UC Berkeley Prof. Dacher Keltner teaches at the university’s Greater Good Science Center, studying things like joy, wonder, mindfulness and gratitude. But, he says, he is not a naturally happy person.
“I was pretty tense,” Keltner says. “I have a lot of clinically diagnosable anxiety that runs through parts of my family, including myself…. My happiness is hard-won.”
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Reading and studying lots of philosophy as a kid made the difference, opening his mind to some of the concepts that now inform his research. That work, and the work of others, are part of a new class that UC Berkeley will offer online this September called “The Science of Happiness.” It’s what’s known as a MOOC: a Massive Open Online Course. The idea of this MOOC is to give the latest understanding of how happiness fits into and supports the human experience. Ultimately, it’s about helping people live happier lives by understanding what makes this emotion so essential to human life.
“(Happiness is) not a luxury or something that we pursue in our off-hours,” Keltner says. “It’s really fundamental. It matters for your kids and your family.”
According to Keltner, science measures “happiness” along two metrics: a general sense of overall well-being, and a sense of those “warm and fuzzy feelings” like joy, kindness, gratitude, amusement and mirth. First, the course will make the case for the value of studying happiness and its impact on physical health, creativity, innovation, etc. Then it will get into the Center’s research on happiness. And along the way students will learn new techniques for things like appreciating beauty in nature, telling your own personal story and expressing gratitude for the acts of kindness in your life.
“All of these things that people from Confucius on have been telling us to do, like practice kindness, be respectful, dignify other people, be grateful, are altering your neurophysiology,” Keltner says. “And it’s good news for your health and your well-being.”
The free class started on September 9th. Anyone can sign up.
GET HAPPIER NOW — WHAT YOU CAN DO EACH DAY:
Spend a minute or two thinking about someone who did something kind or generous for you.
Think about the many things that you’re grateful for.
Walk among something you find beautiful: a forest of trees, a park, a majestic building, etc.
Just breathe. Focus for a few minutes on the simple act of your inhaling and exhaling… and be thankful for every breath you take.
Wishing you Happiness in Abundance!
The Soul Medic