The Science of Happiness: An Interview

The Scholars’ Avenue recently got the opportunity to interview Prof Priyadarshini Patnaik, HOD of Department of Humanities and Social Sciences and Coordinator at Rekhi Centre of Excellence for the Science of Happiness. We sat down with him to discuss the initiatives taken by the center and how beneficial it is for the student community.

The Center has recently been catapulted into the public view with its highly publicized workshop on happiness which saw participation from eminent personality, most notably Ms. Sonja Lyubomirsky, the author of How of Happiness and R. Gopalakrishnan, the former director of TATA Sons Ltd. The workshop is among the first of many initiatives taken by the center. For now , the center aims at focusing on the first year students and the final years who face a great deal of stress while adjusting to the new environment and coping up with the pressure of placements respectively. They have collaborated with Gymkhana and CDC and are planning on conducting various kinds of workshops for this purpose.

Elaborating on the course structure Professor Patnaik explained it to be a short one, over a period of two weeks, and through 10 hours of lectures and about 5 hours of interaction and activities, which will attempt to (a) understand happiness scientifically, and (b) develop a hands-on experience by exploring its various components through introspection, experience, psychometric measures, physiological measures and other scientific tools. He even talked about a survey that was conducted amongst the UG and PG students. The findings of this survey indicated a huge gap between what the students want to do and what they actually end up doing. They realized that this could be the starting point of all the unhappiness amongst the students. A lot of alumni have been included in the project to share their experience. According to them, work life balance is very essential. Extra curricular activities, where people are not evaluated play an important role in having a balanced life. Which is why they even had the science of happiness challenge. Three projects on community service were selected. Two were student groups and the other was a community group .Each got RS.30,000 to do something in the next few months and bring about a change in the IIT community. The center is looking forward to doing it every year and has also planned on roping in CSR and corporate health resources to get a pool of more money.
Next semester they are planning on a couple of electives. “The goal of the director as well as Mr. Rekhi is that by 2017 autumn semester we have a micro -specialization of The science of happiness .So we are targeting that by July 2017 we will have an array of courses, on its different components like positive psychology, self- introspection, resilience and character building . ” said Professor Patnaik. On being asked about the career opportunities that the students will be exposed to after taking up the course he said , “We have many students who after going out will start exploring will switch and move into another area or will start integrating the two. Career opportunities and impact of the courses will be in two different ways. First one is that implementation of these in various kinds of organizational and administrative positions. And the other one would be that we could, later on use this micro- specialization to explore further and study deeper into the area.”
He also commented on the previous attempts made to quantify happiness regarding which he said, “There are a few tools which may use certain parameters to quantify happiness. These can be tricky and will have to be used with caution. If somebody sees that my happiness index shows that I am unhappy, and that kind of sets the entire ball rolling and that is not how it should be and that is now how it is. That would be against the ground rules set for the course. But in the end , I would like to say these are only subjective indicators . We definitely use a lot of statistics for these indicators. “
They have also planned to expand the outreach of the center and have already been approached by the psychiatrists at Tata Medical who were very keen on discussing the increasing stress levels among students.

The registration for this course has already begun. It is a one credit course and will run from 1st to 12th November this semester. Eminent Prof. of Psychology, Prof. Manas K. Mandal will lead the team of faculty who will offer this course. Interested participants may visit ERP in order to register:
Academic — Students — Micro Credit Registration (choose the course: Introduction to the Science of Happiness)

The course can take a maximum of 100 students on the basis of pre-registration and interest. Registration will close on 27th October. For further details students can visit their site :
http://www.happiness-iitkgp.org/

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