The Pursuit Of Happiness
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With endsems already upon the students and the study rooms occupied to their fullest, everyone has been gripped by “The Semester Dream” – the one tiny hope in the back of their minds that somehow, despite not having studied as much as they would have liked, their CPI would see a spike this semester. This is the time of the year when the canteen owners witness business at its peak, courtesy stress-eating and an elevated caffeine intake, and sleep cycles go for a toss as there is a scramble to catch up with the seemingly unending endsem syllabus. Even though stress levels reach a spike during this period, a semester full of ‘headlines and deadlines’ ensures that the in-semester stress is no less. Constantly under pressure from parents, peers and especially themselves to fare better than the best, it isn’t always a smooth ride for the students at IIT Bombay. Measuring happiness or stress levels is at least as difficult as catching rare and elusive butterflies. But with trustable precedents to look up to, we correlated a few factors which are crucial during the students’ stay here with their perception of contentment. Different individuals have different natural responses to stress-inducing stimuli they are subjected. As a result, it is inevitable that happiness and stress levels fluctuate across the student demographic. Insight set out to investigate this through a first-ever psychological survey on campus conducted in classrooms across three years for UGs (excluding fourth and fifth years) last year. Keep on reading to know the findings of this study. The survey was adapted from the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire to appropriately gauge the happiness and stress levels here. To do this, we’ve focused primarily on the various factors that make the average IITian happy and those that lead to a receding hairline and a multitude of stress lines. With cases of self-harm and suicides cropping up at alarming frequencies across different IITs and the appointment of student counsellors to combat this predicament, it was imperative to know why the joy of getting into one’s dream institution wears off even before it sets in.
HOW DO STRESS AND HAPPINESS VARY?
A year by year analysis shows that happiness levels on campus are highly accredited to happenings that are relevant to the general student population. It was observed that happiness levels dropped during the transition from the freshmen to the sophomore year but showed a steady rise subsequently. One of the primary reasons for the drop in happiness levels is believed to be repentance towards academic
Shattering the notion that students with lower cpi would naturally be unhappier than those with a decent enough CPI, it was seen that students with 8+ CPI were equally stressed out and unhappy.
It was observed that happiness levels dropped during the transition from the freshmen to the Sophomore year but showed a steady rise subsequently.
With the amount of stress that affects the average IITian, it is necessary to inquire into how the student tries to alleviate it. To state briefly, coping mechanisms can be explained simply as an amalgamation of cognitive and behavioural efforts to reduce stress. Cognition, as a skill set, refers to a human’s ability to process thoughts that help him in interpretation and analysis of situations. Besides measuring the levels of happiness of the students, the study also tries to estimate which are the most frequently-used coping mechanisms that students – consciously or unconsciously – apply in order to relieve themselves of the stress they face. Coping mechanisms, besides being positive (reformative) or negative (maladaptive), can be
Another major finding of this study was that among the students who were able to cope with the stress, most of them had excellent cognitive abilities.
and IITians would definitely end up in that list. Selfcriticism has always been an integral factor behind the success of students in their formative years, because the awareness of one’s own shortcomings is crucial for efforts towards self-improvement. However, self-criticism can only do so much to help one improve; in this study, it was seen that self-criticism was the most significant factor that leads to stress. Students with higher stress levels replied with multifarious responses, the most prominent of them being “I told myself that if I
students with higher stress levels replied with multifarious responses, the most prominent of them being “I told myself that if I wasn’t so careless, things like this wouldn’t happen”.
FROM THE COUNSELLORS’ DESK
Stress is an emotion which is generally accompanied with anxiety, and is naturally present within all of us in some proportion. It helps us to be positive, which in turn determines our happiness levels. We, as Counsellors, observe that both stress and anxiety, if in moderate proportion, are found to be healthy, and can help us accomplish/achieve our goals. It is only when the levels go below or beyond the desired proportion that one starts feeling uneasy, restless and unhappy. If at any given point you feel that you need more energy to keep your stress and anxiety under control, it is best that you seek help from various sources the institute offers – your mentors, faculty advisors, guide and counsellors. As, a stitch in time saves nine.
We would like to extend a special vote of thanks to SOHINEE GANGULY (Research Scholar, HSS Department) andPROF. POOJA PURANG(Associate Professor, HSS
Department) for their invaluable help in conducting the extensive study.
Allen KJD, Hooley JM. Suicide Attempters Show a Maladaptive Response to Criticism, in The 27th Annual Meeting of the Society for Research in Psychopathology. The 27th Annual Meeting of the Society
for Research in Psychopathology. Oakland, CA; 2013.