Penn State’s Vedic Society held The Happiness Event last week, where sociology professor Sam Richards and world-traveling monk Devamrita Swami discussed the state of happiness in students and millenials.
As the instructor of the largest race, gender and cultural relations course in the United States, Richards has given TEDx talks garnering millions of viewers.
Swami was born in New York and attended Yale for his education.
“Yale let me do anything," Swami said. "I was looking for a cure for the world’s problems.”
The two sat and discussed the nature of relatively taboo subjects: suicide, anxiety and depression, and how they have impacted the lives of college students.
Depression is a relatable topic for college students, with more than 30 percent of college students seeking counseling at least once in their four-year stints.
The two offered stark contrasts to the issue of depression in college students.
Richards said people allow themselves to become consumed with a “hedonic mindset” that is ultimately unsustainable and toxic to their own well-being.
“Is the problem a few apples in the barrel or is it the barrel? We need to understand the American paradox. Compared to your grandparents, you enjoy a level of opulence and convenience that your grandparents never did, and you’re a little less happy and more susceptible to social problems because of it,” Swami said.
Swami added the “the result is that millenials are the most stressed-out generation.”
When the two were asked about finding permanent happiness, Richards gave a direct answer.
“I feel that I cannot feel happiness in perpetuity,” Richards said, adding he believes people need to not look for an all-encompassing happiness but be able to relish in the waves and moments that it comes in.
“What you need to be looking for is sustainable happiness, not these momentary buzzes,” Swami said.
Silent and focused, the 50 students in attendance were fixed on the conversation between Richards and Swami.
“I feel like a lot of questions that we have, they hit for college students, and it’s super relatable,” Rishi Sims (junior-agribusiness management) said. “It gives us more an understanding to what happiness is, and I feel like I learned that there is a long way to go to reach happiness.”