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Professor Sarah Pressman leads UCI Happiness Week

Numerous studies show that happy people can expect to live longer, be healthier and be more resilient to stress. So, happiness expert Sarah Pressman, professor of psychological science, initiated a week-long event on campus to promote good vibes. 

In fact, the nearly 400 students in her Positive Psychology class spread joy all over campus as part of their final assignment last week in the middle of UC Irvine’s inaugural Happiness Week

The campuswide celebration, held March 11-15, was dedicated to enhancing well-being and resilience during the inevitable stress of the last week of winter quarter. The week featured a series of engaging activities and initiatives designed to elevate spirits, reduce stress, and foster a sense of community.

Led by the Division of Undergraduate Education and Pressman’s students and about a dozen campus units, Happiness Week offered participants a chance to experience happiness through acts of fun and kindness, such as meditation, games, finger painting, tai chi and yoga practice, a piñata, free flowers and candy, pet therapy and words of encouragement and other activities.

Wednesday’s International Happiness Day punctuated the need for positive emotions. 

Happy feelings “can act as a buffer against the negative effects of stress, highlighting the importance of prioritizing happiness in our lives, especially during the times when it's hardest to do so,” says Pressman, who also serves as associate dean of UCI’s Division of Undergraduate Education and director of the Stress, Emotion & Physical Health Laboratory.

An international day of happiness is needed, she says, because it is a fundamental human goal.

“Recognized by the United Nations General Assembly, International Happiness Day underscores the importance of embracing happiness and well-being for all people,” she says. “It calls upon governments and international organizations to invest in conditions that support happiness by promoting inclusive, equitable, and sustainable economic growth. This day serves as a reminder of the essential role happiness plays in our lives and emphasizes the need for policies that prioritize well-being and environmental sustainability. It also invites individuals, classrooms, businesses and governments worldwide to focus on and celebrate well-being.”

After all, Pressman adds, “we all need a reminder of the importance of well-being and positive emotions in our lives. In today's world, marked by various stressors and challenges, it's crucial to highlight the significance of happiness and its impact on our overall health and resilience.”

She created UCI Happiness Week to address the mounting stress and pressure students face, especially during the last week of classes before final exams. It aimed to reduce stress levels and promote well-being by fostering a supportive and positive environment across campus.
Mimi Ko Cruz

View UCI Happiness Week photos