Please Explain: The Science of Happiness

Friday, March 26, 2010

On today's Please Explain, we'll look into how happiness is studied, and what some recent research reveals about what makes people happy, and why it's sometimes not what they'd expect. Sonja Lyubomirsky, Department of Psychology, University of California Riverside joins us to discuss the psychology of happiness.


Sonja Lyubomirsky,

Comments [38]


"i'm a happy slave, 'cos it's better than the alternative"#34
Yeah, who need freedom and dignity, when we can be "happy" the way we're ordered.

Mar. 27 2010 08:02 AM

"Modern science explains everything by anatomy,physiology and chemical reaction"
For some strange reasons, the results of this "modern sciences" are always beneficial to our beloved corporations and our beloved rich criminals. I have yet to see different results, such as statements that working some 70 hours a week in constant terror, not having access to medical care, etc. are not good for happiness.

Mar. 27 2010 08:00 AM

"Modern science explains everything by anatomy,physiology and chemical reaction."#10
No, it doesn't and it can't - it pretends. As long as our "scientists" are wealthy and ... happy ... Yes, it's a brave new world.

Mar. 27 2010 07:47 AM
ralph from staten isle

to make myself happy i hung around to read what i posted and *horrors*, it could be inferred that i'm saying mgdu was mean, and that the bumper sticker reference was to him.

it was not to him, but rather a by-product of a distracted, meandering, babbling commentator, who thought he was ending on an amusing anecdote.

so for a second as i was sad, thinking of mgdu reading that and getting all "wtf!". luckily this posting will fix that, and i'm back to being happy.

woo hoo.

Mar. 26 2010 06:00 PM
ralph from staten isle

reading the comments i found something to make me happier. acknowledgement.
doesn't even have to be a 'positive' acknowledgement, but that's nice too.

so to repay and make some happiness;

Betty: thanx. and yes red wine helps - so does a toke, or an exercise session, or breathing (if you do it right). i hate phonies as well, and i think i'm saddest when i discover some phoniness in myself.

anna: i'm a happy slave, 'cos it's better than the alternative (though, admitedly, not by much)

vipin: i don't think happiness is a question, it hink it's the answer. so i try not to get hung up on the technical because that just gets in the way - wait a sec. that's what you said.

kaz: you say pendulum and i think EAPoe. i'd rather be on the pendulum trying to control the swing, than thinking of myself strapped down watching its descent.

i did read you Stephen from Scarsdale and Stephen Ganis Dennis and Stefan and ag and CK and Amy and it's all great.
and even you, mgdu, but i didn't know what you were talking about. which might've made me sad, but luckily i've got some perspective and it mde me happy.
reminds me of a bumper sticker i once saw:
"mean people suck". that made me happy.

Mar. 26 2010 05:50 PM

BTW, this illiterate phony doesn't know? doesn't care? that citizens of totalitarian states are required to be happy.

Mar. 26 2010 02:29 PM

BTW, I do remember who said:" "A prostitute is a prostitute is a prostitute"

Mar. 26 2010 02:09 PM

"this is "psychology today" crap."#18
The worst part that it is a paid crap. Dear slaves, be happy, if you are not, it's your fault.

Mar. 26 2010 02:03 PM

Who said it: "Psychology is the opiate of Americans."
I agree with the Professor. I think she and her colleagues and ... how to put ... sponsors should have all the privileges and the rest of us should find happiness in our wage slavery, "productivity," and charity.
Professor and her "scientific" friends are certainly in Goebbels's league. Sure, what they practice is science. Orwell, Orwell, we need you now.

Mar. 26 2010 02:02 PM
vipin agarwalla from Roslyn, LI, NY

Unhappiness is a state of stress when things are not the way you want it- money, achievement, relationships, professional satisfaction and the list of needs goes on and on. More needy you are more unhappy you are.

Happiness is a state of mind-when one feels satisfied and there is sense of achievement and control. It is a state of less need.

Hence one has to work towards not to attach oneself to the result of your karma (duty)and try to reduce the need in one's life. This is one way to look at the question of happiness.

Mar. 26 2010 02:01 PM
Kaz from Fairfield

Could you elaborate the difference between the mood and the happiness? I would doubt that people cannot be always happy. Just like pendulum, our mood gets up and down and that seems natural.

Mar. 26 2010 02:01 PM
Dennis from New Jersey

I heard the host say the the "pursuit of happiness" was in the Constitution. This is incorrect, the phrase is from the Declaration of Independence.

Mar. 26 2010 01:59 PM
Stephen from Scarsdale

I've learned there are very different factors in happiness between Eastern and Western Cultures, for example in Western cultures we are happy on nice and sunny days, and in Eastern Cultures, weather has little effect on happiness. What is the explanation for this?

Mar. 26 2010 01:57 PM
the truth from Betty

Happiness is fleeting...if you are happy go all in, if you are not don't, just take a nap.

I am a realist and an optimist but, I hate phonies.

Mar. 26 2010 01:55 PM
the truth from Betty

Ralph...that is very honest.

Mar. 26 2010 01:54 PM
the truth from Betty

I heard red wine helps.

Mar. 26 2010 01:53 PM
Stephen Ganis

It's easy to feel existential given our state and national political discourse---what's the link between happiness and feeling that our political voices are being there a link between number of voting referenda and happiness?

Mar. 26 2010 01:53 PM
ralph from staten isle

i'm a negative person;
the yang to everyone's ying.
positivity annoys me. i love night-time, winter and hiking in the mountains in summer (as opposed to walking on the beach).
my point is, things are different for folks like me.

things don't depress me when i focus on the worse that could happen, and how much more bad things can get. there's something to looking at the glass being half empty, if you ask me

Mar. 26 2010 01:49 PM
Anonymous from NY,NY

Any idea what percentage of middle class and up women are on currently on anti-depressants?

I think this is a under-reported area, probably in deference to women.

Mar. 26 2010 01:44 PM

Is there any connection between the use of some birth control drugs and lowered serotonin levels and unhappiness?

Mar. 26 2010 01:44 PM
a. g. from hudson county nj

lady, you've lost me. you are reducing us to lab rats. this is "psychology today" crap.

Mar. 26 2010 01:41 PM
mgdu from hell's kitchen

talking about set points for happiness, or even height and eye color, is so 20th century.

why no discussion of environmental epigenetics?

Mar. 26 2010 01:39 PM
CK from NJ

I have a hard time believing that billionaires are happier than millionaires. However, it is true that control over your destiny brings happiness, and money=control. Hmmm.

Mar. 26 2010 01:39 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Follow-up to my call: How can researchers know a predisposition to happiness is genetic? Geneticists keep saying it's almost impossible to separate nature from nurture, so how do these elements interact in determining a person's set point for happiness?

Mar. 26 2010 01:39 PM
Marc Steiner from New Jersey

While working on a short video about "Happiness" one of the things that I discovered was how many people said being with friends or family is what made them happy. Many people find happiness in being with other rather than themselves. There's so much more, but that's one of the things that struck me the most.
Here's a link to the video or at

Mar. 26 2010 01:38 PM
ellen from home

If I use prescribed medication like anti-depressants or a stimulant in order to function better and actually feel more upbeat and hopeful, can I legitimately call myself happy at those times?

Mar. 26 2010 01:38 PM
Kaz from Fairfield

Are people getting happier or less happier?
How about depression which we hear a lot more than years ago?

Mar. 26 2010 01:38 PM
Sharon from Fair Lawn NJ

Today's Wall St Journal reports that France Telecom "...will base top managers' bonuses on social criteria, including worker happiness, as part of a wider plan to boost morale."
The article notes that there have been recent suicides of employees.
Would the professor please react to the chances of a company actively working to improve workplace "happiness"?
Sharon M.
Fair Lawn, NJ

Mar. 26 2010 01:37 PM
vipin agarwalla from Roslyn, LI, NY

Conventional wisdom is that happiness is a state of mind.

Modern science explains everything by anatomy,physiology and chemical reaction. Does research show that by stimulating certain part of brain one can feel happy-as chemicals(drugs) do. Can state of mind can be altered therapeutically to make you feel happy?

Mar. 26 2010 01:37 PM
Laura from Brooklyn

Could your guest please repeat the center she collaborates with on the study of happiness?

Thank you!

Mar. 26 2010 01:37 PM
CK from NJ

Sometimes it seems that people think too much about being happy. It becomes a competitive thing. I'm happier when I don't ask myself if I'm happy, or look at others to compare my happiness level to theirs.

You're right, though--it IS a compelling topic.

Mar. 26 2010 01:36 PM
Adam Smith from Brooklyn

If you can be clinically depressed can you be clinically happy?

Mar. 26 2010 01:34 PM
the truth from Betty

Most of the people I know put on a "happy face" as if they are expected to do so...I personally dislike false fronts! If you are happy smile, if you are not dont!

Mar. 26 2010 01:34 PM
a. g. from hudson county nj

happiness cannot be seperate from social awareness,unless we want to be "brave new world" drones.

Mar. 26 2010 01:33 PM
Willa from Keyport, NJ

I recently heard the quote that we as humans "require" to bne happy:
Something to do...Something to love...Something to hope for.....
Who is it that put forth this comment and is studying Happiness?

Mar. 26 2010 01:32 PM
Grant from Jersey City

I endured great sadness from age 15-45,and now I can say that I am much happier. I prefer being happy, and I like working with optimistic, cordial people. However, in my occupation (law), I find that many people are cynical, unhappy, and somewhat suspicious of and condescending to happier people. Do you think that some occupations attract people who are either innately unhappy or are too afraid to buck the norm and learn to be happier?

Mar. 26 2010 01:32 PM
Logan from Brooklyn, NY

Would it be safe to say that, although happy and sad can happen at the same time, is it healthy to look for happiness through, or with the help of, your saddness? Like putting saddness in perspective through happiness, confronting saddness as a stepping stone to happiness?

Logan Brennan
Brooklyn, NY

Mar. 26 2010 01:31 PM
a. g. from hudson county nj

people try to superimpose a north american template on the rest of the world. a book came out a couple of years ago. in it the author assumed that people in latin-america [i paraphrase] had a "general higher level of happiness than other peoples" well, poeple from spanish backgrounds really would not say that they are unhappy. i think it is closely related to the tabbo of atheism. it is also a part of the elaborate social mask that is kept on to not let another know of one's vulnerabilty. being sad equivalent to weakness.


Mar. 26 2010 11:19 AM

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