Mrs. Well-Be in triumphant pose

By John I. Kennedy Jr, MD

Who are the happiest people you know? Yale professor Dr. Laurie Santos reminds us that the top 10 percent of scores on happiness surveys represent the people who are the most social.

Walker Kennedy browsing vinyl albums

By John I. Kennedy Jr, MD

We’ve had a tough year of pandemic living, facing illness, loss, and separation from family and friends. It is no surprise that, in addition to learning about the effects of COVID-19 on the brain, we are seeing reports of many uninfected people who also experience a lack of mental clarity, frequently termed “brain fog.” Even in pre-pandemic times, data suggest that for most of us our minds are wandering about 40 percent of the time. So, whether we are simply distracted, or have significant difficulty concentrating, our ability to deliberately focus our minds plays a big role in our overall wellness.

Walker Kennedy browsing vinyl albums

By John I. Kennedy Jr, MD

Several years ago, I was walking through the VA Hospital with the Director, i.e. my boss, heading to a meeting. We were running a few minutes late and, as we passed through a crowded public area, there was a man who appeared to be lost. Without hesitation, my boss stopped and asked the man if she could help him. She listened, gave him directions, and pointed out the overhead signs that would guide him to the clinic. As we resumed our journey to the meeting I thought about what she had done. There were many other people around who could have helped, people less busy and important than the hospital director. Why did she bother? As we walked along I also noticed that my boss seemed even more cheerful than when we started out. She obviously felt good about helping someone find his way.

Walker Kennedy browsing vinyl albums

By John I. Kennedy Jr, MD

We all like to be appreciated, right? Hearing a sincere thank you always feels good. The experience of gratitude is an important contributor to our overall well-being. Yale professor Dr. Laurie Santos, who studies and teaches about happiness, ranks gratitude among the top five of things that make people happier.

Walker Kennedy browsing vinyl albums

By John I. Kennedy Jr, MD

In the spring of 2018, Yale psychology professor Dr. Laurie Santos launched a new course, Psyc 157: Psychology and the Good Life. It quickly became the most popular course offering in the history of the university, attracting 1,200 students, about one-fourth of the undergraduate population. The class, now generally referred to as the “Happiness Course,” subsequently moved to an online platform and has now reached over 3.3 million people. In a summary of her teaching, Santos shares five data-backed strategies for the pursuit of a happier life.