How I Spent My Summer: Samantha Steinfeld

zBlog Samantha Steinfeld 2013As a recent college graduate, I’m convinced that my stress threshold has been unnaturally enhanced. Like any junkie, I can’t get to my normal level of functioning unless I have papers, events, presentations, internships, and part-time jobs to occupy my time from dusk until dawn. It is not until I get my “fix” and am completely exhausted at the end of the night can I sleep soundly (for no more than five hours, of course). I doubt I am the only one who is experiencing this, as my fellow ambitious interns can probably attest.

I recently came across an article about a concept called “The Happiness Tipping Point,” and learned that is part of a larger movement that is calling the world to take action on behalf of our well-being. Eventually, some believe, all of these “come on, get happy” efforts are going to tip the world toward happiness, which, I suppose, is better than the alternative.

I was intrigued, so I did some further research. My Google search produced an entire page of results dedicated to articles about salaries, as if there is a magic number that one can make per year that will instantly evoke happiness. Was I surprised? No, I am well aware of the profit-driven society that we live in, but didn’t we learn from the likes of Freddie Mercury and Hank Williams Jr. that money doesn’t buy happiness?

On the second page of results, after weeding through the greedy business, I found the information I was looking for. Evidently, the Happiness Movement is a very real and global thing. Did you know March 20, 2013, was the first official United Nations International Day of Happiness? Or were you too busy counting your piles of cash? I know I didn’t celebrate accordingly. 

I understand this may sound like a fluffy, inconsequential movement reminiscent of the “don’t worry, be happy” flower child. I was skeptical myself, but this stuff is actually based on a little bit of science. Action for Happiness, a secular movement grounded in science, started in 2011. The founders discovered that citizens of countries like Bangladesh and Nigeria reported more feelings of happiness than people in richer countries, like ours truly. The question, “why?” was the catalyst to the formation of this group of happiness activists. They noticed that happiness levels have plateaued in countries like the United States for the past 60 years and they believe this is caused by relational negligence. We have been disregarding the quality of relationships, both personal and professional, in favor of money. Surprise, surprise. I mean, money is nice and all, but does it serve as a replacement for real-life friends?

To answer my original question, I do believe stress and happiness can coexist. After all, a little stress is healthy. I think it is, as with most things in life, a balancing act. I could sit here and write a post about how we all should seize every opportunity that is placed before us during these 11 weeks and work harder than we’ve ever worked before, but I know each and every one of you are already going to do that, and you are really, really excited to do so.

So, instead, I’m going to give us all a different type of challenge. We should make time for ourselves and our relationships. While it is an excellent protective shield of awkward silence, put the iPhone down and strike up a conversation with the person next to you instead. Take the extra moment to let someone go ahead of you in the check-out line at the grocery store, since happiness is a side effect of kindness. Finally, don’t worry about how big your paycheck is; because we now know that money doesn’t buy happiness (I am especially fond of this last point because it validates my desire of working in the oh-so-lucrative nonprofit world). Happiness was important enough for a few men to found a country based upon the right to it, so let’s fulfill our duty and pursue it.

Each week we use this space to give each of our interns a chance to reflect on their internship experiences. Samantha is a recent graduate of Xavier University. Placement: Beech Brook