This Elusive State Called Happiness

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Not too long ago, the New York Times wrote an article about a professor who teaches a class on happiness. Her course became the most popular class in the history of Yale University’s course offerings. Students sometimes attempted to get in each semester and would still did not get into the class after having tried for four years.

Now Coursera is offering Yale University professor, Laurie Santos’ course on Happiness for free! And THOUSANDS of people have signed up.

Tim Bono, a popular professor on positive psychology at Washington University recently wrote a book called: “When Likes are Not Enough: The Science of Happiness”.  He teaches a very popular class called, “The Science of Happiness”.

Happiness is the goal and appears to be an increasingly elusive one.   The statistics are clear. Our kids are entering college with more mental health issues than ever before. Chronic stress and anxiety are increasingly common.

So, what is going on? The jury is still out. Mental health issues are certainly being identified more, there is less of a stigma—which is a good thing.

However, researchers are finding a correlation between the increase in social media and device use and the rise in depression and anxiety.

Bono’s book speaks to the shallow, relentlessly positive lives people portray on social media and how tempting it is to compare ourselves to our peers. Everyone else seems to be having more fun, to have more friends, to win more awards, to get more likes on their posts, to always appear to be happy, to get into better colleges.

We AND our kids are looking for happiness outside of ourselves—in external rewards, others’ approval and in material things.

Social Media heightens the temptation to take part in the comparison game where what you think you want, you do not believe you have.

Researchers are even finding a correlation between mood and social media use in adults. It is no wonder without a fully developed pre-frontal cortex, our kids are finding it difficult to place their lives in perspective when seeing the constant fabulousness of their peers’’ lives.

So, I posit that “happiness” is not necessarily the end goal in a life well lived. If we can teach our kids that, more importantly, self-compassion, connection to others and having a WHY to our lives are truly more worthy goals, happiness will naturally follow.

What are your thoughts?

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