Spreading Smiles at UD and BHLP aid students with stress management
Published: Monday, September 30, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 30, 2013 21:09
Junior Jess Colton, co-founder of Spreading Smiles at UD, stresses over paying bills on time, doing well in school, what her senior-year internship will be and balancing different aspects of life.
“What’s important for people is to relax and take time out for themselves,” Colton says. “It’s not healthy not to.”
The Huffington Post ran an article titled “The Habits Of Supremely Happy People” by Kate Bratskeir on Sept. 16 that cited “certain inclinations” anyone can add into their everyday life in order to be happier.
These “inclinations,” or happy-people habits include surrounding oneself with other happy people, smiling when one means it, cultivating resilience and appreciating simple pleasures. Other habits also include devoting some of one’s time to giving, letting oneself lose track of time, spending money on other people, making a point to listen and have deep conversations and making exercise a priority. Going outside, “unplugging,” sleeping well, meditating or getting spiritual, laughing out loud and walking confidently are also mentioned by Bratskeir.
One program that is dedicated to reducing student stress is the Blue Hen Leadership Program, Susan Luchey, associate director of Student Centers for Student Leadership Development, says. Luchey says the program hopes to alleviate stress as well as develop the self through being a leader and role model.
“If you’re armed with tools to get you through certain situations, it’s going to reduce your stress,” Luchey says.
In one of Luchey’s workshops, “Identifying your Personal Mission,” students were encouraged to set goals, identify their personal values and make decisions as an operational framework.
“This is your key to your happiness,” Luchey says. “Because if you are making decisions and basing your actions on your core set of values, then ideally you’re not going to find yourself stressed or in conflict with your intentions and actions.”
Luchey says BHLP begins with defining leadership as starting on a small scale. The program created what are called “lollipop moments,” which challenges all of its students to engage in acts of kindness toward others.
This idea is outlined in Bratskeir’s happy-people habit of doing good things for others. Bratskeir says givers experience what researchers call “the helper’s high,” a dopamine-mediated euphoria.
This is achieved by members in a BHLP project called Spreading Smiles at UD, Colton says. She says she wanted to create something that would better the campus.
Spreading Smiles is a way for students to retain a positive outlook on their day. Colton says she and other members send emails to members containing inspirational quotes, funny pictures or anything else intended to make students smile. Similarly, the Facebook group posts articles, pictures or anything that brightens their day, Colton says.
By spreading smiles, the group is alleviating some stress.
“There’s pressure to do really well and do everything,” Colton says. “Laughter is the medicine if you’re not feeling well.”
Bratskeir’s article says laughter releases chemicals that make humans better equipped to tolerate stress.
Colton says she tolerates her stress through laughing by watching comedy television shows or movies. Communication with her loved ones also keeps her motivated throughout the day because their positive reinforcement makes her happy, she says.
In doing this, Colton both engages in Bradskeir’s happy-person habit of having deep conversations and holding in-person connections, which Bratskeir says encourage expression of feelings and decrease feelings of anxiety.
Colton also says she takes time out for herself to relax and not do school work. In doing this, she is able to “unplug.” This is one of Brakskeir’s happy-people habits of “getting spiritual,” which involves taking time out of the typical day to rest and escape from daily demands and reduce stress.
Another way to reduce stress is by building confidence, Luchey says. Bratskeir outlines this when she says happy people have a certain “spring” in their step. In an experiment conducted by psychologist Sara Snodgrass, Bratskeir says, walkers felt happier when they walked with their heads held high and with long strides as opposed to those who looked at their feet and shuffled steps.
The final step in what BHLP calls the Leadership Challenge is called “encourage the heart,” which is about taking the time to celebrate one’s accomplishments. It is very important to take the time to recognize personal achievements, Luchey says.
Jack Baroudi, associate dean and professor in the graduate and executive programs in Lerner Hall, says stress can, at times, become extremely overwhelming and have a negative effect on learning.
Additionally, Baroudi says, what psychologists have termed “positive psychology” attempts to help individuals flourish by looking at human potential or understanding an individual’s strengths and using that as leverage.