“100HappyDays” program pro positive mental health

%22100HappyDays%22+program+pro+positive+mental+health

Christy Carley

The Whitman Well, a new initiative from the counseling center, encourages Whitman students, staff and faculty to “take in the good” for 100 days.

Assistant Director of Counseling Tracee Anderson, in collaboration with an organization called 100HappyDays, has created a website where members of the Whitman community can sign up to post one photo a day of something that makes them feel good.

Anderson was searching for ways to improve wellness on campus when she came across a website called 100HappyDays. Founded by former Swiss businessman Dmitry Golubnichy in December of 2013, the program encourages participants to sign up and post one photo a day of something that makes them happy. The night the website for the program was launched, 5,000 people registered. Since then, the number of participants has reached 1,500,000 and the program has gained international attention.

After participating in the program herself, Anderson contacted Golubnichy with a proposal for a collaboration between Whitman and 100HappyDays. He responded the next day, making Whitman the first college in the U.S. to participate in the program.

Over the summer, a unique website was created for Whitman by developers from 100HappyDays, supported by donations from a number of sources including the Dean of Students, the President, and the Dean of Health and Wellness. The support stemmed from a desire to increase wellness on campus by reducing stress.

At any point in the year, students, staff, and faculty can sign up for Whitman’s branch of the program at whitmanwell.100happydays.com where they will be asked to select a platform on which to participate and can choose whether or not they would like to receive email reminders each day.

Options include several public platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and tumblr, as well as the private platform of email. Photos collected through the public platforms have the chance of being included in a campus art installation later in the year. Students also have the option to purchase an archive of their photos in a hard or soft bound book, or a spreadsheet.

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“Focusing on something positive, or what I would call ‘taking in the good,’ really can help give your brain a bit of a break, even for just a moment,” said Anderson.

Associate Dean of Health and Wellness and Director of the Counseling Center Dr. Thacher Carter echoed that thought.

“Positive psychology talks about every time you take in the good you build a little bit of neural structure,” said Dr. Carter in an email to The Pioneer. “Doing this a few times a day for months and even years will gradually change your brain and how you feel and act in far-reaching ways. So if you become more aware of gratitude, there is a physiological and neurological response that occurs.”

Anderson has spoken with several student groups on campus, including greek organizations and sports teams, about participating in the project together and has received positive responses from their leaders. She believes that participating in the program as a group will make the project more enjoyable and help students remember to send in photos.

Senior Ali Holmes is the president of Thrive, a campus organization dedicated to promoting mental health on Whitman’s campus and fighting the stigma against mental illness. She was contacted by Anderson over the summer and has promoted the program to Thrive members.

“From the Counseling Center’s point of view and Thrive’s point of view, it’s a way to encourage people to see positivity in the every day,” she said. “But we don’t want it to be confused with ‘everyone’s happy all the time at Whitman.’”

Since Whitman has been repeatedly ranked one of the happiest colleges in the country, some concern has been expressed regarding pressure to feel happy all the time.

”The word ‘happy’ has been a little bit unsettling to me because there has been some concern on campus about [the] pressure that students feel to be happy,” said Anderson. “It’s really about taking in the good. It’s honoring and acknowledging something in your life that can make you feel well.”

Junior Angela Tang participated in the program last summer, before it was introduced to Whitman. She said that participating helped her realize how often her mind can be overtaken by negative thoughts. Being aware of that habit helped Tang alter her thought process.

“I took a lot of pictures of food,” she said. “For me food has a lot more significance…it’s always been something that I use to connect with my family…and to people. There’s a story behind the pictures.”

Anderson hopes to collect feedback and data from the program for presentation at a national conference. Anderson hopes that once the program takes hold at Whitman it will spread to other colleges as well.

”Doing this challenge helps people be really creative and intentional about recognizing and noticing the things in their lives that are good,” she said. ”One of my main goals is to have people experience something good–even for a moment.”