From the Editor: To start the year, pick positivity

It is finally the weekend, the highly anticipated break from classes and on-campus jobs. A Rider student sits in his dorm, scrolling through the calendar, desperately searching for something fun to do. But he finds nothing “fun.” In a university with a wide array of sports and a focus on performing arts, he finds nothing to his taste. The student proceeds to spend the next three years sulking and complaining.
But somewhere else across campus, another student faces the same dilemma. However, she ends up trying something new, having a great time and even — gasp — making new friends.
We have a choice between viewing situations through a positive or negative lens. The choice we make can be the difference between furthering or fighting a good time.
Last semester, a significant portion of Rider students declared in a poll conducted by The Rider News that they were, to some degree, unhappy — more so than average 18- to 24-year-olds with some college education nationally. Reasons cited were mostly related to our campus lives. Comments revealed some Rider students were displeased with events, organizations and the social scene on campus. Within its community, Rider has been branded a “suitcase school,” particularly evacuated on the weekends.
But people are as happy as they want and choose to be. It’s not a reality. It’s simply a perspective.
For example, we choose whether or not to join organizations on campus. Rider’s selection of clubs is certainly diverse. Instead of being angry that we don’t have a club that precisely fits a hobby — “the labradoodle fan club” — we might try something we never would have thought of, such as the strategic gaming club. A cultural club will bring you something new. A sports club will keep you active. Stay positive and progressive, and the smiles will begin to blossom.
The “think positive” and “be happy” ideals seem only to be spoken by those wearing rose-colored glasses and throwing up peace signs. But this discussion reaches past just the hippies. Shawn Achor, psychologist and CEO of Good Think Inc, says that choosing happiness and positive outlooks plays a role in our lives that transcends the answers we give in a poll.
“Your brain works significantly better at positive than at negative, neutral or stressed,” he explained in an interview with The Huffington Post following a recent Ted Talk. “Every single business and educational outcome improves when we start at positive rather than waiting for future success. Sales improve 37 percent cross-industry, productivity by 31 percent, you’re 40 percent more likely to receive a promotion, nearly 10 times more engaged at work, live longer, get better grades, your symptoms are less acute, and much more.”
If positivity reaps benefits for the brain and our abilities, then what does negativity do in turn? James Clear from The Huffington Post explains that negativity triggered by certain situations can “narrow your mind.”
“For example, when you’re in a fight with someone, your anger and emotion might consume you to the point where you can’t think about anything else,” Clear explains.
Every adult plays a crucial role in his or her own happiness. We shape our own perspectives. If we’re bored on campus on the weekends, we’re choosing that feeling. Some students will try something new, like watching a different sport or going to a play. Other students will complain or sulk. Situations like this are not inherently negative or positive; we impose those perspectives onto them. If you want fun, you need to find it in the crevices of campus life and in this lively community. If not, then all you’ll uncover is the negativity that you foster.
Achor continues his explanation of “positive psychology” by discrediting the notion that we need to work hard now in order to be happy later. Achor tells Forbes magazine we need to make the choice for the opposite; we need to be happy so that we can work hard.
“If we raise your success rates, happiness remains the same,” Achor states. “Raise happiness levels in the present, find meaning at work, connect to the people around you, perceive stress as enhancing, and your success rates rise dramatically. Happiness at work fuels success.”
We can’t control situations carrying loss or grief, and they’re hard to see positively. But here at Rider, we choose whether or not we want to brood about the lack of entertainment or if we want to do something about it. We can cry that there’s nothing to do, or we can go out and find something. We can waste the best years of our lives whining, or we can make the most out of them.
This semester brings us a chance to make lasting memories, and if we’re the ones who make them negative or positive, why choose anything besides happiness? Everything is a matter of perspective — which will you choose?

 

The weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of

The Rider News. This week’s editorial was written by the

Opinion Editor, Samantha Sawh.

 

Printed in the 09/09/15 issue.

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