Show cover of The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos

The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos

You might think you know what it takes to lead a happier life… more money, a better job, or Instagram-worthy vacations. You’re dead wrong. Yale professor Dr. Laurie Santos has studied the science of happiness and found that many of us do the exact opposite of what will truly make our lives better. Based on the psychology course she teaches at Yale -- the most popular class in the university’s 300-year history -- Laurie will take you through the latest scientific research and share some surprising and inspiring stories that will change the way you think about happiness.


Ask Us Anything! Laurie and Gretchen Take Your Questions (Live from Toronto)
What do you do when you enter "survival mode"? How can you become better at forging social connections? Can you be happy in a sad world? Happiness experts Dr Laurie Santos and Gretchen Rubin came together at Toronto's Hot Docs Festival to answer these and other questions from a live audience. See for privacy information.
33:41 29/05/2023
With Elmo's Help... It's Never Too Early to Learn About Happiness
Not matter if you're aged three or 103, you can learn to be happier using pretty much the same strategies. Sesame Workshop and its furry friends have been teaching "emotional ABCs" alongside literacy and numeracy for decades. So in collaboration with The Happiness Lab, Elmo and his friends will be helping us present fun and accessible happiness hacks for listeners of all ages.  To kick things off, Dr Laurie Santos sat down to discuss why it's never too early to learn about wellbeing with Sesame Workshop's CEO, Steve Youngwood; the Chief Production and Creative Development Officer, Kay Wilson Stallings… and everyone’s favorite furry, red monster, Elmo.  (Sesame Workshop is a non-profit organization with a mission to help kids grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. The work they do is funded by donations big and small - so if you want to become a part of their important mission to improve children’s emotional well-being, then visit: for privacy information.
32:41 22/05/2023
Can Spiritual Experiences and Psychedelics Make us Happy? (LIVE from DC)
More than a third of us admit to having had a spiritual experience. We might have been profoundly moved by a sunset or a painting; or felt that we've connected with our god or with the entire world around us. Such events can be transformative - bringing positive change to our lives and increasing our happiness - but some experiences aren't so great.  In front of a live audience in Washington DC, David Yaden of Johns Hopkins University tells Dr Laurie Santos about his work examining what effect spiritual experiences have on us and how things like meditation and psychedelic drugs can bring about these powerful transformational episodes.   David Yaden is the author of: The Varieties of Spiritual Experience: 21st Century Research and Perspectives.See for privacy information.
41:44 15/05/2023
Why We're Mean to Our Future Selves (LIVE from Boston)
Who do we volunteer to run a gruelling half-marathon? Who do we expect to give up sugar, or quit drinking? Who do we demand clears out the garage in the middle of summer? Ourselves. Mean, right? Turns out we make demands on our future selves that our present selves would think are unrealistic or unreasonable. And the reason we do it is because our minds are really bad at anticipating the wants and needs we'll have in a week, a month, or a year from now. And that harms our happiness.  Talking before a live audience in Somerville, MA, Dr Laurie Santos and Harvard professor Jason Mitchell explore how we can be kinder to both our present and future selves.     See for privacy information.
40:38 08/05/2023
The Man Who Invented Happiness Science: Marty Seligman
When Marty Seligman started his long scientific career, psychologists concentrated on studying "misery and suffering" and what made people sad. But Marty wanted to discover what made happy people, well, happy. His research laid the foundations of "positive psychology" and the happiness science you hear week after week in this podcast.  Dr Laurie Santos talks to Professor Seligman about his decades of research; the power of optimism; and how he became less of a "grouch" to improve his own personal happiness.   Marty's latest book, TOMORROWMIND: Thriving At Work – Now and in an Uncertain Future, is OUT NOW. See for privacy information.
41:05 01/05/2023
Smell, Taste and Touch: How to Joyfully Awaken Your Senses
Happiness expert Gretchen Rubin was warned that her eyesight was in peril. It shocked her into realising she'd taken all of her five senses for granted - and so she resolved to wring every ounce of joy from the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures around her.   Concluding her conversation with Dr Laurie Santos, Gretchen explains how to be more alive to smell, taste and touch - building on the ideas in her new book Life in Five Senses: How Exploring the Senses Got Me Out of My Head and Into the World.See for privacy information.
32:04 24/04/2023
Sight and Sound: How to Joyfully Awaken Your Senses
Are you seeing what you look at? Or tuning in to the noises all around you? We take our senses for granted - particularly when it comes to the sights and sounds of our everyday lives. Exploring your senses can be a great way to experience more fun and happiness right now.   Happiness expert Gretchen Rubin was warned that her eyesight was in peril - which spurred her to rethink her relationship with her senses. In the first of two interviews, Gretchen joins Dr Laurie Santos to discuss her journey of discovery and her new book - Life in Five Senses: How Exploring the Senses Got Me Out of My Head and Into the World.See for privacy information.
34:19 17/04/2023
Do We Need a New Word for 'Happiness'? Katie Couric talks to Dr Laurie Santos
Laurie swaps seats in the studio to be interviewed by none other than Katie Couric. In this episode of Next Question with Katie Couric, Laurie's asked to define happiness; outline the best steps to reach it; and give an honest appraisal of her own struggles to flourish each and every day.  Listen to more episodes of Next Question with Katie Couric wherever you get your podcasts. See for privacy information.
35:13 10/04/2023
Happiness Lessons of The Ancients: Sikhism and Daily Habits
Following 9/11, Simran Jeet Singh's Sikh family in Texas was subjected to extreme racist abuse. And yet, Simran's father chose to look on the bright side and offer thanks instead for the acts of kindness friends and neighbors showed them. How was such optimism possible? Simran - author of The Light We Give: How Sikh Wisdom Can Transform Your Life - explains how practicing positive habits and living by our values as often as we can will really help when a crisis arises.  See for privacy information.
31:02 03/04/2023
Happiness Lessons of The Ancients: Sikhism and How We're All Connected
Educator and author Simran Jeet Singh is Sikh. Most of his fellow Americans have no idea what Sikhism is - causing some to treat Simran with suspicion and hostility. But one of the key teachings of his religion is that all things and all people are connected - something that offers Simran comfort and hope in even the darkest moments.  In the first of a two-part show, Dr Laurie Santos talks to Simran about his book - The Light We Give: How Sikh Wisdom Can Transform Your Life - and finds that the centuries-old traditions of Sikhism map surprisingly well over the latest happiness science.  See for privacy information.
26:35 27/03/2023
Happiness Lessons of The Ancients: Yoga of the Mind
We often think of yoga as a physical exercise - but a centuries-old Sanskrit text, The Yoga Sutras, share teachings intended to improve both the body and mind. The author, Patanjali, makes clear that the poses and stretches are only part of picture - we also need to be kind, contemplative and grounded.   Jessamyn Stanley (yoga teacher and author of Yoke: My Yoga of Self-Acceptance) takes Dr Laurie Santos through Patanjali's text - saying its lessons "can be applied in every circumstance, no matter who you are or where you are".See for privacy information.
34:41 20/03/2023
Happiness Lessons of The Ancients: The Trauma of Troy
In Virgil's epic poem, The Aeneid, few Trojans survive the destruction of their city at the hands of their Greek enemies. A prince, Aeneas, leads a band of those fleeing Troy - but the journey is fraught with deadly storms and hungry monsters.   But Aeneas takes a positive view of the struggles he and the other Trojans face, telling them to be proud of their resilience and courage. With the help of MIT classics professor Stephanie Frampton, Dr Laurie Santos explores how The Aeneid can be read as a tale of post-traumatic growth and how we can sometimes emerge happier and stronger from tragic events.  See for privacy information.
37:21 13/03/2023
Happiness Lessons of The Ancients: The Anger of Achilles
Achilles has anger issues. The great Greek warrior sits out most of the Trojan War because he's angrily sulking. When he finally enters battle, he does so in a fit of rage that causes him to commit atrocities and bring dishonor on himself.   So what can we learn from this angry character in Homer's epic poem, The Iliad? With the help of Harvard classics expert Greg Nagy and anger counsellor Dr Faith Harper, we look at how anger can creep up on us and what we can do to defuse this sometimes explosive emotion.      See for privacy information.
32:12 06/03/2023
Happiness Lessons of The Ancients: Aristotle and Plato ICYMI
The Greek thinker Socrates was put to death for encouraging his students to question everything - from their own beliefs to the laws and customs of Athenian society. But his ideas didn't die with him.  Here's a chance to hear two episodes from our archive examining the legacy of Socrates, and how he influenced the thinking of Plato and Aristotle. Turns out the Ancient Greeks had a lot to say about how to live a happier life. See for privacy information.
56:02 27/02/2023
Happiness Lessons of The Ancients: Socrates and Self-Knowledge
Question everything... that's a key insight from the great Greek philosopher Socrates. We may think we know ourselves and what makes us happy... but that's not always true.  Yale professor Tamar Gendler says that by harnessing our "inner Socrates" we can ask ourselves why we think or feel certain things. We might then find that deeply-held convictions that money or status or accolades are a reliable route to happiness aren't correct, and can then start to pursue the things that might really make us happier.  See for privacy information.
44:41 20/02/2023
The Happiness of Silence
We're surrounded by noise. That "noise" can be actual sounds - but also other annoyances and distractions that make it hard for us to concentrate or think clearly. And it's only getting worse - we're all being bombarded with more sirens, more pings, more chatter, more information. And then there are our internal monologues. Silence is just harder to come by.  Leigh Marz and Justin Zorn (co-authors of Golden: The Power of Silence in a World of Noise) join Dr Laurie Santos to discuss the benefits of silence and how we can all seek out more moments of quiet and recognise their value.  See for privacy information.
32:20 30/01/2023
Stop Looking for the Perfect Job - a "Good Enough Job" is Just Fine
We can put huge amounts of physical and emotional energy into our jobs - even basing our self-worth on our achievements at work and letting ourselves be defined by what we do. So have our careers taken over too much of our lives?  Simone Stolzoff (author of The Good Enough Job: Reclaiming Life from Work) argues that we should stop hunting for the "perfect" job - that idealized career that will prove to others how smart, industrious or virtuous we are - and instead find an occupation that allows to us live happier and more rounded lives that don't revolve only around work. See for privacy information.
31:34 23/01/2023
A Daily Workout to Tackle Nagging Self-Criticism
Lots of us hit the gym in January to get fit - but should we also be exercising our minds in preparation for tough times? A daily "self-talk workout" might be just as beneficial as squats and push-ups, says Seattle University psychology professor Rachel Turow.  By practicing simple self-compassion exercises each day - such as breathing techniques - we can prepare for future challenges when we'll need those tools to help us tackle crippling self-criticism or paralyzing sorrow.  Further reading: The Self Talk Workout by Rachel Turow See for privacy information.
24:44 16/01/2023
How to Eat Intuitively
Everyone has a view about what you should eat and how much. We're so bombarded with fad diets, fasting plans and nutritional advice that we can bounce from one way of eating to another without stopping to think: "What do I want to eat?" Psychotherapist Andrea Wachter endured years of disordered eating and obsessing about her weight, until she decided to heed her inner voice and what her body wanted to consume. She explains to Dr Laurie Santos how so-called intuitive eating can free us from both diets and overeating.  See for privacy information.
33:52 09/01/2023
From Ten Percent Happier: The Dalai Lama’s Guide to Happiness | Part 1
Here's a preview of another podcast we love, Ten Percent Happier. Host Dan Harris flies to Dharamsala, India to spend two weeks in the orbit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This is the first installment of a five-part audio documentary series. Over the course of the episodes, Dan talks to His Holiness about practical strategies for thorny dilemmas, including: how to get along with difficult people; whether compassion can cut it in an often brutal world; why there is a self-interested case for not being a jerk; and how to create social connection in an era of disconnection. He also gets rare insights from the Dalai Lama into everything from the mechanics of reincarnation to His Holiness’s own personal meditation practice. In this first installment, Dan watches as a young activist directly challenges His Holiness: In a world plagued by climate change, terrorism, and other existential threats, is the Dalai Lama’s message of compassion practical — or even relevant? Want more of The Dalai Lama’s Guide to Happiness? Listen to the Ten Percent Happier podcast here.See for privacy information.
05:27 07/01/2023
Stop Endlessly Chasing the "Next Big Thing"
We're often looking into the future... hunting for the "next big thing". That could be an exciting new job or a new relationship. We can get so fixated with these events and the happiness we hope they'll deliver, that we forget to look for joy right now.  Actor and author Tony Hale (Veep, The Mysterious Benedict Society, Arrested Development) was always chasing new accomplishments, until he realised he was missing the chance to be happy living in the moment. He used his experience to write one of Dr Laurie Santos's favourite children's books Archibald's Next Big Thing. See for privacy information.
34:41 02/01/2023
Coming Jan 2: Let Your Inner Voice be Heard in 2023
At the start of a new year there are plenty of voices telling us to get fit; go on a diet; or supercharge our careers. This advice might be well-intentioned, but it can also be DEAFENING!!!  In 2023, try listening to a voice that's often drowned out by all the noise... the voice inside you. From Jan 2, Dr Laurie Santos presents a series of interviews with experts to help you tune in to your inner compass - your intuition. Let it guide your approach to things like work, nutrition and happiness over the coming year.   See for privacy information.
02:37 19/12/2022
Giving Tuesday: Why Giving Money to Others Makes us Happier
Money can buy you happiness - but not in the way we think. Giving money away - especially to help others - has been shown make us happier than spending on ourselves.  Social psychologist Lara Aknin explains the best ways to spend on loved ones, friends and even total strangers to get the biggest happiness bang for your buck.  And Harvard's s Josh Greene reveals how much money Happiness Lab listeners gave to charity via Giving Multiplier last year - and how many lives you saved.  To give to a charity of your choice and to some of the most effective charities around (and have your donation matched at a special rate) visit: The Happiness Lab will return in January 2023. See you then.See for privacy information.
31:57 29/11/2022
Happier Parents, Happier Kids Pt 2: Letting Children Try and Fail
It's tempting to tie a child's shoe lace, tidy their rooms or help with their science projects - to see that these tasks are done right - but parents are depriving their kids of the valuable experience of falling, failing, and f-ing up.  Former Stanford dean Julie Lythcott-Haims says these "f words" are vital for children if they are to grow into happy, capable and autonomous adults. While Yale psychologist Julia Leonard warns that interfering too often in a child's life can actually teach them that trying isn't even worth the effort.       Further reading: Michaeleen Doucleff - Hunt, Gather, Parent: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About the Lost Art of Raising Happy Helpful Humans.  Julie Lythcott-Haims - How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success. Marty Seligman - Authentic Happiness See for privacy information.
31:54 07/11/2022
Happier Parents, Happier Kids Pt 1: Your Child Isn't a VIP or a Fragile Vase
Rosy had a packed schedule of lunches, meet-ups and activities - and she was only three.  Mom Michaeleen Doucleff felt she couldn't waste a second of her daughter's time. Rosy needed to be constantly lectured and stimulated if she was going to reach the Ivy League.  This style of parenting was exhausting both mother and daughter, until Michaeleen found that not everyone approaches child-rearing in this way. She tells Dr Laurie Santos how she forged a happier and more relaxed relationship with Rosy - that benefited them both.   Formed Stanford dean Julie Lythcott-Haims explores how "overparenting" has taken hold in recent decades and why it needs to be challenged.    Further reading: Michaeleen Doucleff - Hunt, Gather, Parent: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About the Lost Art of Raising Happy Helpful Humans.   Malcolm Harris - Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials  Julie Lythcott-Haims - How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success. See for privacy information.
29:45 31/10/2022
Hulking Out! Why You Change When You're Angry
When mild-mannered David Banner gets mad he transforms into the raging Incredible Hulk. Dr Laurie Santos loves this comic book tale - because it reflects real life. Intense things like anger, pain, even hunger, can cause us to act in extreme ways that we might not predict beforehand or forgive afterwards. When we're in so-called "hot states" we might become a total stranger to ourselves. This can have a serious impact on our happiness, by stopping us properly planning for how we'll react to strong emotions and causing us to be unfairly harsh on our inner Hulks.  See for privacy information.
31:04 24/10/2022
You Only Live Once... So Commit
YOLO seems like the perfect rock 'n' roll philosophy. You only live once... so do whatever seems right in the moment. Be spontaneous. Quit your job; find a new person to date; and always, always keep your options open.    We all fear getting stuck in the wrong occupation, relationship or home - so shun fully committing to anything. But we're misguided. The man who coined the term YOLO - the Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart - tells Dr Laurie Santos that throwing yourself fully into a life choice is the best way to live our precious life.  Further reading: Pete Davis - Dedicated: The Case for Commitment in an Age of Infinite Browsing. Dan Gilbert -  Stumbling on Happiness. Barry Schwartz - The Paradox of Choice. Further Listening: Try Mickey Hart's new album with Planet Drum “In the Groove".See for privacy information.
31:38 17/10/2022
The Fun of Eating a Pepper Hotter Than the Sun
There is nothing hotter than Puckerbutt Farm’s Carolina Reaper Hot Sauce... and author Leigh Cowart gargles it for FUN!!! Why do we sometimes get a happiness high from painful and scary things? And what if we want to experience the fun of discomfort and danger... but without the risk of coming to real harm?  With the help of Leigh, psychology professor Paul Bloom and the Yale philosopher Tamar Gendler, Dr Laurie Santos finds out how we can fool ourselves into reaping all the benefits of danger without actually being in peril.  For further reading: Leigh Cowart - Hurts So Good: The Science and Culture of Pain on Purpose. Paul Bloom - The Sweet Spot: The Pleasures of Suffering and the Search for Meaning.See for privacy information.
29:18 10/10/2022
From Revisionist History: The Starvation Experiment
We’re sharing a bonus episode from another Pushkin podcast, Revisionist History. Revisionist History is Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast about things misunderstood and overlooked. This season, Malcolm’s obsessed with experiments – natural experiments, scientific experiments, thought experiments. In this episode, Revisionist History examines the testimony of 18 men who took part in an astonishing experiment at the University of Minnesota during the Second World War. Revisionist History takes you through the tapes, and asks why people are still arguing over the Minnesota experiment 75 years later.   You can hear more from Revisionist History at for privacy information.
31:22 06/10/2022
Why Living Without Regret is a Bad Idea
Regret sucks. Thinking back on things we should have done, or should never have done, can make us feel bad. But #noregrets isn't a philosophy for a happy and healthy life.    Regrets can be a great guide and can help us live a life that's true to our authentic selves. Illustrator Liz Fosslien learned to listen to her regrets after letting down her mom during a family crisis. While writer Daniel Pink compiled a global database of regrets to help unpick what common regrets tell us about our real values.  For Further Reading: Daniel Pink - The Power of Regret. How Looking Back Moves Us Forward See for privacy information.
30:09 03/10/2022