Expert to speak in Boca on science of happiness – Palm Beach Post

Posted: March 3, 2020 at 10:46 am


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Everyone wants to be happy.

And the pursuit of it is so fundamental to the human condition that the Founding Fathers put it right up there at the top of the Declaration of Independence as one of our inalienable rights.

But for too many of us in todays fast-paced world, we dont know how to achieve lasting happiness.

Enter Yale professor of psychology Laurie Santos who will be speaking on this very topic at Festival of the Arts Boca on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Her symposium, Psychology and the Good Life, is a one-hour version of the wildly popular Yale course she created two years ago and which has since become a worldwide phenomenon.

Stressed-out student body

In 2016, Santos an expert in human cognition, its origins and the evolutionary biases that influence peoples thinking was named the head of Silliman College, one of 14 undergraduate residential colleges at the university.

When I started living on campus, I saw just how widespread the stress and unhappiness was among students, she said. They were having a very different college experience than what I remembered having.

Research has also confirmed this.

According to national surveys taken around campuses, 40% of students said they were depressed and hopeless, 60% of them felt anxious and 60% said they felt lonely.

To counteract this trend, Santos created a semester-long course called Psychology and the Good Life.

The goal, she said, was to create a positive psychology curriculum that presented students both scientific research and evidence-based, real-world strategies that they could incorporate into their own daily lives.

I wanted to give them behaviors they could put into practice right away, explained Santos.

The class became the most popular in the universitys 300-plus-year history, with 25% of the student body (some 1,200 students) enrolling.

We had to hold it a concert hall, she said.

Santos explained that many of our intuitions about what will make us happy are incorrect.

For instance, research has shown that neither financial wealth nor material acquisitions are good predictors of personal happiness.

"Your circumstances dont determine how happy you are, she said. Your mindset does.

In addition, the self-imposed pressure students put on themselves to get top grades led to them spending untold hours of stress-filled studying and missing out on the joys of college life.

Santos explained to them that they had to rewire their brains in order to adapt the kind of behaviors that would enable them to experience more happiness.

I gave them weekly assignments that were called reWIREments instead of requirements.

Among them:

Write a letter of gratitude.

Perform a daily random act of kindness.

Meditate.

Exercise.

Get at least seven hours of sleep for three nights in a given week.

Reach out to a stranger.

Have more real-world social interactions.

In adopting these new behaviors and trying to turn them into habits, students found that practicing self-care often meant looking outside of themselves.

One of her students told the Washington Post on the the last day of that inaugural 2018 course, I feel different physically and mentally I dont feel so weighted down by things. Its something you have to work on every day ... If I keep using these skills, theyll, over time, help me develop better habits and be happier. I hope theyll stay with me the rest of my life.

As word about the happiness class spread first around campus and then in the national media Santos created an abbreviated version of the course called The Science of Well-Being that she made available at the online education site Coursera.org.

To date, more than 516,000 people worldwide have enrolled in the online course.

She also created a podcast called The Happiness Lab that builds on the information first presented in her university lectures.

Being happy doesnt just happen, Santos said. You have practice the habits that will lead to happiness.

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Expert to speak in Boca on science of happiness - Palm Beach Post

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March 3rd, 2020 at 10:46 am

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