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Teaching the world to be happy

Have you heard of Dr. Laurie Santos, the Yale University professor of psychology who teaches people how to be happy from an evidence-based approach?

There are several fun facts to know about Dr. Santos beyond the fact that she is an expert on human cognition and the biases that impede better choices — the most interesting for us here in the Southcoast is that she grew up in New Bedford and has come home to the city to share her happiness findings with us all in person.

It was after becoming an associate professor at Yale that Dr. Santos began studying what makes someone happy. Her course, Psychology and the Good Life, soon became the most popular Yale had and has since spread to a national and even global movement.

Since those happy beginnings, Dr. Santos has gone on to share her knowledge freely through an online course called, The Science of Well-Being, and offered numerous presentations on how to be happy, like the one she did for the New Bedford Wellness Initiative at the Whaling Museum where people stood in line all the way up Johnny Cake Hill to get in.

For many of us, happiness is a goal that we don’t often think about, either because it feels so far out of reach, or we just don’t know where to begin.

Happily, Dr. Santos breaks the subject down into concrete steps that we can take to increase our own well-being. She shows that much of the time, being happy is about taking good care of ourselves and putting into action the age-old wisdom we already know.

Like getting a good night’s sleep every night.

Oh, and exercising.

And feeling gratitude.

These actions are not hard to do once or twice, but the real benefit comes from making them a practice in our lives.

Whether you’ve heard her speak or not, 2020 is a good year to take another look. In these challenging times, we are all being called on to pay more attention to our own well-being and happiness.

If you’re interested in learning more, Dr. Santos is still teaching her online course and also has some new programs to check out.

The first is a Back-to-School Livestream on Mental Health that is happening Wednesday, Sept. 2, on YouTube. The presentation is designed for high school students and families and, while created for Connecticut students, is free and open to all. Sign up for “Happiness Homeroom,” a YouTube Live on well-being & mental health, here.

The presentation includes tips on reducing the stress of social isolation, navigating changes in learning environments, and using social media to feel happier, not more anxious.

There is also a new season coming to The Happiness Lab, Dr. Santos’ podcast, that you can find here. And, you can join 28,000 others in The Happiness Lab private Facebook group here.

Finally, Dr. Santos is bringing the science of well-being to K-12 schools and is looking to connect with students, teachers, mental health professionals and school administrators.

In an email to her Coursera students, she said, “If you want to be the first to learn about opportunities to bring new free well-being content to your school or classroom, let us know by heading over to”

Check it out and be happy.

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