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  • Marcy Kocher

What makes Us Happy

A few years ago, I took a course offered by Yale University called The Science of Well-Being, taught by Professor Laurie Santos.

 

I confess I’m 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 a few of the key takeaways I received from this course. 



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

 

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

 

  • “Lots” of money. It turns out that having enough money to cover our basic needs does contribute to our happiness, but research shows us 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 consistently show that when people lose weight and don’t work on their internal life, they stay just as unhappy as before, which often leads to putting the weight back on. 

 

  • True love. Again, studies show 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 means humans are really good at adapting to new experiences. When we adapt, we go back to our original baseline of happiness. 

 

All of this research confirms if we want true happiness, it must be internal, and it must be intentional. 


 

Here are some scientifically proven ways to create happiness from the inside out. 

 

  • Savoring ( my favorite! ). Savoring is the act of staying in the moment of an experience that you enjoy.  It intensifies and lengthens the positive emotions associated with the experience and rewires your brain! For instance, closing your eyes and feeling a warm cup of tea in your hands or noticing how amazing your warm shower feels. Take in the beauty and serenity of a walk in nature. Watch your children sleep or pet your dog or cat. 

 

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

 

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

 

  • Social connections are essential. 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 another person. Call or visit a friend, have fun or meaningful conversation over a meal. Take time to listen and 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's podcast, The Happiness Lab. the-happiness-lab-with-dr-laurie-santos

 

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

 

Savor this wonderful gift of life, and have an amazing week.

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