Chasing Happiness

Listen 48:42
A person choosing between three faces, (smiling, neutral, or unhappy) on a survey screen

(TeroVesalainen/Big Stock)

The pandemic has changed the way a lot of us understand and experience happiness. In normal times, we think of happiness as a big-picture goal — a guiding principle for making decisions. Will this job make me happy? Will this relationship make me happy? Will starting a family, or moving, or switching careers make me happy?

But over the past few months, as our lives have increasingly been shaped by restrictions, loss, and fear, many of us have had to reexamine what happiness means, and how we can find it.

On this episode, we hear from psychologists who study happiness, and explore what contributes to happiness, and what it means in this unique moment.

Also heard on this week’s episode:

  • How do we achieve happiness? That’s a question that University of California psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky has been exploring for years. She says happiness is both a state — a fleeting moment — and also a trait, something that’s more stable, and a more dominant characteristic in some people than in others.
  • Brock Bastian, a psychologist and professor at the University of Melbourne, discusses the pursuit of happiness, and how a more fearless approach to life might result in greater happiness.
  • At the age of 4, Lise Deguire was severely burned in an accident, causing third-degree burns all over her body. The ensuing years were filled with surgeries, pain, and parental neglect. Despite everything, Deguire — who’s now a psychologist and author — found her way to happiness. She tells us about that journey. Her book is called “Flashback Girl: Lessons on Resilience from a Burn Survivor.”
  • How does culture shape our expectations and experience of happiness? We get the lowdown from Jeanne Tsai, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Culture and Emotion Lab.
  • We also created a playlist of songs about happiness. Check it out on Spotify or press play below.

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