Perhaps there should be Bobby McFerrin’s ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ as a soundtrack for this story, but University of Montana Counseling Professor John Sommers-Flanagan 'Happiness Course’ helps students and community members to develop a map to pursue a happy life.

KGVO spoke recently to Sommers-Flanagan not long after UM’s Commencement.

“The purpose of the course is not just to take a look at what puts you in a good mood,” said Professor Sommers-Flanagan. “It goes way back to Aristotle who call this eudaimonic happiness, and that’s a deeper lifestyle where you're living your values and you're practicing in a way that contributes to the community.”

Sommers-Flanagan said the course is about more than just happy feelings,

“We did a number of things that I think help. First, of course, I give lectures, once a week on happiness content, and we focus on everything from the cognitive or mental aspect of how we think and whether that contributes to our happiness, to physical behaviors like sleep and exercise and how that contributes to happiness,” he said. “We also have once weekly lab groups where they're small, and they're designed for students to practice the content that they're learning in class. So for example, one week, they might focus on gratitude and practicing gratitude.”

Sommers-Flanagan said the class has been taken by university age students, as well as a wide cross section of Missoula residents, including many retired persons, who face their own unique challenges.

“It's really a different experience for people who don't have the structure of a career or employment, you know, that's behind them,” he said. “Now they need to find other ways to live a meaningful life that gives them satisfaction at a level that I think helps sustain what we call happiness.”

UM students or community members interested in enrolling in UM’s Art and Science of Happiness course can sign up for the class again in the spring 2022 semester. The public is also invited to enroll in a similar happiness class from UM Ph.D. student Daniel Salois beginning on July 12.


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