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University RSO spreads positivity

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University RSO spreads positivity

Positive Illini

Positive Illini

Positive Illini

By Isabella Arquilla, Staff Writer

In the midst of rainy days, midterms and stressful all-nighters, the members of Positive Illini aim to spread positivity campus-wide.

In weekly meetings, members of Positive Illini discuss themes related to maintaining a positive attitude and learning strategies for how to live a happier life. Meetings typically include a TED talk on a topic related to living a happier life, followed by an activity.

Activities allow members to leave the meeting carrying with them something that they can do on their own to improve their lives or make themselves more positive.

The topics covered in the meetings are all based on research in the field of positive psychology. The goal of this field is to research methods to enhance one’s life by finding strategies to live happier.

Brett Cohen, junior in LAS, founded the registered student organization at the beginning of 2017 after being inspired by a YouTube channel called SoulPancake. The channel features videos of different people out on the street participating in activities, following along to show how gratitude improves happiness.

“I remember watching those (videos) in high school and loving them, and always thinking that I would love to recreate those one day,” Cohen said.

In addition to inspiring its members to live a more positive life, the RSO aims to spread this positivity into the campus community. The club participates in external events that it hopes will spread happiness and maybe even make someone’s day.

For Halloween, the clubs put on a “reverse trick-or-treating” event at the UGL. They passed out candy and KIND bars to students.

“Doing an event like that helped me connect with the people there. I am probably never going to see them again. I don’t know anything about them,” said Mila Lipinski, freshman in FAA and Positive Illini member. “But for that one moment, making them like ‘Ah yes, candy!’ That was something that just kind of warmed my heart.”

Right before Thanksgiving, the club passed out free hot chocolate on the Main Quad. And in exchange for the hot chocolate, people had to tell them what they were grateful for. If they were willing, they would call somebody and tell them why they were grateful for that person.

“We had people come back up to us later in the day saying like, ‘Hey, I called my mom earlier when I was here and she just texted me how much she appreciated it,’ so it really just spreads,” Cohen said.

In fall 2017, the club made its first appearance at Quad Day. Cohen said he was astounded when nearly 300 students signed up for the RSO’s email list.

“It was really funny because we would get both ends of the spectrum,” he said. “You would get people who were like, ‘I’m really positive, this sounds like the perfect club for me,’ and then you would get people like, ‘I’m really negative, I should use this club to help me.’” 

In addition to weekly meetings and external events, the group enjoys collaborating with other RSOs and getting involved in service.

They’ve collaborated with the Undergraduate Psychology Association, the Leadership Center and Stress Management Peers. To give back to the community, they have helped with food packing and participated in iHelp Campus Community Day of Service. This month, they will be volunteering for the Special Olympics.

“We’re kind of open to doing anything, especially when we all get to do it together. It’s super fun,” said Gillian Rowe, freshman in DGS.

Rowe serves as vice president of morale for Positive Illini. She discovered the club on Quad Day and started attending weekly meetings with her friends because of the enjoyable atmosphere.

“I mean, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people. They all want to be there and they all want to help cheer you up if you’re feeling down,” Rowe said.

Cohen said many freshmen in the club have approached him saying this club is the best thing they joined their freshman year, and that it helped them feel welcome on campus.

“We talk a lot about those kinds of themes and topics of transitioning into college and how to keep that positive attitude through that hard transition,” Cohen said.

Lipinski chose to come to the University to be part of a crowd, to be something greater than herself. She said that the Positive Illini helps her still have a small community within that crowd.

“I’m interacting with a smaller group of people, but I’m also reaching out to a wider group of people, and that makes me feel like I’m making a difference,” Lipinski said.

When starting this club, Cohen figured there would be people that would enjoy it, but finding out that people have actually benefitted from the club has really inspired him.

“The most rewarding part is just hearing how it actually impacted people, because a lot of our members, as you probably could guess, are really positive and like to show their gratitude,” Cohen said. “So, it doesn’t surprise me that a lot of them have come up and said how much they appreciate this club.”

Lipinski said the Positive Illini is not just about being positive all the time and they are not trying to change anyone.

“I think it is a good exercise in perspective-taking, both in your situation and in other people’s situations. And even if you are not especially positive or don’t care to be, there are still ways you can learn,” Lipinski said. “Yesterday, we talked about healthy habits. You don’t have to necessarily be a super positive person to decide to go to the gym and things like that. There are lessons that are applicable to people no matter what their mindset is.”

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