Happiness Club: Weeks 2/3

For those of you following along…sorry for the delays. Between break and getting sick I have fallen behind in posting, but am still continuing going through the podcasts and course. I will post week 4 on Tuesday 1/21.

Feel free to share about your thoughts on the podcasts / courses so far!
I am interested to hear how people are navigating the rewirement challenges as well.


Science of Well-Being: Week 2

Learning Intentions

  • Understand that simply knowing is not enough to change behavior

  • Give examples of what things won’t make you as happy as you think they will

  • Revise and reconsider goals and aspirations that will not lead to improved well-being

  • Practice savoring and gratitude every day for at least one week




The lecture was based on the idea that we are chasing (generally) five things in life: awesome stuff, true love, perfect body and good grades. What we find out is that materialist attitudes actually led to worse outcomes in happiness twenty years later. Additionally our predicted happiness vs actual happiness regarding positive/negative life events has much less of an effect than we tend to think.

For example students predict that bad grades will lead to a great amount of unhappiness but after receiving their grades (whether good or bad), they reported relatively average happiness. In other words, their grades didn’t impact their happiness nearly as much as they thought they would.

The question of what does make us happy is then debated, and the work of Sonja Lyubomirsky led to this pie chart:

Smcg8374 [CC BY-SA]

Happiness Lab - Ep. 2: The Unhappy Millionaire

Episode Page


Winning the lottery can ruin your life, while contracting an incurable disease can be “a gift”. Dr Laurie Santos hears about dreams come true and nightmares realised, and talks with Dr Dan Gilbert about why human happiness isn’t defined by these major events in the way we all assume.

Science of Well-Being: Week 3

Science of Well Being - Week 3

Learning intentions

  • Understand that our strongest intuitions are often misleading (Annoying Feature of the Mind #1)

  • Understand that we judge ourselves relative to reference points which are often irrelevant and make us feel worse than we should (Annoying Feature of the Mind #2)

  • Understand that our minds are programmed to adapt and ultimately get used to things (Annoying Feature of the Mind #3)

  • Understand that we don’t realize how good we are at adapting and coping and mispredict how certain outcomes will make us feel (Annoying Feature of the Mind #4)

  • Discover how cognitive biases (Annoying Features of the Mind) impact your daily life

  • Practice kindness and social connection every day for at least one week


Social Connection
(found in week three of the workbook)


Dr. Santos discussed the four annoying features of the mind which can get in the way of happiness

Annoying Feature #1
Our minds’ strongest intuitions are often totally wrong

Annoying Feature #2
Our minds don’t think in terms of absolutes; our minds judge to relative reference points

Annoying Feature #3
Our minds are built to get used to stuff

Annoying Feature #4
We don’t realize that our minds are built to get used to stuff

Happiness Lab - Ep. 3: A Silver Lining

###Happiness Lab - Ep. 3


Ice skater Michelle Kwan was all set to win Olympic Gold… but in a major sporting upset came second. Sharing her story with Dr Laurie Santos, Michelle lets us in on a key secret to achieving happiness when life doesn’t go to plan.

I found myself putting some of the ideas from these weeks into action recently as I walked into a guitar shop to buy some new strings. Of course before getting what I came in for I had to peruse the guitar selection and imagine how much better my life would be with a new guitar/amplifier or special effects pedal. I mean who wouldn’t be happier with this

...I am not worthy.

My attention immediately went to week 2’s content which says that ‘awesome stuff’ doesn’t make us any more happy. I already had a guitar, which at one point made me happy. Realizing that I should be grateful that this guitar had served me so well for the last 10 years, I went home and did some much needed maintenance. In turn I was able to practice the ‘savoring’ of the quality of that instrument and the joy it has brought me.

But to be honest it is easy to know that something won’t make you happy and much harder to believe it. I mean, look how awesome that guitar is…surely my life would be better…

I didn’t realize how much of my sense of happiness was driven by materialistic thinking until it was at the forefront of my mind.

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I’m in a similar boat, but I am going to catch up now that I realized we have a three-day weekend thanks to Martin!

Thanks, Jake, for continuing the Happiness Club. Thought I’d get to this sooner, but it’s taken me a bit to catch up again. I enjoy listening to the podcasts, doing it at random moments and making notes in my iPhone. I am learning (or re-learning) something every time.

In Episode 2, I agree with the statements that wealth doesn’t lead to happiness, and that a negative event can actually be a gift (though it may not feel like it at the time.) What was new to me was that we have a set point (hedonic adaptation), which I believe is the set point (50%) in the graphic “Determinants of Happiness” from the course. Even though I’m not taking the course, I was able to appreciate that circumstances are only a 10% determinant of happiness, while intentionality is the other 40%. Interesting because as I reflect, that intentionality could have either a positive or negative effect on our happiness. (e.g. if you look for the bright spots, you are more likely to be happy, whereas if you focus on the negative, your happiness would be decreased.) (If I’m off base with what the course is teaching, let me know.)

I found the comparison between attitudes of gold, silver, and bronze winners in Episode 3 on reference point bias to be very interesting. I was especially struck by how very hard it can be for the silver medal winners who are disappointed they did not win the gold, and that they are still affected by the reference point later on and more likely to die sooner … which I thought sounded a bit extreme! I appreciated the reminders to keep our experience in context, compare to positive rather than negative reference points, count our blessings, and reframe the situation.

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