friend out for positive distractions such as walks, outings, and other activities.
  • Remind your friend that, with time and treatment, he or she can get better.
  • Never ignore comments about your friend harming him or herself, and report such comments to someone who can take action (e.g., doctor, teacher, family, etc.)

Then we discussed how to help oneself:

Jayashree Sanghani detailed coping strategies

Following, we transitioned into a discussion on Positive Psychology and techniques one can use to “feel good, do well.”

Jayashree introduced the concept of positive psychology. Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.

She began with an exercise to get students thinking about their character strengths. If you are interested, you can take the Positive Psychology Brief Strengths Test here: https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/

Then she asked students to write down all the components of their happiness. Is it money? (Many said “not now” – ahh, to be a student with a supportive family!) Is it excelling in school? (Many started with answers related to completing assignments on time and well.) Does happiness come from others? (Many said the happiness from completing work is heightened by appreciation from others for the work done. Some said “helping others.”) Does happiness come from within? (One student said “satisfaction with one’s mind” – perhaps we should have her lead the class next time.)

She then had students make a list of the 10 qualities that make them their best self. We did it as a group at first to get students thinking and then each student silently made their personal list. Jayashree finished with a guided visualization on what life would be like if led by your best self.

Jayashree Sanghani speaking to students about positive psychology

Based on feedback from students and administration, we hope to do these types of sessions 1x/month to sustain the conversation about student wellness.

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