S2-EP15: Emiliana Simon-Thomas on the Science of Happiness in Times of Crisis
Debbie Weil and Emiliana Simon-Thomas, the science director of UC-Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, talk about happiness and gratitude, resilience and connectedness, simplifying your day, and how to cope in this unprecedented time.
Debbie Weil talks to Emiliana R. Simon-Thomas, PhD, the science director of UC-Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. This was a conversation the two arranged many weeks before the pandemic. It turned out to be perfectly timed.
The center studies the psychology, sociology and neuroscience of well-being and teaches skills to foster a resilient and compassionate society. Kind of what we need right now as millions of Americans grapple with the realities of life defined by social distancing and with the economic repercussions.
Emiliana is co-instructor, with Dacher Keltner, of the center’s The Science of Happiness course which has been taken by over half a million students. It’s an eight-week online program which explores the roots of a happy, meaningful life by studying positive psychology and by learning how to create stronger social ties and contribute to something bigger than yourself. In other words, the greater good.
Debbie and Emiliana discuss happiness – what it means and what it is not. Hint: it is not pleasure or enjoyment. They talk about how happiness is different from gratitude and how we can cultivate a calm mind during a time of extreme uncertainty like the one we’re living in. Emiliana shares with us what she does to stay grounded (mindfulness during her daily shower is key). And offers practical tips for more compassionate communication either while Zooming for work or connecting remotely with family and friends.
What they talked about:
- Simplifying your daily To Do list by reframing it into three categories (set a reachable goal, find joy, call a friend)
- Tips on how to work, teach and learn remotely (the importance of eye contact and taking time to ensure that emails are not ambiguous)
- Slowing down as a way to be more intentional
- To gain a feeling of control: focus on small things that are certain and for which you have agency
Mentioned in the episode or useful
- The Greater Good Science Center
- Greater Good Magazine (sign up for free e-newsletter)
- Greater Good’s Guide to Well-Being During Coronavirus
- Articles by Emiliana for The Greater Good Magazine
- The Science of Happiness (online course; register free)
- Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude
- The Science of Happiness podcast hosted by Dacher Keltner, co-director of GGSC
- Some Tips on How to Stay Sane in a World That Isn’t (NYTimes, March 22, 2020, quoting GGSC psychologist and senior fellow Rick Hanson on reframing)
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