I’m having such a great time learning about the psychology of happiness.  Every time I work on a course I’m taken aback by the fact that UC Berkley offers it for free!  We’re on week 3, so I’m not sure how it works on joining, but I highly recommend it if you’ve got 4-5 hours a week (I try to do it on Sundays in the afternoon/evening).



I don’t know about you guys, but I’m a huge fan of Malcolm Gladwell.  I have enjoyed quite a few of his books, but my favorite by far was Blink.  I love the way it gives you a ton of researched information in easy to read vignettes.  I will read research articles from time to time (especially for professional development in the area of speech pathology); however, Blink’s format is by far my favorite way to gain knowledge about new research.  I think quite a few people are like this because I often see things on googlefacts/uberfacts which are essentially lists of current facts (e.g., Google was originally called Backrub) some are funny and some are just informative.  So I wanted to share with you some of the facts and research they discussed in the first two weeks of my course.

Week 1 “What is happiness?” facts

  1. What determines our happiness? 50% genetics, 10% life circumstance (e.g., attractiveness, SES, etc.), and 40% intentional activity (e.g., stable fulfilling relationship, expressing gratitude, etc.).
  2. What is Hedonic Adaptation? The observation that humans return to their baseline of happiness no matter what they do.
  3. Human beings are NOT good at predicting what will and will not make them happy (e.g., having more money, break ups, etc.).
  4. When it comes to having more money, research found that once basic needs are met (e.g., food, shelter, etc.) money no longer increases happiness.  The magic number, $75,000 yearly

Week 2 “Social Connectedness” facts

  1. The same area in the brain that activates when someone feels pain activates when someone is excluded from a group. – No wonder I don’t like spending time with people that exhibit that behavior
  2. Attachment styles (e.g., secure, anxious, avoidant) play a large role in happiness.  These form in infancy.
  3. Oxytocin, which is produced in the body when we are happy, produces trust towards others, increases monogamy, and reduces stress.
  4. Touch therapy can increase birth weight of premature babies, reduce depression in individuals with Alzheimer’s, doubles the likelihood that children will speak in class, and may boost the amount a child uses the library.
  5. John Gottman found that these four behaviors (coined “The Four Horsemen”), when exhibited together in a relationship, increase the likelihood of divorce/separation to 92%. Contempt, Criticism, Stone wall, and Defensiveness.
  6. To combat the four horsemen, use these strategies: Humor & Play, Gratitude, Forgiveness, and Disclosure.
  7. Parents are happy!!! They are finding that when it is a choice, becoming a parent can be a happy thing.
  8. The following factors influence being a happy parent: Age (older = happier), Gender (fathers gain more emotional benefit), Parenting style, and Emotional bond with child.
  9. The following (child) factors influence being happy as a parent: Child’s temperament and problems, child’s age (birth, older = happier, 1-5 yrs = not so happy).
  10. Friendships release Oxytocin!!!!!
  11. Empathy makes you more capable of sharing joy and achievement, allows you to have close friendships, and increases the likelihood that you will empathize with others when they feel pain and they will support you.
  12. Habits of highly empathetic people: Cultivate curiosity about strangers, Challenge prejudices, Try another person’s life, Listen hard and open up, Inspire mass action.
  13. How to become more empathetic: Become an active listener, Share in other peoples joy, Look for commonalities, Read fiction, Pay attention to faces.

I hope you enjoyed all these facts!!  I find that with each lesson I am compelled to learn more.   I was inspired to take the class because of my love for psychology and how we develop as humans; however, I’m finding the suggestions and facts interesting to put them in the context of my life and the people closest to me.

Be well.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Sigmund Freud.