Everyone wants to be happy.
It’s a premise that Laurie Santos, professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale University, has made a career on and packed classes with.
St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation sponsored and hosted Santos Aug. 6 as part of its annual speaker series. More than 400 members of the community attended.
As Santos observed, “Happiness is a topic everybody’s interested in.”
Santos has been named one of Popular Science Magazine’s “Brilliant 10,” and a TIME magazine “Leading Campus Celebrity.” Her TED Talk has over a million views.
Last year, The New York Times called her “Psychology and the Good Life” class Yale’s most popular ever. At a point, nearly a quarter of Yale’s undergraduates had signed up. And there are reasons.
The American Psychological Association reports that major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older, making her class – and the free talk in Ketchum – a subject of high interest. Thanks to the generosity of the community and St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation, attending Yale was not a prerequisite.
“Our brain lies to us,” Santos said. “We think we need a big house, an expensive car, a high-paying job, but when we have those things, we think it isn’t enough and we are not happy.”
This is because our brain acclimates to what it’s consistently exposed to. As the novelty of a purchase or situation wears off, satisfaction declines.
The cultivation of happiness, she told her audience, requires consistent work. She shared 10 practices that can be incorporated into daily life to cultivate happiness, including being mindful in the moment, spending time with others, exercising and maintaining good sleep habits.
The speaker series, made possible through the generosity of the community, brings neighbors and the hospital together to share information about topics of common interest and concern.
Joy Prudek is the manager of public relations for St. Luke's Wood River.