Yale University psychology professor Laurie Santos says happiness is about having joy in your life and with your life.
“If we’re maximizing you being happy in your life -- that’s lots of positive emotions,” Santos told NEXT.
She says you’re happy with your life when you’re satisfied at a meta level.
Santos teaches the course “Psychology and the Good Life” at Yale, which is all about happiness. She started it in 2018 after noticing students were more anxious and depressed than ever. A study from the Journal of Adolescent Health backs that up. It found that rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation increased significantly among U.S. college students from 2007 to 2018.
It turns out Yale students wanted to talk about the science of happiness. Over 1,000 people signed up for Santos’ class on “the good life” -- so many that she had to teach it in a concert hall. Since then, she’s taught a similar course online where millions of people have enrolled. She also hosts the podcast The Happiness Lab.
Santos says we often think we’ll be happy when some big change happens -- we get a new job, more money or an award. She says that’s rarely true.
“I think one misconception we have is that happiness is a destination. That we’ll get to somewhere and it will be happily ever after,” she says. “‘Happily ever after’ only works if you only have two seconds to live.”
In reality, happiness takes work, she says. Research shows you can increase your happiness with socializing, gratitude, kindness, enough sleep, exercise and being in the present moment.