Yes, We Can Learn to Be Happier

The Longing for Happiness Finds Repose in PoetryProfessor Bruce Hood at the University of Bristol wants us to know that we can indeed learn to be happier. He has been teaching the Science of Happiness there since 2018 and measuring the results over time. Collaborating with Catherine Hobbs, Sarah Jelbert, and Laurie Santos in Higher Education, he reports that coursework in positive psychology may yield sustainable benefits, but only if participants practice the activities they learn. He likens it to physical education. Sustained engagement is necessary for sustained benefits.

Shedding the Focus on Self

Hood says he has found that looking outside oneself is necessary for finding happiness:

“Much of what we teach revolves around positive psychology interventions that divert your attention away from yourself, by helping others, being with friends, gratitude, or meditating.

“This is the opposite of the current ‘selfcare’ doctrine, but countless studies have shown that getting out of our own heads helps get us away from negative ruminations which can be the basis of so many mental health problems.”

This view is at sharp odds with our social environment that promotes a selfish outlook.

Turning to Toddlers

Isobel with Ice CreamTo learn to be happier, pediatrician Hasan Merali recommends not that we take a college course. Rather, he says, we can learn a lot about happiness from toddlers. He recommends we explore the beautiful world of the toddler mind:

“It is a world filled with wonder, excitement, and true happiness. A place where there is complete honesty, unflappable empathy, little judgment based on your appearance, a drive to be active and eat appropriately, and where your ideas and willingness to try are endless.”

While we admit Merali might be bringing a bit of bias into his recommendations, any grandparent can tell you that they learn a lot about happiness from a toddler.

It is another way to look beyond yourself to find happiness.

Click here for Hood’s study in Higher Education and here for his further perspective. For Murali’s recommendations from the science of toddlers, click here and here.

The Longing for Happiness Finds Repose in Poetry, painting by Gustav Klimt / WikiArt

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March 17, 2024

One Response to “Yes, We Can Learn to Be Happier”

  1. March 17, 2024 at 9:58 am, Allen Browne said:


    Thanks and “way Cool”. – as I sit watching my grand niece be a toddler.

    Happy St Patricks Day!