Mason Featured in “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” Article in the Fairfax County Times

Organized by the lifestyle magazine Live Happy, the Happiness Walls are part of an annual #HappyActs campaign that encourages people to spread joy by participating in acts of kindness and posting about it either on a physical wall or on social media. George Mason University encourages students to share ideas for how they can make other people happy with a Happiness Wall as part of the United Nations’ International Day of Happiness.

Don’t worry, be happy: GMU promotes student, faculty and staff wellness with wall

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ANGELA WOOLSEY/FAIRFAX COUNTY TIMES

George Mason University encourages students to share ideas for how they can make other people happy with a Happiness Wall as part of the United Nations’ International Day of Happiness.

The messages handwritten on paper notes stuck to the two folding walls in front of the bookstore in George Mason University’s Johnson Center ran the gamut from jokey to completely sincere.

I will share happiness by making someone laugh, one note read.

I will share happiness by singing loud for all the world to hear, read another with the “all” underlined and accompanying illustrations of a globe and an ear.

Yet another said, “I will share happiness by sharing my Netflix account.” This note was punctuated with a smiley face.

GMU students, faculty and staff shared their tips to living a happier life throughout Mar. 20, which has been designated by the United Nations as an International Day of Happiness.

To mark the occasion, the Fairfax-based university joined about 100 schools and communities around the U.S. in hosting a Happiness Wall event on Monday.

Organized by the lifestyle magazine Live Happy, the Happiness Walls are part of an annual #HappyActs campaign that encourages people to spread joy by participating in acts of kindness and posting about it either on a physical wall or on social media.

For each note shared on a Happiness Wall, Live Happy donated $1 to the nonprofit Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, which connects children with volunteer mentors.

“It’s part of Mason’s 10-year strategic plan to become a model well-being university,” GMU Center for the Advancement of Well-Being marketing and public relations director Jeanne Bliss said. “We just saw this as a great opportunity to engage people here at Mason and promote wellbeing and happiness at the same time.”

George Mason had participated in the #HappyActs campaign, which is in its fourth year, once before in 2015, but this year is the first time that the university had a Happiness Wall on all four of its campuses, including Mason Korea in South Korea.

The Center for the Advancement of Well-Being is an interdisciplinary research and teaching center that serves as the focal point for courses, programs, research, and resources related to well-being, which its website defines as “building a life of vitality, purpose, and resilience.”

While the Happiness Walls stayed up for only one day, the university used it as a kick-off event for its annual six-week “Spring into Well-Being” campaign.

With programming scheduled from Mar. 20 through Apr. 28, Spring into Well-Being raises awareness about programs and events related to well-being and mental health offered by GMU.

According to Bliss, this year’s campaign features more than 100 different events, including yoga classes, a Good Deeds Day for people on campus to get involved in volunteer and community service projects, and the eighth annual Leading to Well-Being conference.

The Mason Board of Visitors approved becoming a model wellbeing university as one of the 12 goals in its 10-year strategic plan for the university in 2013, leading to the launch of the Well-Being University Initiative.

Spring into Well-Being is part of this initiative, which includes academic skills workshops, counseling services, and suicide prevention and peer empowerment programs.

Through the Well-Being University Initiative, George Mason University conducted a Gallup survey of student well-being that closed on Mar. 13. It is also currently working on the Mason Resilience Project with resources to help members of the university community better adapt to stress and adversity.

“Everyone here at the university can benefit from things that will support their physical and psychological wellbeing,” Bliss said.

Freshman student Julija Pivoriunaite affirms the effectiveness of Mason’s efforts to promote the well-being of its students, faculty and staff.

Originally born in Lithuania, Pivoriunaite opted to live on-campus at Mason even though her home is a mere 30 minutes or so away in Falls Church. However, she says she was looking for “something that would be very low-key” and eventually decided to try Mason’s living learning community (LLC) for mindful living.

GMU offers a variety of LLCs for students looking to stay in housing with people who have similar interests.

Located this year on the third floor of Piedmont Hall, the mindful living LLC is geared toward students who want to develop “mindfulness” skills such as stress management, positive psychology, compassion, and self-awareness.

The mindful living LLC is tasked with assisting the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being with its Spring into Well-Being campaign, so Pivoriunaite volunteered to help out at the Happiness Wall event on the Fairfax campus.

“Sometimes, the campus can seem really gloomy, and it seems like there’s no one there willing to help you out or be there for you,” Pivoriunaite said. “I think promoting things like [the Happiness Wall]…can help you see the good in your life and that there are people there to help you.”

As a freshman, she says she was anxious about making new friends, since she wanted to expand her social circle beyond people she knew from high school, but participating in the mindful living LLC and having events like the Happiness Wall have made that transition easier.

She commends GMU for making an active effort to reach out to students regarding their mental and emotional health.

“In high school, there were programs available, but you never even knew they existed, while here, it feels like people genuinely want to help you,” Pivoriunaite said. “I think that’s so important and helpful for students who are stressed out or transitioning or just don’t know where they fit in with the world.”