Happiness Diary Entry #2

This week for my Gratitude Journal I decided that I would make entries more than once a week. In my previous post, I recounted how I sat down and reflected on the past week, and then wrote down all the things I was grateful for in my daily planner, which is what I am using as my gratitude journal. I noted in last week’s online diary entry that I wanted to take a slightly different approach by writing down things as they happen, so I don’t forget the little things by the end of the week. Admittedly, I didn’t quite stick to that plan, but rather sat down three times this week to write down the things I was grateful for, in my ‘gratitude journal’.

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This week I wanted to sit and reflect often enough that I didn’t forget or neglect the little things, but not so often that I found the task to be a chore. After all, this is an activity that I want to be able to enjoy. I made three entries in the week, so I was only having to recall one or two days at a time. There is various literature on how many times to write in your gratitude journal and the various advantages and disadvantages of the different time periods, which I will go into further detail in later online diary entries and in my Reflective Journal.

This week, I was grateful for:

23/03/16:

  • My mum for driving into the uni to pick me up when I was sick.
  • My team at work for sending me a gorgeous, bright box of ‘get well soon’ flowers, and their continuous support while I have been away sick.

26/03/16:

  • All the well wishes from my friends, colleagues, and family while I have been unwell.
  • My boyfriend looking after me while I have been unwell. He has been a physical and mental support for me while I have been in pain. He has helped me do the simple tasks that I have been rendered incapable of doing on my own such as stand, walk, dress and undress, shower, drive and other daily activities.
  • The chance to spend Good Friday with my family at the beautiful Lake Tabourie.
    • That the rain cleared up, and it turned out to be a beautiful sunny day.
    • That my family is so close, so living, and so supportive of each other, and that we spent time together on a regular basis.

27/03/16:

  • My boyfriend spending the night at my house, even though he much prefers to sleep in his own bed.
  • Grateful that my boyfriend drove me down the coast to be with my family on Good Friday.
  • Grateful for my boyfriend’s family spending Easter with us, and their continuous love, support, and generosity.
  • Grateful for the wood fired pizza we ae for dinner and the hard work that my boyfriend and his mum put in to the meal – chopping fire wood, lighting the fire, cooking the dough from scratch.

I had to consider before starting this task whether I was going to use my blog as my gratitude journal to make entries or make hand written entries. I have made another observation while sitting here on this Sunday night, writing my diary entry of this week’s experience. By keeping a hand-writing things gratitude journal in my planner, I have to retype what I have written in order to reflect on the experience here on my blog. This means I get to relive those happy memories and remember the extra details, even write down extra dot points, and be grateful for those things all over again.

I found that three entries during the week was a good number. It allowed me to sit and reflect throughout the week on the things that I was grateful for, which in turn, made me feel happy. I am still really enjoying this activity, and aim to make multiple entries again next week.

I should note that I am also considering sharing my blog with the people that I feature in my gratitude entries, such as my boyfriend, as I am so often grateful for him and the things that he does, so that they know how grateful I am. I will reflect more on this more in next week’s entry.

 

 

My Reflections on Blackfish

In this subject of my studies of Communication and Media, the theme is ‘Media Lives’. In this subject we will be analysing how the media affects lives, for better or worse. We have been examining a whole range of groups, and how the media shapes the ways we look at ourselves, other people, and other species.

This week we have been looking at animals and their representation in the media. In his essay, Why Look at Animals, John Berger’s analyses the way that animals have an omnipresence in our culture. They have evolved from wild creatures of mystery, to our sources of food, clothing, transport and protection, to our companions. They are in our books, movies, TV series; they are our soft toys, our pets, and even our entrainment.

For this topic, we were instructed to watch Gabriela Cowperwaite’s film, Blackfish (2013). For those who are yet to watch the film, Blackfish is the story of Tilikum, a performing orca that has killed a number of people while in captivity, specifically 40-year-old, experienced trainer, Dawn Brancheau. In the documentary, ‘Gabriela Cowperthwaite compiles shocking footage and emotional interviews to explore the creature’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity, the lives and losses of the trainers and the pressures brought to bear by the multi-billion-dollar sea-park industry.

I had always been hesitant to watch this documentary, as I assumed it would make me very upset, however I am glad I have watched it. This powerful and emotive documentary has generated an immense amount of media hype since it was released. In his article David Hickerman, Senior Lecturer in Film & Television Production, University of York, uses Blackfish as an example of how a documentary can be a powerful force for change. Although an impact of this magnitude is a rare occurrence, Blackfish has placed the plight of the captive orcas in the spotlight. Although amusement parks and zoos have faced condemnation from animal welfare activists in the past, suddenly they were backed with credibility from celebrities such as Matt Damon, Harry Styles and Willie Nelson.

Since the release of the documentary, and the welfare of these animals being thrust into the spotlight, SeaWorld has experienced an 84% plunge in profits as customers desert the controversial aquatic theme park. The company has experienced a significant drop in attendance, sales, market value, and profits because of the issues raised in Blackfish.

I would assume that this was the hopeful result for the documentary, as it employs numerous strategies to generate sympathy for these orcas in captivity. These strategies include the anthropomorphism of the orcas. As the audience, we are given the back story of these orcas, we learn about their personalities, their relationships with their trainers, and their relationships with each other. This follows the typical conventions of wildlife documentaries (Evans, 2016): following a traditional narrative structure, the vicitimisation of a species, the vilification of another, and the anthropomorphism of the orcas. Blackfish utilised these strategies and conventions in order to evoke emotions and stimulate change.

After the reaction caused by Blackfish, the SeaWorld company launched a nationwide campaign to try and convince the public that they treat their whales well. Due to the mounting pressure from activists’ groups and the general public, last November the chief executive, Joel Manby, announced that the California theme park will be phasing out the public displays by the orcas. After facing harsh criticisms, he said that the move was part of an attempt to reverse the rate of falling visitors at the company’s 11 theme parks across the United Sates.

The main thing I took away from watching the documentary was the irony in which people express their adoration for animals. I admit that even I am guilty of this. People say that they love animals, they are fascinated by them, and care about their welfare,  but will still go and see them in captivity, and watch movies and documentaries they are in, with little reflection of the wellbeing of the animal and the lives they lead. As a society, many people try to do best by the animal, but end up only doing what we “think” is best, and not what is truly best for them.

 

References: 

Evans, N 2016, ‘Looking at Animals I’, lecture, UOW, presented 23 March, 2016.

 

Happiness Diary Entry #1

In her book, The How of Happiness (2007), Sonja Lyubomirsky describes gratitude as not only saying ‘thank-you’, it is wonder, appreciation, and ‘counting blessings’. It is savouring, not taking things for granted, it is coping, and it is present-orientated (Lyubomirsky 2007). Gratitude is powerful antidote for negative emotions, neutralising envy, hostility, worry and irritation (Lyubomirsky 2007). Robert Emmons, an experienced and prominent researcher and writer about gratitude, defines it as ‘a sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life’ (Emmons & Shelton 2002; cited in Lyubomirsky 2007).

There is a plethora of positive effects associated with expressing gratitude. Research suggests that people who are consistently grateful have been found to be relatively happier, more energetic, more hopeful, and experience more frequent positive emotions (Lyubomirsky 2007). Lyubomirsky’s lab results from her gratitude intervention suggests that, on average, that the people who completed this activity once a week were most likely to experience a boost in happiness (Lyubomirsky 2007). People who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis were physically and mentally healthier, felt better about their lives, and were more optimistic (Emmons & McCullough 2003).

In her book, Lyubomirsky suggests keeping a Gratitude Journal as a way of practising gratitude and positive thinking. She recommends choosing a time of the day where you have time to sit peacefully and reflect on three to five things for which you are grateful, from the mundane to the miraculous, and specific individuals.

I decided that I would use my daily planner as a place to record my appreciations. This year I deliberately bought a planner with a space to record my thoughts and musings, with the hope that I would be more reflective. So when I was given the opportunity to undertake this activity I was happy to participate.

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Tonight, for my entry in my ‘gratitude journal’, I sat and reflected on my week and all the things for which I was grateful. Considering I spent last night in the Emergency Department and all day in bed, this really made me smile, and appreciate all the good things that happened this week.

This week, I was grateful for:

  • My mother-in-law cooking my dinner and having it ready for me after I got home from a long day at uni.
  • My umbrella when I was caught in a thunderstorm.
  • My warm, and comfortable bed after a long day at work, doing the night shift.
  • My boyfriend’s support and love while I was in hospitable, and while I was sick.
  • The crisp, fresh air of Autumn.

Next week, I would like to take a slightly different approach to writing in my gratitude journal. Tonight, being Sunday night, I sat down with my journal and recalled all the things I was grateful for during the week. Next week I would like to write down the things as they happen, so I don’t forget all the little things, and then sit down at the end of the week and reflect on all those things while I write my online diary entry.

My Happiness Journey

Hello and welcome to my blog. If you are new here, my name is Chelsea, and I am now in my third year of a double Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies and Bachelor of Commerce. Throughout my degrees this blog has been my online space to document my learning and experiences.

In this chapter of my blog I will be logging my experiences as I undertake the class Happiness: Investigating its causes and conditions. With all the stresses and pressures associated with completing a university degree, I wanted to pick up a class that would not only teach me skills that will assist me in obtaining a career, but skills that will contribute to my overall happiness and wellbeing.

As part of completing the course, we are required to choose an activity that research says increases personal happiness. In Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book The How of Happiness (2007) she describes happiness-increasing activities that aim to transform the way people think about their lives. These activities are designed to train the mind to focus on the positive things in life, to find things to be glad about, and to not sweat the small stuff.

One of the Happiness Activities that Lyubomirsky recommends is expressing gratitude. After completing the ‘Person-Activity Fit’ Diagnostic questionnaire, I learnt that expressing gratitude is one of the happiness activities that ‘fit’ me best. To practise gratitude, I will be keeping a Gratitude Journal in which I record the things for which I am grateful.

I will be undertaking this activity for the next 5 weeks, and using my blog as a diary to which I will be making entries on this topic once a week. So stay tuned!