Less Media, More Mindfulness: The Happiness Project Begins

Organized by Ben Forman ’23 and Kei Obata ’23, the Happiness Project is a social media cleanse running from February 13 to February 27. With over 40 participants, the project entails the deletion of all social media and encourages daily meditation sessions throughout the two-week period.

The idea behind this year’s social media cleanse stemmed from a similar project Forman and Obata conducted last year. They hope to introduce and encourage mindfulness to the student body. 

“Last year, we did a similar thing, but [it] was a study looking at the effects of social media. We had people delete their social media and we charted their moods throughout the two weeks. This year, we’re not really making a study… It’s more about trying to get as many people as possible to [gain] mindfulness [and] a better routine,” said Forman.

During the two-week period, there will be a meditation session every weekday at 8:05 a.m. in the Freeman Room in the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL) for 15 to 20 minutes. Inspired by his prior experience with meditation in the course Global Buddhisms: Past, Present, and Future (Philosophy and Religion 511), Obata expressed his enthusiasm for regular meditation, which positively influenced his mood and concentration.

“As a musician, I do a brief five to ten minute meditation before auditions and even concerts and it really helps to set [my] focus and almost brings [me] to a place of hope and happiness. And for me, that’s back with my family in Japan. But I’m really excited because it’s going to be the first time that I’m also part of a daily, consistent schedule,” said Obata.

Obata continued, “Our greater goal is to spread happiness, and through meditation, I hope people can find a happy medium in themselves and almost discover their identity. Because at Andover, I feel like a lot of people are just always consistently busy. And there’s almost no time to just space out or think random things, right? Through meditation, hopefully we can have a place where people can just let [their] thoughts wander and relax.”

Before the Happiness Project, Forman had already been meditating personally for three to four years, and had stopped using social media for several years. Through this project, Forman hoped participants would better deal with stress in an academically rigorous environment like Andover. 

“The sad thing is, I think [dependence on social media] is a nationwide, worldwide situation. I’d say the difference with Andover is that it is just a high stress environment in general. So we get to see the effects because kids are stressed out because of work and stuff at a higher level… For my goals, obviously I wish people would join for two weeks and end up staying off. But overall, I just [hope] people can see what it’s like to have these healthy habits, and [that it] can really change your mood for the better,” said Forman.

Sophia Geng ’25, who signed up for the project, aimed to achieve a better balance between academics and her social life. The timing of the project, which falls in penultimate and ultimate week, also aligned with this goal.

“I saw the dates and it was nearing penultimate and ultimate [week], so I thought it would be nice to see what two weeks without social media could do for my studies and social life… I want to emerge from this project with healthier habits and be able to know how much time I spend on social media. And I think taking time off really puts into perspective how much time you’re wasting on social media. So I hope to find a balance between the two extremes,” said Geng.

After participating in last year’s project, Anabelle Biggs ’23 is returning to the Happiness Project. Biggs outlined her personal goals as a participant this year, highlighting the importance of staying committed to the project.

“Especially at Andover, it’s really easy to get lost thinking about the future and not the present. Especially when thinking about upcoming assignments or a project that’s due soon, it’s easy to lose track of the present… I want to just be more grounded in the present moment. So I think my goal for myself is just to commit to [the project], do it every day. How committed I am will demonstrate how effective it will be for me. And I am excited to get back into meditating and also have a community of people who I know I can support and can support me, who are going through the same thing,” said Biggs.