Minneapolis resident Jen Fischer is typical of the kind of person drawn to Tom Glaser's Your Happiness Project class. Like most Americans, she was not depressed, not even unhappy. But she knew something was missing. “Your class came at just the right time. I can certainly say I am happier.”
Fischer was one of the first participants in a new course Glaser, a Minneapolis psychologist, offers through Edina Community Education. By making a few, simple adjustments, Fischer says she feels noticeably happier. “Since class ended, I have, on most days, made a few minutes for the things that make me happy: cooking, getting outside, reading, connecting with a friend, listening to music and singing along, etc. It's amazing what a difference those few minutes make in overall quality of life.”
The class meets four times, and culminates with students devising their own unique plan for what they can do to attain more life satisfaction. It covers happiness research and includes experiential activities such as gentle stretching and meditations. But much of what motivates students is sharing stories of what works.
A few months after the first class, Glaser checked in to see how students were progressing. “It brings me great joy to hear about your progress!” he told students in a recent email. In fact, teaching the class is part of his own happiness project. “I was inspired by Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project,” he says enthusiastically. “Here we live in the wealthiest society ever, yet overall, Americans are no happier—and are often less so—than others. Most of us can make a huge difference by implementing a few simple changes, such as giving one compliment a day to our partner, for example.” Even consistently offering small kindnesses to strangers, he says, “can help make people noticeably happier.”
“Being more physically active, laughing on purpose, following through with spending social time with people I admire, honoring my craft (I'm making things out of recycled plastic), reading uplifting material” are what helped Cyndie DeRidder, another participant. “The class was a great opportunity to launch into the New Year with resources and support.”
True, Fischer ultimately also gave up a lucrative marketing position to focus on her true passion: writing. She admits to some trepidation over leaving the security of a fulltime job, yet adds, “I know it was the right move. I feel much healthier!” But most people don’t have to make such drastic steps. Minneapolis resident Richard E. Bush, another student, put it this way: “Ultimately what has helped most is letting go of expectations.”