Between a global pandemic, myriad issues surrounding systemic racism and the tumultuous and contentious presidential election, 2020 was a “glass half empty” kind of year for many of us.
That’s why a group of members of the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts started an online support program in November aimed at helping people shift their mindset to a place of gratitude and positivity. The monthly program, called Happy Talks, is designed to help foster understanding and teach participants to manage their emotions, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions about their well-being.
Zora Carrier, the museum’s executive director, moderates the conversations. She said that programs like Happy Talks fit well into the role that museums and cultural institutions play in our lives in the 21st century.
“A big part of what the community needs for its well-being is a source for mental health stress relief,” she said in a recent interview with the Catalyst. “This is a place where people can freely take the time to talk and not be under stress and guarded the way they might have to in their regular professional lives.”
The events of 2020 have accelerated the need for such a support system, Carrier said, noting that the idea for Happy Talks bubbled up from members in the museum’s very active Facebook group.
“Photographers are a group of people who like to learn from each other and talk about their gear and their secrets when they are creating successful work,” Carrier said. “Suddenly, that social component disappeared, and our members were missing that a lot.”
While the majority of the dozen or so people who have participated in the first two sessions are professional photographers who are members of the museum, the group is open to the public. The topics vary each month based on suggestions from group members, with January’s focusing on relationships and the need to be part of a group. However, central to each discussion is the idea of gratitude and positivity and participants are encouraged to share stories of the good they experience in their lives if they feel comfortable doing so. Otherwise, they can sit back and listen.
“Everyone can use a little more of those warm, fuzzy feelings that are connected with gratitude and encouragement,” Carrier said. “This is a place for support and reinforcement for all the positive things happening in our lives, because there are a lot. If everyone in the group shares a two-minute happy story, you have a whole bucketful of positive that can make you stronger for the rest of the day.”
The next Happy Talks will be held Tuesday, Jan 12 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Zoom. To access the Zoom link, click here.