When I set out to write a book about love in 2017, I was not happy. I was pretty sad. But I was still in love, or at least so I thought. All the messages from the culture around me were telling me what they had always told me: that being in love was about being happy. Being happy ever after. Happy with someone. Happy together.
I had questions. What if I’m not happy? What if I’m sad—or worse, depressed? Does that mean I’m no longer in love? Am I now unloving? Unlovable? I desperately hoped the answer to the last two was “no.” And I strongly suspected that was the answer.
Even though I wasn’t happy, and didn’t know when, how, or even whether I would become happy in the future, I didn’t seriously doubt that I was in love with my partners. So instead, like any good logician, I questioned the other assumption: the one about how being in love means being happy.
There are things you can do every day to improve happiness.
By Alison DeNisco Rayome, June 28, 2022 6:36 p.m. PT
In 2014, two psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, launched an online course with a lofty goal: teaching students how to be happy, through both science and practice, in just eight weeks.
No big deal, right?
The amazing thing: It seemed to work. Thousands of students took the Science of Happiness course (which is still free to audit on edX, a provider of open online courses) and learned about the science of connection, compassion, gratitude and mindfulness. Perhaps more importantly, they also completed a series of simple activities that research suggests increase happiness.
Those who fully participated saw their positive feelings increase each week. They reported feeling less sadness, stress, loneliness, anger and fear, while at the same time experiencing more amusement, enthusiasm and affection, as well as a greater sense of community. During the course, students’ happiness and life satisfaction increased by about 5%. And that boost remained even four months after the course ended (though it’s difficult to fully untangle that result; it could’ve been from doing the activities, the students’ new understanding of the psychology of happiness, or something totally different).
Sometimes being a social scientist comes in handy.
Or at least it did for Arthur Brooks.
He wanted to explore why some people were happy in the second half of life and how he could make sure he — and others — could enjoy those decades.
He advises those still in the first half of their working life to take the long view now and for everyone to build in flexibility and be ready to adjust their expectations.
Brooks’ new book is From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life. He spoke to All Things Considered about not leaving happiness to chance and about the two types of intelligence needed for happiness.