Happiness Club: Week 1

Week 1

Welcome to the Happiness Club! This group discussion thread will revolve around content from the Coursera course, The Science of Well-Being and the associated podcast The Happiness Lab --both of which were created by Dr. Laurie Santos of Yale.

Throughout the next 10 weeks we will be posting our commentary, ideas and behavior as it relates to the science of happiness and how we can take these ideas and apply them to our own lives and in our classrooms. Anyone is welcome to join in on the fun!

Below you find notes on week one of the course and the podcast. I am sharing these as cliff notes for anyone who is interested in joining the discussion but doesn’t have time to fully participate in the course. Each week I intend on sharing a similar note set. The notes do not have much commentary, I will reserve that for the discussion below.

Science of Well-Being Week 1 Notes

Science of Wellbeing Course

Week 1 Learning Objectives

  • Assess your current level of well-being and produce a baseline measurement of well-being
  • Discover your signature strengths and apply them in your life for at least one week

Intro - Why this course exists

According to Dr. Laurie Santos, taken from her lecture:

The first of those three reasons is that this is the time that is ripe for thinking about applying the science of psychology, in part because, we are learning a ton about how to apply like these kind of concepts about how we can make ourselves happier.

Second reason though is that we kind of really need these insights pretty badly, because the fact is that we’re not as happy or as kind of increased in our well-being as we sort of need to be.

But the third reason is actually the most personal one of why I wanted to teach this, which is that it’s not just Yale students that need these insights, I actually need these insights too. So I’m kind of like below average on my own happiness.

GI Joe Fallacy - Knowing is half the battle…or is it? !

From her lecture:

It’s this mistaken idea that knowing is half the battle. G.I. Joe used to think that when you learn look both ways when you cross the street, then you’re kind of done. Now you know how to do it. And G.I. Joe even has this kind of awesome like graphic if you Google it on the Internet. But the claim is that this actually isn’t true. Merely knowing something is not enough to put into practice. Merely knowing something is not enough to actually change your behavior.

Dr. Laurie Santos' Amended GI Joe Motto


Week 1 Rewirement:

Rewirement Workbook

  1. Complete a ‘happiness’ assessment (or at least give your self a rating from 1-5 on personal happiness). Write this score down somewhere.

  2. Find your top strengths through VIA and try to deliberately engage in one of them each day.
    VIA Strength Finder


Happiness Lab Episode 1 Notes

Happiness Lab: Episode 1 - You Can Change

Episode Description: There are things you can do today to make yourself happier. Your life circumstances and personality aren’t nearly as important as you think in deciding how happy you can be. Dr Laurie Santos explains how understanding the latest science will point you in the right direction to making you more satisfied with your life.

The episode described the results of a 75 year longitudinal study on men’s health which gave some insight into what makes us happy, from a New York Times article on the findings, “the researchers looked at the factors throughout the years that strongly influenced health and well-being, they found that relationships with friends, and especially spouses, were a major one. The people in the strongest relationships were protected against chronic disease, mental illness and memory decline – even if those relationships had many ups and downs.”

Additional Links

Sonja Lyubomirsky’s website

Bob Waldinger’s TED talk

Harvard Study of Adult Development

Laurie Santos’s class on Coursera.org

So to kick us off, why don’t we share one thing we already knew and one place we grew (something we learned) while listening to the podcast or taking the course. I am also curious to hear how people plan on following through with ‘rewirements’

One thing I already knew about, thanks to our lovely SEL Coordinators, was the VIA strength finder assessment which we took as a staff 2 years ago. It reminds me of just how awesome our SEL people are and the work that they are putting in to try to help make our schools better places (I am talking to you @Kenna_Shearman and @Samantha_Thompson) .

What I forgot about the VIA assessment was that my main strength was ‘Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence’ and one of the best ways to express that is to get out in nature. My goal is to pick up XC skiing again this winter (something I haven’t done for about 5 years) as it ticks off two goals, exercise and getting to experience the beauty of nature.

This strengths finder would be an interesting activity to do with a group of advisory students and then have a discussion about how each individual might be able to find some strength that they had forgotten about or hadn’t fully realized and then help them develop ideas about how they could put that strength into practice.

From the podcast:
Keys to happiness don’t involve what we do to become happier (earning money, being successful). Health and happiness [actually] come from the things we sacrifice to spend time at work (e.g. relationships)

I have heard this before, so it is an “already knew”, but I had not thought of it from the perspective of happiness coming from the “things we sacrifice to spend time at work.” That is a powerful statement that grew my understanding and appreciation of what brings us happiness.

So my ‘rewirement’ (though I’m not taking the course) is to consider my decisions on how I spend time outside of work to a mindset of what am I sacrificing if I choose work over personal life in that space. I know the reality is that there may still be times where working outside of the work day may be necessary, but it is a matter of how I prioritize when that happens.

I have heard this idea many times before too–the idea that after a certain income your happiness is not dependent on wealth or success. And this is where that idea of the ‘GI Joe Fallacy’ comes into play: knowing is NOT half the battle.

Knowing about these findings has not caused any changes in my life. To me this has been the biggest takeaway of this week’s content: that nothing will change until we put in the work. Which is a harsh reminder to those of us (such as myself) who just like to read books and listen to podcasts and hope that change will occur through informational osmosis!

Thanks for your reply!

1 Like

I also discovered I had taken the VIA strengths finder. I also had forgotten my top strengths: Judgment, Fairness, Honesty, and Creativity. They don’t seem like the best fit for my job? But I love my job anyway.

I followed through to a Ted Talk linked in the course materials and realized that while I don’t focus too much on the “Pleasure” kind of happiness (really savoring things, practicing gratitude, etc.), my job is very much a path to “Flow” which was a different kind of happiness. I am challenged pretty much every day in my work.

(Sorry for the delay on participating - I got the assignment done pretty quick but then have been at reduced capacity for over a week with a bad cold!)

Hello! Happy Tuesday!
I know everyone is crazy busy, so just checking in … are we still doing the Happiness Club?

I am! I am sorry though, between break and then getting sick I have been busy and didn’t post. I will send out week 2/3 later today and then week 4 next Monday…thanks for the nudge!