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- 1 Wiki Pages for Alfino's Happiness Course
- 2 Mindfulness Meditation Exercise
- 3 Savoring
- 4 Gratitude
Wiki Pages for Alfino's Happiness Course
This page has a variety of information related to the Happiness Class, taught by Dr. Mark Alfino at Gonzaga University. It is intended to supplement the course website.
- The most recent version of the course: The course website is available online.
- Study Questions for Happiness
- The Movie List for Happiness
Mindfulness Meditation Exercise
- This section gathers links, articles, and ideas on the mindfulness meditation.
- If you are thinking about doing the mindfulness exercises (either just meditation or also the savoring and gratitude exercises) for the Happiness Class, this is the place to start. First, listen to the [NPR story] on mindfulness meditation. As that story suggests, many people exploring this topic are looking for evidence of the difference that meditation makes in a person's sense of well-being. The best way to assess this is by experimenting with techniques for increasing mindfulness in general and developing attentiveness in areas such as sensual pleasure and gratitude. Then you can make your own assessment of that value of these techniques in raising subjective well being or happiness.
First Mindfulness Exercise: A Sitting Meditation Focused on Breathing
- Find a quiet room (a church or chapel works) as a setting for your meditation. Pick a time of day when you are not too tired or hungry and when you do not have to rush to an appointment immediately after meditating. If you are very tired when you meditate, you might fall asleep! If you have to go to class or some other appointment immediately after meditating, you might be distracted and not relax during your mediation.
- Sit upright in a comfortable position, either on a chair or the floor. If you are sitting on the floor, you may want to support your back against a wall. Initially, you should settle your body into a sitting posture, making yourself comfortable. Feel the weight of your body and notice the places where there is either body to body pressure or body to floor pressure. Adjust your posture to distribute your weight.
- Close your eyes and pay attention to your breathing. Take normal breaths. You might want to selectively contract and relax muscles in different parts of your body, working up from your feet. Take your time with each muscle group. Slowly tense the muscles and relax them, perhaps in tune with your breathing (e.g. one to two breaths to tighten, likewise to relax). Avoid retightening the muscle group as you move on. Continue to return your focus to breathing when it wanders. In succession, tighten and relax the muscles in your feet, your lower legs, your thighs, your buttocks and abdomen, your chest, arms, neck, face and head. Stretch your neck all around your collar bone to relax it. This should all take several minutes. Don't rush. As you become quietly aware of your body, return your attention to your breathing. For a variation on this pre-meditation exercise, consider trying just the pre-meditation excercises (not the corpse pose) in Media:YogaMeditation0001.pdf Preparing for Meditation.
- As you start your meditation, many thoughts will occur to you to distract you from your attention to your breathing. Within a minute or so you will probably find yourself thinking about something that you need to do or something that is coming up in your life. You'll remember that you have to get groceries, finish a paper, call someone, etc. Acknowledge that you are thinking about these things and then make a conscious choice to turn your attention back to your breathing and your body. Be prepared for your mind to periodically take you away from your breathing and back to your affairs, worries, hopes, and chores. If something keeps intruding (like an appointment that you keep remembering that you need to make or a task that you suddenly remember, you might need to remember to update your to-do list next time before you start meditating. You can, of course, open your eyes and jot the item down. But remember, the goal is to quiet the mind. In any case, it is more likely that you will remember all of these details better after a good meditation, so you might just chance it.
- The goal of focusing on breathing is to quiet the mind. The mind is sometimes referred to in meditation circles (and, originally, in Buddhist writing) as a "chattering monkey," distracting you from our own experience and elevating your anxiety with a steady stream of thoughts about various things you need to do in your life. Becoming more mindful involves becoming self-aware of the contents of your mind that distract you from engagement in the present. Mindfulness meditaion is not about ignoring the future by any means, but its advocates claim that you will benefit from approaching the future with a calm and orderly mind.
- I recommend that you make meditations daily for this assignment, if you can, but at least try to meditate 3-4 times a week. If you can go right up to 20-30 minutes great, but if you need to work your way from 5-10 minutes up to a longer meditation, that's fine too. The point is to get a lot from your meditation so that you actually look forward to spending more time in a meditative state. For this assignment you should commit to about 3 weeks of meditation, longer if you like it.
Variations in Meditation
- You can explore variations of many kinds in your meditations. Maybe the simplest variation is to do some stretching or Yoga poses before you meditate. The more your can settle your body, the more you can settle your mind.
- You do not always have to be focused on the body and the breath. There are sound meditations, concentration meditations (in which you keep your eyes open and engaged in a relaxed focus on an object), meditations to build particular kinds of affect like compassion, gratitude, kindness, etc. There are audio meditations you can use from the UCLA site for varying the focus of your meditation. (Thanks to Diana Winston at UCLA for making these available.) Like yoga poses, as you learn a new focus for a meditation, you can repeat that focus at your own choice in your own experience. I encourage you to try a compassion building meditation at some point, but there's no rush.
- While the initial exercise above is a sitting meditation, you may also want to try a lying down meditation: Media:YogaMeditation0001.pdf Savasana. (Thanks to Lisa L. (Happiness Class 2007) for this.
- Explore a variety of resources about mindfulness as you are having the experiential learning of actually meditating. These resources are good for students who want to do formal writing about these exercises.
Exploring Buddhist exercises and thought
- Google "pratical vipassana exercises" to get the 60 page pdf, "Practical Vipassana Exercises," Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw. This text form the Buddha Dharma Education Association might require some discusssion, but it's really very clear.
- Check out this wiki article: [Theraveda Philosophy]
Mindfulness research centers
- U. Mass Medical Center has a famous mindfulness meditation research program:[">http://www.umassmed.edu/CFM/Vision/index.asp Click Here!]
- UCLA's Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior: http://www.marc.ucla.edu
- Here's are some [selected articles] from a recent search of PscyInfo and Newspaper Index on "mindfulness". Try your own and email me the results.
Informal Introduction to "Savoring"
- Savoring refers to our capacity to attend to joys and pleasures of experience. The assumption behind savoring research is that enjoyment is not a simple and unanalyzable concept or experience, but an experience that involves complex psychological dynamics. Savoring researchers generally believe that by paying more attention to, or being more mindful of, pleasurable experiences we can heighten our enjoyment of them.
- While there are various typologies of savoring, we could begin by distinguishing three types of experiences that can be savored: 1) sensory pleasures from sensual experience; 2) aesthetic pleasure from our reactions to natural experiences or artifacts (e.g. sunsets or art); and 3) pleasures of accomplishment (Bryant, p. 5).
- One pervasive theme in the savoring research is that we can heighten our enjoyment of pleasurable experiences by being more mindful of them. Mindfulness seems to require some freedom from social and esteem needs (Bryant, p. 14).
- Generally, savoring researchers consider some level of reflective awareness essential for savoring. Researchers argue, for example, that some pleasurable experiences that cannot be enjoyed reflectively (such as orgasms or experiences of flow) cannot be savored in the moment of experience. Such pleasures, in which reflection is not a simultaneous component, can still be savored in anticipation and in retrospect.
- One research strategy pioneered by Bryant and others involves acknowledging subjective and cultural variables in savoring. We can, however, ask about an individuals "savoring beliefs" as a means of assessing the extent to which an individual can is poised, vis a via their culture, to exploit the potential for enjoyment in their experience. Bryant and others have developed and tested a "Savoring Belief Index" to measure savoring potential. One hypothesis to reflect on as you move forward with this exercise: Can an exercise of mindful savoring raise your SBI? Would that correlate with elevated subjective well-being?
Abstract of Savoring: A New model of Positive Experience
- Title: Savoring: A new model of positive experience.
- Author(s): Bryant, Fred B., Loyola University, Chicago, IL, US, Veroff, Joseph, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, Mahwah, NJ, US, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, 2007. xv, 278 pp.
- Abstract: This book is about savoring life--the capacity to attend to the joys, pleasures, and other positive feelings that we experience in our lives. The authors enhance our understanding of what savoring is and the conditions under which it occurs. Sarvoring provides a new theoretical model for conceptualizing and understanding the psychology of enjoyment and the processes through which people manage positive emotions. The authors review their quantitative research on savoring, as well as the research of others, and provide measurement instruments with scoring instructions for assessing and studying savoring. Authors Bryant and Veroff outline the necessary preconditions that must exist for savoring to occur and distinguish savoring from related concepts such as coping, pleasure, positive affect, emotional intelligence, flow, and meditation. The book's lifespan perspective includes a conceptual analysis of the role of time in savoring. Savoring is also considered in relation to human concerns, such as love, friendship, physical and mental health, creativity, and spirituality. Strategies and hands-on exercises that people can use to enhance savoring in their lives are provided, along with a review of factors that enhance savoring. Savoring is intended for researchers, students, and practitioners interested in positive psychology from the fields of social, clinical, health, and personality psychology and related disciplines. The book may serve as a supplemental text in courses on positive psychology, emotion and motivation, and other related topics. The chapters on enhancing savoring will be especially attractive to clinicians and counselors interested in intervention strategies for positive psychological adjustment. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)
- Read Chapter 8 of Bryant, Savoring, and choose one of the exercises in that chapter for your savoring experience. You may want to modify or combine the exercises suggested in that chapter in order to explore your own hypotheses about savoring. Carry out your savoring exercise and write about it in a series of journals. For example, once you decide upon a specific savoring experience from the chapter (or of your own invention) you might write an entry on what you think is going to happen. It may or may not be possible to write an entry during the experience, but you can certainly reflect on the experience in another journal entry or two. Try, if you can, to formulate and evaluate a hypothesis based on your experience.
- Alternative Assignment: If you want to delve more deeply into Bryant's theoretical framework for savoring consider reading "Chapter 3: Toward a Model of Savoring" or "Chapter 7: Savoring and Human Concerns," which explores the relationships between savoring and a variety of basic human concerns such as love, health, and spirituality. You could consult the appendices of Bryant's book for the Savoring Belief Index, which gives a short instrument for measuring various aspects of savoring in Bryant's theoretical model.
Reading on the Psychology of Gratitude
- My primary source for reading about the Psychology of Gratitude is Emmons and McCullough, The Psychology of Gratitude, Oxford University Press, 2004. Emmons and McCullough are widely known among gratitude researchers for their pioneering work on the relationship between so-called "gratitude journaling" and elevation in subjective well-being. In this one volume work, Emmons and McCullough have brought together essays from researchers on a variety of topics related to gratitude, such as gratitude in the history of ideas, in anthropology and biology, and in positive psychology. A particularly useful chapter is Chapter 9: Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being, by Philip C. Watkins.
The Gratitude Exercise
- The gratitude exercise is based on the original research by Emmons and McCullough in 2003. See p. 174 of Emmons and McCullough, The Psychology of Gratitude, for a summary of the basic prompt for this journal based research. A basic gratitude exercise could consist of replicating their research by journaling. You could carry out the journaling exercise and then write a reflection paper about your experience. You could turn in a sample of some of your journal entries along with your reflection paper.