Finding happiness in the now

For a well-known expert on happiness, life is all about the present. Forget second-guessing your past mistakes.

Dr. Shawn Christopher Shea, the author of a motivational book called “Happiness Is: Unexpected Answers to Practical Questions in Curious Times,” lectured a group of about 60 students and staff on what it is to be happy on Thursday afternoon in the Dorothy Betts Theatre in the Marvin Center.

You need to be able to trust that you can handle difficult situations, Shea said as his voice rose and fell with excitement.

“Happiness is an attitude of trust that you can reasonably cope overall and a very gentle confidence in doing so,” Shea said.

To be happy, human beings must stay “in the now,” Shea said. Humans tend to dwell on past failures and become anxious about achieving future goals. By trusting that you will be able to handle difficult situations in the future, you are free to focus on being happy at this moment, he said.

Shea spends about 100 days a year giving similar lectures to college students across the country. The University Counseling Center sponsored the event at GW as part of a program started three years ago to help distressed students. Shea was paid with funds from a federal suicide prevention grant, provided to 22 colleges including GW, which offers money for speakers to educate members of the community about suicide on college campuses.

Most of the students at the event said they are taking a developmental psychology class and attended for extra credit.

Although this was the main motivation for many attendees, Dr. John Dages, the director of the counseling center, said these types of events are meant for all GW students.

“We hope to continue events like this that can provide helpful and important information on suicide,” Dages said.

As Shea finished his lecture, he told students to remember that “all is well and every kind of thing will be well,” quoting a medieval woman known for giving advice to people looking for guidance.

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