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U Thrive: How to Succeed in College (and Life)

The book channels the five theoretical conditions that promote happiness developed by Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology.
BY Uttara Choudhury |   18-08-2017

U Thrive: How to Succeed in College (and Life)

U Thrive: How to Succeed in College (and Life) by Dan Lerner and Alan Schlechter, published by Little, Brown and Company.

New York University's most popular elective class, the "Science of Happiness," is taught by Professor Daniel Lerner, an expert in performance psychologies for athletes and Fortune 500 execs, and Dr Alan Schlechter, a clinical assistant professor at NYU Langone Medical Center. Based on their sought-after course, the two have co-authored a new book, “U Thrive: How to Succeed in College (and Life),” which is a wonderful mix of positive psychology, real-life stories and tips for building good lifelong habits that help students thrive in college. The book focuses on the opportunities and challenges every undergrad will face — from finding a passion to dealing with nightmarish roommates and surviving finals week.

The book covers how positive emotion helps you to be creative and relaxed, and allows you to perform under pressure, be it on stage, in class, on the field or on a date. It channels the conditions that promote thriving developed by Martin Seligman, the University of Pennsylvania professor, who is commonly regarded as the founder of positive psychology. Seligman’s theoretical model of happiness (PERMA) helps us embrace the elements of happiness. Seligman’s PERMA acronym can be broken down to P - Positive Emotion, E - Engagement, R - Relationships, M - Meaning, A -Accomplishments.

According to studies, students primed with positive emotions work more collaboratively in groups and score higher on tests. The book suggests that students can incorporate happiness rituals into their daily lives by eating meals with friends, touching base regularly with loved ones, even decorating their rooms with pictures of people they love, exercising regularly, and maintaining a routine. In everyone’s life, there are highs and lows, focusing compulsively on the lows increases your odds of developing depression, warn the authors, therefore, you should focus on the good stuff.

The book is geared towards freshmen with nuggets of wisdom on how to beat inevitable homesick blues. In keeping with the PERMA model, the book suggests it's important for freshman to stay engaged in college activities by joining clubs: "In a new environment, even the most outgoing kids may find themselves in over their heads, especially in the first few weeks of the first semester. To combat loneliness, every student should join a club, organization or team. This not only creates an automatic social circle, but helps you buff up your resume."

NYU professor Daniel Lerner who is the co-author of
NYU professor Daniel Lerner who is the co-author of "U Thrive: How to Succeed in College (and Life)"

More comfortable online than out partying, Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. They like to spend most of their down time hanging out alone in their rooms with their smart phones. That's just the way this generation is. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis. "A study of more than 150,000 freshmen in 2014 revealed that more students were spending less time with friends than any previous generation in the past three decades," warns the book. It points out that students with poor relationships actually have lower GPAs, than their more socially active classmates.

In 1987, only 18 percent of students spent fewer than 5 hours a week socializing, but today the number has more than doubled to 39 percent. "Simple logic suggests that it's no coincidence the number o freshmen reporting depression has almost doubled in the past five years," says the book. The authors say there's no greater indicator of happiness and success in college than good relationships. "The quality of your relationships will predict whether or not you survive first semester, make it to graduation, and thrive both at work and at home, even in the decades well after you walk that stage with diploma in hand," write Lerner and Schlechter.

The book also urges students to "self-navigate." Parents may be well-meaning but they often pressure their children into careers and majors that clash with their personalities. When students build their course schedules, the authors note that they should do so independently, keeping in mind their own interests. The book advises students to use college advisers as sounding boards.
 

Uttara Choudhury is a writer for Forbes India and The Wire. In 1997, she went on the British Chevening Scholarship to study Journalism in the University of Westminster, in London.

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