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You can make yourself happier today. Your life circumstances and personality aren’t nearly as important as you think in deciding how happy you can be. Dr. Laurie Santos explains how understanding the latest science will point you in the right direction and make you more satisfied with your life. Are you ready to feel better?

To learn more. . .

Sonja Lyubomirsky’s website

Bob Waldinger’s TED talk

Harvard Study of Adult Development

Laurie Santos’s class on

Links to references from this episode:

“Only about 6 percent of applicants will get good news.” 

McCooey, S. (2019). Yale admits 5.91 percent of applicants. Yale Daily News, 3/28/19

“In the last five years, rates of college mental health problems have skyrocketed nationally.” 

• Rates of college students feeling anxiety and overwhelmed:

American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Reference Group Executive Summary Fall 2018. Silver Spring, MD: American College Health Association; 2018.

• Depression rates doubling in the last decade:

Twenge, J. M., Cooper, A. B., Joiner, T. E., Duffy, M. E., & Binau, S. G. (2019). Age, period, and cohort trends in mood disorder indicators and suicide-related outcomes in a nationally representative dataset, 2005–2017. Journal of abnormal psychology.

“So I decided to develop a new class on the science of happiness”

Shimer, D. (2018). Yale’s Most Popular Class Ever: Happiness. New York Times. 1/26/2018.

“She wrote two classic texts on the science of well-being.”

Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). The how of happiness: A scientific approach to getting the life you want. Penguin

Lyubomirsky, S. (2014). The myths of happiness: What should make you happy, but doesn’t, what shouldn’t make you happy, but does. Penguin.

“Researchers have checked the validity of scales like these in lots and lots of ways.”

• Self report scales correlate with emotional experience:

Krueger, A. B., & Schkade, D. A. (2008). The reliability of subjective well-being measures. Journal of public economics, 92(8-9), 1833-1845

• Self report scales correlated with family reports and smiling:

Sandvik, E., Diener, E., & Seidlitz, L. (2009). Subjective well-being: The convergence and stability of self-report and non-self-report measures. In Assessing well-being (pp. 119-138). Springer, Dordrecht.

“Feeling happy leads to good life outcomes.”

• Happiness is correlated with higher income later in life:

De Neve, J. E., & Oswald, A. J. (2012). Estimating the influence of life satisfaction and positive affect on later income using sibling fixed effects. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(49), 19953-19958

• Happiness is correlated with better relationships later in life:

Harker, L., & Keltner, D. (2001). Expressions of positive emotion in women’s college yearbook pictures and their relationship to personality and life outcomes across adulthood. Journal of personality and social psychology, 80(1), 112

• Positive mood leads to catching fewer colds:

Cohen, S., Doyle, W. J., Turner, R. B., Alper, C. M., & Skoner, D. P. (2003). Emotional style and susceptibility to the common cold. Psychosomatic medicine, 65(4), 652-657

• Happiness leads to later job interview success:

Burger, J. M., & Caldwell, D. F. (2000). Personality, social activities, job-search behavior and interview success: Distinguishing between PANAS trait positive affect and NEO extraversion. Motivation and Emotion, 24(1), 51-62

• Happiness in nuns correlated with longevity:

Danner, D. D., Snowdon, D. A., & Friesen, W. V. (2001). Positive emotions in early life and longevity: findings from the nun study. Journal of personality and social psychology, 80(5), 804.

“Identical twins are much more alike in their happiness levels than our fraternal twins.”

Bartels, M. (2015). Genetics of happiness, satisfaction with life, and wellbeing; a review and meta-analysis of heritability studies. Behavior Genetics, 45(2), 137-156.

“I direct a study called the Harvard Study of Adult Development.”

“Bob’s study showed that the keys to happiness don’t involve what we often put time into to become happier.”

Vaillant, G. E. (2008). Aging well: Surprising guideposts to a happier life from the landmark study of adult development. Little, Brown.

“There’s no quick fix for happiness. But science shows there is a fix, if you put in a little time and effort.”

Kurtz, J. L., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). Towards a durable happiness. In S. J. Lopez & J. G. Rettew (Eds.), The Positive Psychology Perspective Series (Vol. 4). Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group. 21-36

“The ones that I tend to focus on are gratitude and kindness.”

Lyubomirsky, S., & Layous, K. (2013). How do simple positive activities increase well-being?. Current directions in psychological science, 22(1), 57-62.

“Science shows us lots of really simple habits we can add to our lives to feel better”

• The importance of social connection:

Diener, E., & Seligman, M. E. (2002). Very happy people. Psychological science, 13(1), 81-84

• Positive mood and connecting with random people on the street:

Epley, N., & Schroeder, J. (2014). Mistakenly seeking solitude. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(5), 1980.

• Reducing choices and well-being:

Schwartz, B. (2004, January). The paradox of choice: Why more is less. New York: Ecco.

• Count your blessings and happiness:

Emmons, R., & McCullough, M. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389

• Becoming more accepting of emotions:

Baer, R. A. (Ed.). (2015). Mindfulness-based treatment approaches: Clinician’s guide to evidence base and applications. Elsevier

• Becoming more accepting of obstacles:

Oettingen, G. (2015). Rethinking positive thinking: Inside the new science of motivation. Current;

• Focusing on the end goal and think more about the journey:

Kohn, A. (1999). Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

“There are now hundreds of such studies.”

Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). The how of happiness: A scientific approach to getting the life you want. Penguin

Lyubomirsky, S. (2014). The myths of happiness: What should make you happy, but doesn’t, what shouldn’t make you happy, but does. Penguin.

“We put the class online completely for free.”

“The specific one we used is called PERMA.”

Butler, J., & Kern, M. L. (2016). The PERMA-Profiler: A brief multidimensional measure of flourishing. International Journal of Wellbeing, 6(3).

The Host

Dr. Laurie Santos

Dr. Laurie Santos is Professor of Psychology and Head of Silliman College at Yale University. Professor and podcast host Dr. Laurie Santos is an expert on human cognition and the…