“What made you smile today” is the question The Smile Epidemic has been posing to Wilfrid Laurier University students in an effort to increase happiness on campus.
First year students are being asked to write down their answer this daily as part of a 30-day challenge residence project that was launched last week. Their answers are then posted on the bulletin boards that are located on each floor of residences.
The Smile Epidemic is a company that was created out of Laurier’s LaunchPad and is currently situated at the Accelerator Centre.
“Our belief is that by actively thinking about what makes us happy and what made us smile in our day that improves our mental health and we become happier,” explained Daniel Towers, the digital community manager for The Smile Epidemic.
According to Jim Moss, who cofounded the company with his wife, Jennifer, 70 out of the 117 floors of residence are currently participating in the project. They are hoping this will continue number will continue to grow.
“The idea is that by next September we have a club on campus that does this,” Moss continued. “And that all of the residences are doing it with first year students in the first month of school to help them get to know each other … and make them happy as they move into a whole new environment.”
The company stemmed from Moss’s own experience with the effects of mental health problems as he had a family member in her late teens commit suicide.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been able to come to terms with how sad it was that she just couldn’t find something to be happy about and got to that lonely place,” Moss said. “We see headlines constantly about this epidemic of mental health problems, specifically on university campuses, and the numbers are staggering.”
They brought the program to Laurier after receiving an e-mail from the Graduate Student Association who, according to Moss, saw the need for it at the university. Based on positive psychology, Moss explained that The Smile Epidemic is aimed at taking people when they’re healthy and making them healthier.
Moss stressed, however, that they don’t pretend to be a mental health service.
“We call it vitamins instead of medicine: take your vitamins when you’re healthy so you don’t get quite as sick when you get a cold,” he said, adding that mental health services are still the place to go if you’re experiencing mental health problems.
Lindsey Martin, a don in Bouckaert Residence, said “It’s just been going amazing. It gives an identity to your floor and your community too.”
Michelle Jamroz, a first year student living in King Street Residence, has had a different experience with the project. She explained that, so far, it is just she and her don who have posted on their bulletin board.
“I don’t think people [on my floor] are very big on participating,” she explained
Beyond posting to the bulletin boards, Towers explained that students are also being asked to take a picture with what made them smile and upload it to their website. At the end of the 30 days, the data will be collected and analysed and given to the university
“Our overall goal on our website is to create the happiest community on earth,” said Towers. “We think that by everyone sharing what makes them happy that we’re on our way to making that happen.”