I'm June Gruber an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Colorado Boulder and director of this mental health experts series. I am really delighted to be here today with Dr. Laurie Santos, Professor of Psychology and Head of Silliman College at Yale University about her work on the science of happiness. Thanks for being here today, Laurie. Yeah, thank so much for having me. I was wondering if we could start just by hearing a bit about the work you're doing in the science of happiness and wellness. What's funny is, June well, my day job is actually doing work on comparative cognition. Studying how animals think about the world but I've jumped into this different field looking at mental health in the science of happiness. It started in a funny way. I've been a professor teaching at Yale for over a decade, but recently I took on this new role as a head of college where I live and hang out with students on campus. It was in this capacity that I really saw how bad college student mental health is, in the trenches. Just like, tremendous amounts of depression, anxiety, just incredible stress, and even a non-clinical levels, just students who were just fast forwarding everything because they were just so stressed. They just want to get to the weekend or get to spring break and so on. I did realize this, that students just needed some really practical tips about how to do better. Like how to live in ways that would allow them to flourish more and not feel so stressed, and so I dove into the science of well being in order to teach a new class on Yale's campus. I christened it, psychology and the good life. Assume it was a new class, 30 students or so would take it, like a upper-level class. Was shocked when over a quarter of the Yale population decided to take the class. We wound up having over 1,000 students, which was a little surreal and a bit of a logistical nightmare, but you get the idea. It really taught me that there's a lot of folks out there who really want some evidence-based tips for what they can do to feel better. I think that's really important, and one of the reasons I was so excited to do this series is that, I think as scientists we have this advice that can be really helpful for people, but we're not often out there, putting out there in ways that folks can actually really understand what they need to do and get it in digestible forms. Even though my research isn't necessarily on mental health, I started getting really into thinking about how we can share the science of well-being really broadly. On that note, I just want you to say a little bit about just the really amazing ways you've been sharing the science of wellness through your course and you're podcasts. Just say a little bit about them because they are amazing. Each of the cases were not intended and a little surreal, so I decided to teach this live class on Yale's campus, which went totally viral. Not just on campus, but somehow there was a lot of press about the class, which was interesting. I think that the take from the press was like, these Yale students who are 19 and they're at an Ivy League institution and have their whole lives ahead of them are so messed up that they need a class on happiness. Like what about the rest of us? It's the general framework. Then what happened was we realized that I just got tons of e-mails from people who honestly around the world who are saying, can you share this stuff? I need to know more about this. That let us do the first thing we did, which is to put the class online. On coursera.org, we put a class up called the science of well-being. It's just like a short version of the Yale class. Like a little Coursera size version of the Yale class. That now has over three million learners who've taken it, which is really cool. But then I get e-mails from a different group of people who said, I'm really stressed and overwhelmed. I don't have time for a whole Yale class. Give me something that's way shorter than that, way less stressful than that. That was why we started my new podcasts, which is called the Happiness Lab. It's a podcast version of a lot of the tips that I teach in the Yale class, but the podcast version is cool because it allows me to share all these narratives stories about how people are putting the science into practice in their own lives, and I can talk with really cool folks, and so it's been a blast. I mean, along the way as you've been doing all this work, what have been some notable both frustrations, and challenges but also some successes you've really savored? I guess I'll start with the frustrations. I think one of the frustrations is like, I'm in this position of popularizing some of the work in positive psychology and in mental health generally, and one of the big frustrations are spots where people really want some advice, but the field isn't really there yet in terms of answers for these problems. Just to give one example, I'm constantly asked, okay, thank you for these tips. Now how do I get myself to do them? I know what I'm supposed to do, but how do I put that into action? I think this is something that we as a field don't really know yet. I mean, we know a little bit about how you can nudge behavior, and how you can develop habits, and stick to them, but that disconnect between knowledge, and our intentions, and our behavior is a big one. I think we don't have any answers yet. I think that would be the biggest frustration is spots where, my listeners to the podcasts and learners are like, okay, great scientist, tell me how to do x? I'm like, we as scientists don't really know how to figure out x yet. So that's a frustration. But on the things to savor and the things I'm grateful for, it's just been so amazing that these different mechanisms can reach so many people. We've had over 20 million unique downloads for the Happiness Lab, and I just get letters all the time from folks that it's helping. I think that's just been really humbling because again, it suggests we have some of the scientific answers. We just need to do a better job of sharing them. That really makes me think of a question that you're alluding to which this, where do we go from here? How do you take your work that you're doing and sharing the science of wellness and happiness broadly? How can we expand that as we look into the horizon? Well, it's funny way just because we've gotten so much press on the course, I had this odd responsibility, and that's why I started out with what my day job is. Again, I'm not a clinical psychologists or even a positive psychologist by training. I'm a psychologist and since I know this stuff, but, I've had to really figure out my field and learn a ton of stuff, even in my academic age, being a tenured professor. It took a lot of lake re-learning to be able to teach this stuff. I felt I had a responsibility to do it because I had so many folks in the press looking out for me and I had this platform that I didn't necessarily intend, but there it was and I was like, okay, I could actually do some good with this platform. But my goal is really to pivot to the actual scientists that do this work, and that's what's been so fun about the podcast. Is that it doesn't have to be me saying, this is what X,Y and Z study showed, I can get that scientist themselves and then give them a platform where they can reach millions of people too. I guess the advice would be, as scientists, we should be using whatever platforms we have. One great thing about the modern era is that access is really democratic. Anybody can create a YouTube channel and e-mail a faculty member and try to see if they will do an interview. Pretty much anyone can create a podcast if you just have a phone that can record audio. That means that we really can be sharing our message much more broadly. There's so many more mechanisms to do this than there were even just 10 years ago. I think as scientists who get grant funding and the people are paying us to do our work, I think we got to reach back out more than we often do. Then, the final question I had for you, Laurie was just, what advice would you have for people who are watching this interview today? Maybe it's student's name, maybe it's the public, who want to get more engaged in the work you're doing, and maybe themselves want to think about ways they can share some of these findings more broadly. Well, I guess that the practical side, it would be like, check out the Happiness Lab, anywhere you get your podcasts or check out that coursera.org class, the Science of Well-being. But in terms of how you can use the science of well-being to your advantage, I really feel like this is a domain where understanding the science is your first step. The reason as I talk about often in the podcast, is that the data really suggests our minds lie to us about this types of stuff that make us happy. Really is all this stuff that we seek out, there's all these things that we go for, whether that's like money or accolades or the next click on a social media thing. Those things can sometimes increase happiness in the very short term or they can give us a little dopamine hit, but they're not sustaining and they can lead to all these problems. But there are case where intuitions are wrong, so I think the first step you can do is to really learn more about the kinds of things that really do promote well-being that really do count as self care that really do protect your mental health, and the striking thing is they're often not what you think, but once you learn what they are, then the task is clear. It's like this is the kind of stuff you should be prioritizing and putting into your life. Well, Laurie, thanks so much for speaking today, this was really wonderful as always. Cool. Thanks so much for having me.