Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Student Organizations: The ASL Happiness Project

Be Happy!

Earlier this month, I discussed law student well-being and happiness.  As I noted, the research clearly proves that law school leads to significant psychological and emotional distress.  In addition, students tend to handle stress through activities that reduce physical well-being, including excessive alcohol consumption.  And, busy students neglect a regular exercise program even though it offers a healthier way to manage stress. 

About a year ago, one of our students, Juliane Colby, launched The Appalachian School of Law Happiness Project.  Juliane, trained as a social worker, was concerned about the mental and emotional health of her classmates.

The Vision Statement

Its vision statement states:
The ASL Happiness Project seeks to support, enhance, and ensure a mentally and physically healthy community of students, staff, and faculty so we can all be successful, happy, healthy, and thriving.
The Mission Statement 

 Its more specific mission statement provides: 
The ASL Happiness Project supports, enhances, and ensures a mentally and physically healthy community by offering classes on nutrition, mental health-related topics, stress management, yoga, Zumba, and other fitness practices.  It also provides resources and information about area services for mental health counseling, physical fitness, massage, meditation, time management strategies, and day care.   It makes available at the Library Reserve Desk a variety of books and self-assessment tools on these topics. 
I gladly agreed to serve as the faculty supervisor for the project.

Theme Song

Happy by Pharrell Williams.

Recent Events and Activities

During the launch, we distributed over 40 copies of the New York Times #1 best-selling book, The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, a lawyer and former U.S. Supreme Court clerk, turned author.

Over the Spring 2013 semester, the ASL Happiness Project offered three film screenings:

  • Forks Over Knives
  • Happy
  • Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead
It featured two guest speakers: Jane Esselstyn on Chronic Western Diseases Explained, and our own Brenda Oxford on Brenda Oxford's Guide to a Plant-Based Diet.

The ASL Happiness Project also distributed information about mental health counselors and local 12-step programs through the resources of the Cumberland Mountain Community Services.  It also offered stress management strategies, which included a guided meditation body-scan.

At each of these events, the ASL Happiness Project offered healthy snacks and drinks.  

The project also tried to bring a Zumba class on campus, without success. However, many ASL students attend the Zumba class held on the Mt. Mission school campus.  For more information, contact Daphnie Roberts.  If you teach yoga or pilates, I would love to talk with you about offering a class to the ASL community.

More recently, Prof. Maryann Herman has created a running/walking club that currently meets at 7 p.m. on Tuesday nights.  If you are interested in joining the club, sign up on its TWEN site. 

This fall, during the Intro to Law course, I introduced the 1L class to many of the resources identified by The ASL Happiness Project.  I took students through three guided meditations, provided a list of the activities that make you happy (according to research), offered a stress assessment tool, and distributed the list of local mental health providers and 12-step programs.  They also gained self-awareness by learning about their enneagram type and the warning signs of unhealthy development. 

The ASL Happiness Project has also considered creating a peer counseling program that would allow upper class men to talk with junior class men about managing the stress of law school.

If you have ideas about how the project can help students, please let me know.

I serve as the faculty advisor for the group. 

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