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  • Writer's pictureMarcy Kocher

What makes us happy

Several months ago I took a 10 week online course offered by Yale University called The Science of Well Being, taught by professor Laurie Santos.

I confess that I am an insatiable psychology nerd and cannot get enough of the science behind living a good life and this class did not disappoint.

As we continue our discussion on happiness, I’d like to share with you a few of the key takeaways I received.

First of all, it’s important to understand what the science shows does not make us happy.

  • Material possessions provide temporary pleasure but always leave our brains wanting more.

  • “Lots” of money. It turns out having enough money to cover our basic needs does contribute to our happiness but research has shown that anything over $75,000 a year does not buy greater happiness. In fact, if left to an unmanaged mind, more money often leads to unhappiness.

  • Losing weight or attaining the “perfect” body does not lead to happiness. Body image is internal and studies have shown that even when people do lose the weight if they don’t work on their internal life they stay just as unhappy as before which often leads them to putting the weight back on.

  • True love. Studies have shown that finding Mr. or Mrs. Right makes us happier for an average of about two years. This is due to a concept called hedonic adaptation which simply means humans are really good at adapting to new experiences and when we adapt we go back to our original baseline of happiness.


What research has discovered is that if we want true happiness it must be internal and it must be intentional.

Here are some of the scientifically proven ways we can create happiness from the inside out.

  • Savoring ( my favorite! ) savoring is the act of staying in the moment of an experience that you really enjoy. It intensifies and lengthens the positive emotions that are associated with the experience and literally rewires your brain! For instance, closing your eyes and feeling a warm cup of tea in your hands or feeling the warmth in your throat as you swallow. Really feeling and thinking about how amazing your warm shower feels. Taking in the beauty and serenity of a walk in nature. Watching your children sleep or petting your dog or cat.

  • Gratitude is a little different than savoring but just as powerful. Gratitude is a positive emotional state that we experience when we recognize and appreciate what we have received in life. Research shows that taking time to experience gratitude can make us happier and healthier.

  • Acts of kindness and generosity. Research has shown that when we do something for ourselves we might feel good for about three days. However, when do things for someone else we can feel good for up to three months!

  • Social connections are important. Research shows that simple acts such as making eye contact or smiling at a stranger can boost our positive emotions. Happy people spend more time with others and have deeper social connections than unhappy people. The key is to genuinely connect with a another person. Call or visit with a friend, have fun or meaningful conversation over a meal. Take time to listen and to share it leads to happiness!

I recommend choosing one or all of these happiness rewirements and practicing them for the next week. Notice if you feel any better. Let me know how it goes!

And if you would like more on the science of happiness check out professor Laurie Santos podcast, The Happiness Lab.


Remember, happiness creates success because when we feel better we do better.

Savor this amazing gift of life you have been given and have a wonderful week.

P.S. If you would like personalized and customized, one-on-one help with creating a life of purpose, passion and peace hit reply and schedule a free Coaching session. I look forward to hearing from you!

Also, be sure to follow me on LinkedIn and Facebook!

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