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By Shannon Loehrlein, LCSW – October 29, 2019

Over the summer I participated in a free online class offered by Yale University called, “The Science of Well-Being.” It is taught by Dr. Laurie Santos. 

I have recently learned that Dr. Santos will be starting a podcast called “The Happiness Lab,” which I am looking forward to listening to this fall and recommend you check out as well. 

Happiness has always seemed like an unattainable achievement in our society. We are often plagued with the messages that society sends us about happiness. 

It turns out that many of the things we think we want in life do not actually bring us happiness. In her class, Dr. Santos talks about the myths we believe about happiness and what science tells us actually does bring happiness. 

What does society tell us is supposed to make us happy?  According to Dr. Santos’ research the most common myths include: true love, having the perfect body, owning expensive possessions, getting good grades, having money, and having a good job. 

Dr. Santos uses the psychological term of “hedonic adaptation” to explain why these things do not make us happy. In simple terms, this means that we become used to whatever it is we have.

For example, if someone won the lottery, at first it would bring increased levels of happiness.  But eventually they would become used to being rich and yearn for more, more, and more.  Hedonic adaption means that any level of happiness does not last for long. 

People have the general tendency to return to a stable level of happiness. The good part of this is that even if we have a negative life event we will eventually return to this stable level of happiness. 

So what are some practices that we can do to increase our levels of happiness and mood?  Luckily for us, these practices are free and easy to use. According to Dr. Santos, the secrets of happiness are:

  • Meditation – a practice to help someone become present in the moment and tune out distractions.
  • Savoring – the simple act of appreciating and being present in the moment.
  • Gratitude – taking time to appreciate the blessings in your life.
  • Kindness – acts of kindness toward other people.
  • Social Connection – having friends and being part of a community can make you more likely to survive fatal illness and less likely to die prematurely.
  • Exercise – 30 minutes a day can boost moods and happiness levels.
  • Sleep – at least seven hours a night for adults and nine hours a night for teens.

So now that you know the secrets of happiness, start using these practices daily. It may just help you live a better life!

By Kaitlyn Meredith, MSW, Youth First, Inc. – March 12, 2019

Healthy Friendships
By Kaitlyn Meredith, Youth First, Inc.

When you think of friendship, what comes to mind? Is it someone that you do homework with? Is it someone that is there for you when the going gets tough? Maybe it’s that person who cheers you up and can joke around but also be serious when it’s time to be.

Friendship can come in a variety of forms. You could have a large close group of friends or a small group. You could see them every day, once a week, live close to each other or on opposite sides of the country. With today’s technology, keeping in touch is easy and distance doesn’t matter so much.   

But how do you tell if the friendship is healthy?

Here are some ingredients to a healthy friendship:

  • Trust is one of the vital parts of any relationship. You need to be able to trust that a friend will not cause any physical or emotional harm. This includes trusting that they will not try to poison other friendships. Another level of trust is that we can trust them to keep their word and to keep our secrets.
  • Talking and listening are very important. Everyone needs someone they can talk to, whether it is a casual conversation or more serious. When you talk with a good friend, you are able to talk about whatever is on your mind, no matter how deep or shallow it may be. They will give advice if that’s what is needed, or they will listen to you rant and let you cry.
  • Supporting each other in all ways possible makes for strong friendships. When you are younger it is easy to think that everyone is heading in the same direction. But as life progresses, each person has their own course; if the course heads in a different direction, the parties in a healthy friendship will continue to support each other.
  • Understanding and supporting each other’s goals adds a lot of strength to a friendship. As a friend, you should encourage each other to continue towards your individual goals.
  • Having mutual understanding, respect, and appreciation for each other is crucial in a healthy friendship. There must be equal give and take. Friendship should not be one-sided.

If you feel that you may be in an unhealthy friendship, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I feel good about myself when I am with them?
  • Do we do things that we both want to do?
  • Can I trust them with my secrets or to give me solid advice?

If you are answering no or questioning the friendship, it may be time to create some distance. Ending any relationship is never easy, but by putting some space between you and your friend it will allow you to see if the friendship is truly right for you.

By Jordan Beach, MSW, July 31, 2018 –

Thinking back to childhood, it’s fun to remember those friendships that helped shape us into the person we are today.

Sometimes, if we’re really lucky, we are able to maintain those relationships through our teen years and even through adulthood.  We seem to have less time for friends as adults, and our ability to develop and maintain new friendships seems to become more difficult over time.

You’ve grown up.  You have a career, a spouse, children, and your life is full. Sometimes, even with all of these wonderful aspects of your life, it can feel like something is missing.

It is possible that you miss the platonic bond you once had with friends. You need someone outside the walls of your own home to talk to, share hobbies with, and help you feel complete.

We know that having friends is important, but who has time to maintain friendships? If you’re like me, you have a laundry list of things you need to accomplish every day, and making new friends is not on the top of that list.

Is it even necessary to have adult friendships?  The answer is yes.  Having adult friendships actually benefits your health.

Having friends helps to reduce stress and anxiety. Having people who are there for you during both good times and bad also helps you to cope with life situations and gives you a sense of belonging.

According to the Mayo Clinic, those who have strong friendships later in life have longer, more fulfilling lives than those of their peers.

Making friends as a student is easy. School is a common place where you meet every day, allowing those relationships to flourish.

How exactly does one make friends as an adult? First, let me say this gets easier as your children get older. Once your children are in activities, you again find yourself surrounded by adults who have similar interests, and you will be spending lots of hours together at places like the practice field, band competition or dance studio.

But it is important that these friendships are deeper than the carpool line. Once you find other adults you enjoy, you’re going to have to work to maintain that relationship.

This might seem counter-intuitive. You’re thinking, “But these friendships are supposed to be helpful and enjoyable, not extra work.” The truth is – it’s both.

It’s extra work to schedule time to spend with people who are outside of your immediate family. The payoff for that, though, is fulfilling relationships that help you grow, provide you with a support system, and live happier and longer.