MY LIFE JOURNAL A. Introduction to happiness studies
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Life Journal

An important part of the certificate program is your Life Journal.

The word journal comes from the French word jour, day, which means light and is also the source of the word journey. A journal, thus, can be seen as facilitating a journey into the light.

It is a Life Journal for various reasons. First and foremost, because its focus is your life. Second, because it is a living, breathing document that can accommodate your reflections, actions, and inspirations. Finally, it can remain with you for life. The Certificate in Happiness Studies is not merely a year-long journey towards a happier life, but is rather a part of a life-time journey of growth and development.

The material included in the Life Journal can provide for years of reading, writing and reflection. A year is not long enough for you to complete all the activities recommended in the GEM, GEM+ and GEM++. Moreover, you will reap great benefits from repeating many of the activities—whether the readings, writing exercises, guided meditations, and so on. It is through repetition, it is by taking a deeper dive into the content provided by the Life Journal, that you can climb higher up on the spiral of learning, and thus more fully internalize the content. You can also use the Life Journal as a reference or a guidebook for sharing what you’ve learned with friends, family, colleagues, or students. After all, one of the best ways to learn is to teach.

The Life Journal is your companion on the life-time journey you’re embarking on with the Certificate in Happiness Studies program.


The Life Journal provides you a one-stop-shop of sorts, allowing you to easily access and complete all the assignments. These are the components inside the Life Journal that go with each lecture.

The I AMs help you personalize each lecture:

An important part of each lecture is the I-AM at the end of each of the four sessions that make up a lecture. The I stands for Interesting, and is about an idea from the session that captured your interest or that you found intriguing. The A stands for Actionable, and is about something that you want to apply in your life. The M stands for Meaningful, and is about something in the session that you found important, significant. The I AM idea you write about may be interesting, actionable, as well as meaningful, or just two of the three, or answer to just one of the three criteria. You may come up with more than one idea that you write down, and that’s fine too of course. You can write one sentence, a few sentences, or an entire essay. It doesn’t matter, as long as you take the time to reflect and commit to writing at least one idea following each session.

Following the I-AM, after you watched the lecture, you can proceed to the GEM, GEM+ and GEM++. The assignments under GEM (Good Enough Mark) should take no longer than 3-4 hours a week (including lecture and webinar time). If you have additional time, you can complete some or all of the assignments under GEM+. And if you have plenty of additional time, then you can explore the GEM++ assignments. Alternatively, keep the GEM+ and GEM++ as a resource for delving deeper into the material in the future, or for using if you decide to teach this material or pay it forward in some other way.

The GEM assignments include the following:

  • Mindfulness practice. This is a 10-minute daily practice that includes three components: meditation, reflection, and intention. While the reflection and intention components are the same for the entire week, each week you will receive seven options for the type of meditation that a daily practice will include—from focusing on your breath to focusing on music. Experiment with the different kinds of meditations. After a week or two or longer, you can decide to continue doing a different meditation on each day, or settle on one or two meditations that you repeat. For example, after a few weeks of experimentation you may decide that body scan is the technique that resonates most with you, and therefore the only one you do. Or, you may decide to do it for one week, and then the following week alternate between basic meditation and savoring meditation. It doesn’t matter what kind of meditation you decide to do—they all work, and the ones that work best are ultimately ones that you connect to most. At the end of each meditation session, you will be asked a question that can help you set an intention for the day. The question appears in your Life Journal just under the seven meditations, and it’s essentially a reminder to take a key idea from the week and live it. This is following the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s call to “Live the questions now”.
  • Call to Reflection. You will receive different writing assignments that are directly or indirectly related to the week’s topic. These will help you better understand the material—and yourself. Spend at least 20 minutes on each reflection.
  • Call to Action. Reflection is not enough, and to bring about lasting change you need to supplement reflection with action—with practicing, doing, applying. Beyond generally urging you to take the material you learn in this program and put it into practice, to apply it in your life, each week you will receive a brief and specific “Call to Action.” This will usually not require extra time, but it will require extra focus. To help you follow up on your Call to Action, write it on a note that is always in front of you, or insert it in your calendar as a recurring reminder.
  • Reading. You will receive a link to a text. Open it, read it, sink into it. Print it out and take notes on it if it helps you delve deeper. The purpose of the 20 minutes that you’re given is not to scan the text but to go over it slowly and deliberately. Even if you don’t finish the text in 20 minutes and have no time to complete it, that’s OK. This is about quality of reading rather than quantity.
  • Appreciation. At the end of each week, write down at least three things that happened over the past seven days for which you’re grateful. You can write down anything—from an interesting idea from the course to something delicious that you ate, from progress you made at work to an encounter with a dear friend. Focus on each of the things that you bring up for at least 30 seconds, visualizing it, appreciating it, feeling the gratitude. Then, write at least three things that you’re looking forward to in the coming week—whether as part of the course, at work, or in your personal life. Once again, spend at least 30 seconds on each item visualizing, appreciating, and feeling.

Here are the GEM+ assignments:

  • Mindful Music. This is a meditation practice in which you listen to any music that you pick for 10 minutes a day. Write down the name of the piece, and paste the link if it is online, so that you have a record of it. They key is to listen to it mindfully, in other words not as background music while you’re doing other things but as foreground music while sitting up or lying down comfortably. There are, literally, millions of options online—from centuries-old classical music played on to New Age electronic music with the sound of water in the background, from Adele to Zen. If possible, listen to the same piece of music for the entire week, and each time you listen try to notice something new, perhaps becoming aware of a subtle detail you did not detect previously.
  • Call to Reflection. You will receive a 20-minute writing exercise for further reflection, and deeper exploration
  • Call to Action. In addition to the Call to Action that you will receive, under GEM+ you will be asked to come up with your own weekly Call to Action—something that will put the theory from the week into practice. Your own Call to Action can come from your Time-Ins, from your writing under the Call to Reflection, or from elsewhere. In addition to describing your own Call to Action in your journal, write it on a note that is always in front of you, or as a recurring reminder each morning on your calendar. Once again, your own Call to Action should not require you to invest much or any extra time. Small changes, over time, make a big difference.
  • Reading. Once again, this is about deep reading of more material—40 as opposed to 20 minutes this time—where quality rather than quantity comes first.

GEM++ includes the following assignments:

  • Readings. Through these readings, you will be exposed to some of the most recent research as well as to ancient texts, all around the weekly topic.
  • Online Lectures. These are lectures by other experts in the field, related to the weekly material.
  • Movies. These are two movies related to the weekly topic. They are great movies to watch, and excellent resources for reflection and conversation.