Personal journey: Discovering happiness through faith

Money isn’t the key to happiness.

Questions about happiness and its connection to money have often crossed my mind. What is happiness? How do we find it? Can money truly be the ultimate source of joy? These were questions that would constantly come up while pursuing what I believed would make me happy, like attending my dream university and working in a job I loved.

Throughout my childhood, happiness was always linked to materialism. Money was the predominant love language I received as a child, and it seemed to be the only source of joy in my life. I was fortunate to travel during school holidays, received constant gifts, and seemingly had everything I asked for. Outwardly, I appeared to be a content and fulfilled girl. I was called a “princess” by family and friends. However, there was always a void in my heart: I was longing for a different type of love. 

As a teenager, I battled with depression and what made it worse was not knowing the root cause of my misery. Despite possessing what many would consider to be everything, the symptoms of depression manifested. I used to cry daily and became open about my suicidal ideation. I transitioned from being a “princess” to a “spoiled child.” What I had grown up believing would bring me happiness failed to align with my reality. I was confused, and this forced me to start asking questions. 

After talking with friends and professionals about my emotional state, I gained a better understanding of my reality. I discovered that I had grown up lacking affection and love, which as a result made me struggle with low self-esteem and anger. The void within me tormented me, and I desperately sought a way to fix it without knowing how. I realized that I couldn’t turn back time to change my past. Healing my inner child became my responsibility.

One evening in July, as I scrolled through Instagram before bed, an animation reel caught my attention. It depicted Jesus reciting the Romans 8:18 verse, which reads: “The pain that you have been feeling cannot compare to the joy that is coming.” As a Muslim at the time, I didn’t believe in Jesus, nor did I care to learn about Him. However, after reading that Bible verse, the pain in my chest, which was caused by prolonged stress, suddenly stopped. For the first time in years, I slept in peace.

In the following days, I started encountering individuals who would preach the gospel to me. All of a sudden, I felt it in my heart that everything that has ever happened in my life is a call for me to be Christian. 

Following my revelation, I gave up everything and converted. I lost my old lifestyle, family members and some friends. However, what I gained is far more valuable. I transitioned from feeling unworthy and being thirsty for love to knowing that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139). The peace, love, and happiness I’ve experienced since discovering religion is deeper and stronger than the short-term pleasure you get from spending a weekend at Disneyland or buying a designer bag. 

Sometimes, the inner self requires more than what can be obtained physically, and no amount of money can compensate for the void within. In my journey toward healing, seeking faith has played a crucial role. 

Faith has provided me with a sense of purpose, a supportive community, and a connection to something greater than myself. It has become a source of strength, helping me address the wounds of my inner child and navigate through life’s challenges. Healing and restoring our happiness is a life-long journey, and I believe that this journey is unique for each individual.


Do you really have to buy that?

With the holidays right around the corner, it is hard not to notice the insane amount of people flooding the main shopping boulevards.

Our compulsive shopping habits spike through the roof, hurting our wallets and wasting our time. We all feel pressured to have a gift for everyone, as if it is a sign that you care. But more often than not, we buy useless gifts just for the sake of giving a loved one something to unwrap and enjoy for two minutes on Christmas. Is this compulsiveness a sign of the decadence of today’s world? If we know this special holiday is about spending quality time with those we love, why do we keep making it about material objects?

Every time I sit at a cafe and people-watch, I realize how captivating vitrines really are and how successful marketing strategies are in fueling our consumerist behaviour. We are all victims of it, you know the drill: you pass by a shop, you stare at what they have and in less than 2 minutes you find yourself inside. Maybe you’ll buy something, maybe you won’t, but once you have been lured in, there’s no way back — you immediately start looking for something to satisfy an often unnecessary desire.

Thus, it comes as no surprise that fashion is one of the most profitable industries. According to Statista, the fashion sector in Canada alone made US $6.81 million in 2019 and has an annual growth expectancy rate of 8.3 per cent, so by 2023 the market volume will be approximately US $9.37 million.

Going shopping at this time of the year is not just expensive, it is absolute madness. In less than a few moments in a department store, you could find yourself fighting over an ugly pair of boots with a crazy lady that’s determined to get her hands on them. The funniest part is you don’t even need that extra pair of boots. Our consumerism really brings the worst out of us, and we are not doing anyone a favour; we are just contributing to the toxic industry that deteriorates our environment at the cost of fulfilling our material desires. The high levels of dopamine our brain releases when we shop only keep us high for a second. As reported by Elle, studies have shown that those who are more prone to develop shopping addiction (yes, that is an actual thing) are also more vulnerable to develop depression or anxiety.

Maybe this Christmas we should try to keep our compulsiveness at bay and get what we actually need. Before going shopping, make a list of what is absolutely necessary, stick to your budget, and restrain from overtreating yourself or your loved ones. Our material desires often keep us from appreciating those around us and what we already have in front of us, so why not try something different for a change? After all, we should be focusing on spending quality time and being cozy, rather than wasting our best energies out in the cold, consuming in ridiculous amounts. And hey, if you’re good at arts and crafts maybe you can save a few bucks this Christmas by showing off your skills. It is sustainable and memorable!

Graphic by @sundaeghost


Happening in and around the White Cube this week…

Happening in and around the White Cube this week: Our Happy Life 

In May, after school had ended, I spent my time drawing and listening to podcasts, waiting to leave for my long awaited trip to visit a friend in Vienna. One of the very few times I got out of the house was to see Our Happy Life:  Architecture and Well-Being in the Age of Emotional Capitalism at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA). The exhibition has stuck in my mind ever since, and after recently revisiting, I’ve decided this is one of the best shows I’ve seen to date.

Categorized into small segments, the exhibition is concerned with the growing international happiness index and the specific factors that influence it. Ranging from ‘Safety,’ ‘Air Quality,’ and ‘Community Belonging’ to ‘Walking Alone At Night,’ ‘Views’ and ‘WELL™’ the categories, backed up with visual findings, express the ways in which they have had an effect on various lives.

Most notably, the impact of accessible housing and location on the happiness index were exemplified by those living in temporary homes on the site of a volcano in Hawaii. In order to live the lifestyle they desire that fits within their budget, they are fully aware the volcanic grounds they live on could be subject to another disaster at any moment.

The ‘Social Life’ category describes how an apartment complex in Brooklyn Cultural District used the promise of a specific social lifestyle to sell homes by partnering with founder of Rookie Magazine, Tavi Gevinson. Although Gevinson announced her disbandment in June 2018, her contribution to the #ApartmentStories hashtag was significant, and gave those seeking such a lifestyle something to idealize.

But how is this Arts Chloë? The White Cube does not need to contain what we traditionally recognize as arts (painting, drawing, sculpture…) – it can be anything. The answer is in the curation. Our Happy Life presents a research project in the most formidable way. Curated by Francesco Garutti, Irene Chin, and Jacqueline Meyer, and designed by OK-RM (London), the exhibition takes visitors through rooms ranging from white and clinically archival, to yellow and fluffy, and finally through a long, comforting blue corridor. Large images hang on the walls accompanied by texts stating things like “OUR SENTIMENTS HAVE BECOME STATISTICS AND DATA,” and “HAPPINESS RULES ARE DEFINING SPATIAL VALUES.” The exhibition itself is designed and curated in such a way that makes viewers feel happy, despite the topics they confront within.

I left (both times) feeling quite pleased and thinking, “they’re not wrong.”

The exhibition ends by exploring various cities, where Vienna is ranked first in the 2018 Quality of Living Survey, according to Mercer and The Economist.

Our Happy Life remains in the main exhibition hall at the CCA until Oct. 13. 


Graphic by Ana Bilokin (Archive) 

Student Life

What is the real key to happiness?

A University of the Streets Café discussion reflects on the “pursuit of happiness”

University of the Streets Café hosted yet another edition of its public discussions at Café Aux Deux Marie on St-Denis Street last Wednesday to discuss a hefty topic—the illusive pursuit of happiness.

The talk was moderated by Anurag Dhir, a community engagement coordinator for McGill University’s Social Equity and Diversity Education Office. The event featured speakers who explored the idea of purposefulness and happiness in their line of work: Peter Hartman and Juniper Belshaw. Hartman is a motivational speaker and founder of Happy For A Change, an organization that looks to spread the word about positive global initiative. Belshaw currently works for the Cirque du Soleil as a senior advisor for talent management, but she used to work and volunteer a lot in the  non-profit sector.

The atmosphere of the talk was quite relaxed. Once the speakers made their preliminary addresses, participants were encouraged to join in on the discussion.

While the intention of the talk was to discuss how to lead a life of impact within a community, the natural course of discussion led to the attendees sharing their views on what happiness means to them, and how to achieve a life of happiness. Most of the audience members agreed that living a life of happiness begins with the acceptance that things happen, and one can’t control everything.

There was a general consensus that, to live a life of positive impact, one must first find positivity in their own life. This echoed the sentiments of Belshaw, who at the end of her introduction said “maybe tonight I’m hoping to talk about how we build sustainable social change where we’re creating the world we want, but also living it as we do it.”

Peter Hartman, who also organizes discussions about finding a purpose in life through his organization Happy For A Change, said he’s used to hearing a lot of discussions turn into talks about the pursuit of happiness.

“There is overwhelmingly this focus on happiness,” he said. “I was hoping we would get beyond that… but I find it so useful, because every time we have that conversation we get a little bit further,” into what it means to lead a life of purpose.

Photo by Ana Hernandez

Hartman explained that, for him, living a life of purpose means living a life of meaningful action. “It’s when there is intention behind the actions that you do,” he said. “It’s not just that you have relationships—it’s the manner in which you have relationships that contribute to your overall purpose.”

Relationships, Hartman added, can be as basic as the contact a person has with a store clerk.

This and other guiding principles are the basis of Happy for A Change—what he calls a philosophy and a movement—with the goal of using people’s own search for happiness to make a positive change in the world.

“We understand that everybody is different and people want to work on different things, so we’re trying to find the lowest common denominator, what is the smallest action possible that we can convince people to do that would create change?” said Hartman. For the speaker, that action is going on social media. Hartman believes that going on social media is something that practically everyone does every day and he tries to harness its power by convincing people in the self-help industry to use their financial means to promote and market ideas that create a better society on social media.

Attendees discussed their thoughts on finding happiness through community engagement. Photo by Ana Hernandez

University of the Streets Café is a program part of Concordia’s Office of Community Engagement, which has existed for 15 years. According to Alex Megelas, the organizer of University of the Street Café programming, their mandate is to “promote a culture of community engagement at Concordia.” They do so by creating links between staff, students and different community based groups and organizations. University of the Streets Café is one of their initiatives.

Megelas said his principle role is to create discussions that reflect the goal of the program. This year, their goal is to look at city engagement and, more specifically, “how we live in cities as, individuals and together, [and] create shared experiences.”

The next University of the Streets Café discussion called “Representative Democracy: How do we foster citizenship literacy”, and will be held on March 9 at 7 p.m. at Temps Libre at 5606 De Gaspé St.

Student Life

Blame squeezing the life out of cuteness on science

The next time you pick up an adorable little fuzzy puppy and declare it to be so cute you’re going to die, don’t blame your emotions. Blame science.

The “it’s so fluffy, I’m gonna die!” response is explained by science to have positive effect on our overall happiness. Photo by flickr user

A group of graduate student researchers at Yale University recently coined the term “cute aggression,” to explain the body’s response to overwhelmingly adorable things and presented a paper on it earlier this year.

SoulPancake, a Youtube channel dedicated to positive psychology, picked up on this study and incorporated it into their new series, The Science of Happiness.

“[Yale scientists] found out that if you’re overwhelmed with a sense of happiness or giddiness, your body and your brain looks for some way to quickly and efficiently exert that,” said The Science of Happiness co-creator Mike Bernstein in a behind-the-scenes video on Youtube. “And the fastest way your body can come up with, is aggression.”

Now, this doesn’t mean that you’re more likely to turn around and start kicking faces after you see a kitten sneeze and fall over. The aggression is more likely to be exerted by pinching someones cheeks, squeezing too hard during a hug or popping bubble wrap.

Yale researchers had 109 volunteers look at cute, funny, or neutral pictures and asked whether they agreed that it was I-just-can’t-handle-it cute or if they felt the need to squeeze something and say “grr.”

They found that the cuter the picture was, the more aggressive the response would be.

“We think it’s about high positive-affect, an approach orientation and almost a sense of lost control,” said research group-leader Rebecca Dyer in an article written earlier this year by Popular Science contributor Shaunacy Ferro and entitled “Why Do We Want to Squeeze Cute Things?”

After the initial test, the researchers invited the volunteers back, gave them bubble wrap, and had them watch another animal slideshow.

Volunteers would pop 120 bubbles while looking at cute pictures and only 80 to 100 bubbles when looking at neutral ones.

SoulPancake did a similar test and found that one volunteer popped 45 bubbles for the cute pictures and only four for neutral ones.

Dyer has two theories for why we display cute aggression.

First, she suggested that when we are unable to reach through the screen and take care of the cute thing (which we are biologically programed to do) we become frustrated, and then aggressive.

Conversely, our brains are overwhelmed with the torrent of happiness that cuteness brings so the brain gives the happy emotion a negative response in attempt to balance the high levels of energy and emotion. This is similar to when we are so overwhelmed with happiness that we begin to cry.

“Ultimately cute aggression is nothing to worry about,” said The Science of Happiness’ host Julian Huguet in SoulPancake’s video A Study of Cute Aggression. “But, if that aunt [who also pinches your cheeks] does tells you that you’re so cute she could just eat you up, run.”

To check out the video and many other positive psychology studies search ‘The Science of Happiness – A Study of Cute Aggression’ on Youtube.



Student Life

If you’re happy and you know it, say thank you

What makes you happy? Spending a full day in bed watching Netflix? Going out with your friends? It is an intriguing question to ask yourself. Here is another: when was the last time you thanked someone? Not for merely opening the door for you or giving you a loose-leaf paper, but truly expressed your gratitude and appreciation for how they have impacted you.

Graphic Jenny Kwan

This is the question psychologists asked themselves when conducting a study on the emergence of positive psychology. The study, “Positive Psychology Progress: Empirical Validation of Interventions,” gave participants several “happiness exercises” and questionnaires in an attempt to increase their levels of happiness and decrease their depressive symptoms.

One of the exercises was called “Three good things in life,” where participants were asked to write down three things that went well every day for a week. Another was “You at your best,” where participants were asked to write about a particular time when they were at their best and were told to review their story daily for a week. According to the study, the exercise that showed the largest positive changes was “Gratitude visit,” where participants were given one week to write and then deliver a letter of gratitude in person to someone who had impacted them positively, but were never properly thanked.

The concept of expressing your gratitude directly increasing your happiness is what inspired the viral YouTube video, “The Science of Happiness” by SoulPancake, who decided to put this study to the test.

The video starts off by giving volunteers a short test to get an idea of their current level of happiness. They were told to close their eyes and think of someone who was influential in their lives. They wrote down everything about that person and why they were important to them. They were then told to call that person and read what they wrote about them. The subjects called friends, family members, and one even spoke of a college accounting instructor.

After they expressed their gratitude via telephone to their chosen influential person, they were given one more happiness test. It was essentially the same test the participants had taken at the beginning of the experiment, but the questions were mixed up and re-phrased. According to the results, the participants who personally picked up the phone and expressed their gratitude were significantly happier. The host, Julian Huguet, noted that the person who came in the least happy had the biggest jump in happiness.

The concept is so simple, but at the same time, not something that crosses our minds very often. I sent the video around and asked people what their thoughts and reactions were.

“I think it is indicative of our society as a whole, where we just take things for granted, happiness included, and never look at why or how we got their in the first place,” said McGill student Robert Laurella. “Being grateful forces you to think about why you have a reason to be happy in the first place, and that gets lost a lot.”

John Abbott College student Carine Chan agrees: “That was so cute, I started tearing up,” she said. “We often don’t express our gratitude towards others not because we don’t feel it, but we just don’t think of doing it. It clearly does bring happiness in so many ways.”

SoulPancake has since conducted other experiments such as the correlation between happiness and success, looking on the bright side, and being kind. They continue to add videos to The Science of Happiness series and post their findings on YouTube, while encouraging others to test them out for themselves.

The Science of Happiness


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