Scientific Self-Care: How to Feel Happy, Grounded, and Grateful

Many of us are looking for tips to feel grounded and happy in the face of working, learning, and teaching in new ways, from navigating the remote world to returning to offices to everything in between. To bring some science to self-care, we partnered with Dacher Keltner and Emiliana Simon-Thomas, instructors for the groundbreaking course taken by over half a million students worldwide: The Science of Happiness from UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center.

Keep reading to learn more and hear directly from Simon-Thomas and Keltner in our Office Hours video and a full talk from a Facebook live event, which ends with a guided mindful breathing exercise. 




The “CPR” of Happiness

While media and popular culture often portray happiness as a constant, being perpetually cheerful, in reality, positive emotions are not the whole story. In fact, chasing a constant state of gratification and enjoyment results in less happiness.

Keltner and Simon-Thomas shared that we can instead distill happiness into three main categories that we have the power to manage: connections, positively, and resilience—the “CPR of happiness.”

  • Connections: Our social connections, the quality of our relationships with others, our sense of belonging, and our tendency towards generosity.
  • Positivity: The ability to experience positive states when things are going well; savoring life’s pleasures and moments of glory.
  • Resilience: Acknowledging that life is going to have setbacks, managing those difficult states in a healthy way, understanding why they’re there, and moving forward.

Good for Your Body, Relationships, and Work

“We’ve taught the science of happiness to almost every imaginable audience—government officials, tech leaders, Buddhist monks, lawyers, federal judges, a lot of work with medical doctors,” Keltner said.

“When we got out of the lab and started to teach these people who really are changing the world and on the front lines of making a better society, we grappled with the question: why does this science really matter? Why should we integrate happiness into the workplace, a hospital, a classroom? I used to doubt that myself, but we now have an empirical answer to that question.”

Science has proven that happiness can result in benefits for your body, relationships, and even the quality of your work:

  • Good for your body: Happiness CPR practices are good for your body—for your life expectancy, immune system, cardiovascular system, respiratory system, sleep, and so on.
  • Good for your relationships: Happiness practices can help in romantic partnerships, relationships with kids, and with friendships.
  • Good for your work: Happiness makes you better in your ability to handle stress, your rigor of thinking, and your creativity, improving the quality of your work.

How Can You Achieve Happiness? 3 Steps

We know what happiness can look like and how much happiness can impact our life, but how can we achieve it? Keltner and Simon-Thomas offer three steps to more sustained happiness:

  • Knowledge: Know where happiness comes from (some of which we’ve covered above, but what the Science of Happiness class is all about!).
  • Buy-in: Set the intention to foster and strengthen your happiness.
  • Practice! Happiness takes effort in all categories of CPR. Learn the little habits of how you think and act day in and day out, notice how you think and feel, and compare to what we know will be associated with greater happiness. Then, engage in activities, exercises, and practices that shift habits of mind, feelings, and priorities.

“It’s about changing something about how we live our lives every day in order to leverage the science to benefit our lives and, thankfully, since connection is a big piece of it, by becoming happier ourselves we have a viral influence on the happiness of others,” Simon-Thomas said.

Dive Deeper

Eager to dive deeper? Watch the video below for the full talk and sign up for the Science of Happiness course to discover practical strategies for nurturing your own happiness.