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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 Emily Sommers, MSW, Courier & Press, Sept. 12, 2017 –

A few weeks ago Dan, my significant other, came home and was in an upbeat mood and chiming, “Hee, Hee, Hee, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ho, Ho, Ho.”  The whole family ended up joining in at some point, and this activity created a lot of fun for us all to engage in.

Dan had been to his weekly Optimist meeting, and they had a guest speaker, Dr. Amodio, who taught laughter yoga.  Thank you for filling our home with another skill to use when we fall too seriously into daily life and demands, Dr. Amodio!

Dan described the activity they engaged in, all pretending to be on their cell phones and having a conversation with someone on the other end, walking in a circle around the room chiming, “Hee, Hee, Hee, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ho, Ho, Ho,” while embellishing the facial expression of each sound.  He really enjoyed it and was glad to share what he had learned!

 Laughter is being called the “new meditation” by a recent article in Times magazine.  Laughter has many emotional, mental and physical health benefits.

Time Health indicated studies that have shown laughter can act as an antidepressant, reduce the risk of heart disease and help reduce the body’s inflammatory response.  Sounds exactly like what the doctor might order!

Here is a list of some ways to use and apply laughter.  See if you might be inspired to add to the list…

  • Engage and play with your pet.  Animals can make us laugh and are usually loyally waiting if we let them!
  • Follow a comic strip daily, and better yet, picture that character when you make a mistake in an effort to not take yourself so seriously.  My favorite is “Blondie.”
  • Come up with a “Joke of the Day” theme in your home.
  • There are some great apps to download on your phone that can provide funny motivation, inspiration and daily chuckles.  These should be parent approved, of course.
  • If you usually watch a drama or suspense movie, treat yourself to a great comedy that can provide some laughs.
  • We all have that great friend who can bring us up when we are down or remind us to not take life too seriously.  Pick up the phone and give them a call…it will brighten and lighten the day for both of you.
  • Parents, play with your kids.  Kids, play with your parents.
  • Try karaoke.  We enjoyed this on a recent family vacation and it taps into the fun and creative sides of everyone involved.

Hopefully, this short list has gotten your wheels turning and inspired ways you can find more opportunities for laughter in your individual and family lives.  Have fun with it and, remember, practice makes permanent.