The Green Room and the science of happiness

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Video still of Dan Lerner delivering a TedX Talk in 2014.

“The Science of Happiness” sounds like an advertising slogan for a pharmaceutical company, but it’s the name of one of the most popular courses at New York University. The class’ co-teacher, Dan Lerner, will be the featured speaker at the next Green Room installment, taking place at the Englert Theatre this Monday at 7 p.m.

On his website, Lerner explains that he’s spent more than two decades contemplating the question, “What does happiness have to do with achieving excellence and success?” As an author and educator, Lerner has delivered lectures on the topic to audiences ranging from high school students to the leaders of major corporations.

Along with its featured speakers, each week the Green Room highlights a nonprofit doing important work in the Iowa City area. On Sept. 24, this will be the Iowa City/Johnson County Senior Center. The center sponsors a variety of classes, programs and clubs for people 50 and older, as well as opportunities for seniors to volunteer in community activities.

Lerner has created a thought experiment as a “community homework exercise” for Green Room attendees.

The variety of human exploration is seemingly boundless: we write, speak, dance, create art, sing, teach, parent, play a sport, cook, garden, run a business, volunteer, or traverse an infinite array of other pursuits as we strive to understand our voice in the world. Ultimately it seems, we seek (or perhaps yearn) to express who we are most honestly and connect with something larger than ourselves.

For this community assignment, I would like you to think about a time (or times) when you felt your most authentic — a time when your voice was heard and when you felt seen for who you really were. Relive that experience in your head. Close your eyes. Dwell on it. Take your time: What were you doing? What were you wearing? What was the expression on your face? Where were you? Who were you with? Ultimately, I ask you to do what may be impossible: your assignment is to describe — be it in one word or in one hundred — the feeling that you had at that very moment.

This will be the third of six sessions for Green Room 2018. The lecture series started in 2016 as a University of Iowa class “designed to encourage students to think of new ways of asking questions about important issues, and help them move from asking those questions to taking constructive action.” The Green Room is still a class, but since last year, its sessions have been open to the public.

All Green Room events are free, and begin at 7 p.m.

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