McKenzie Leary/The Broadside
On Tuesday, May 25, Dr. Catherine Sanderson, a professor at Amherst College and a well-acclaimed author of multiple books on psychology, talked about “The Science of Happiness.” This talk was held virtually over zoom, and COCC students were encouraged to join.
During the event, she spoke about common myths of happiness and her top ten practical strategies to increase happiness.
Some of her myths included debunking the notion that money brings us happiness (unless you live below the poverty line), the climate in which we live doesn’t matter, and most life events we hype up won’t live up to our expectations.
What’s important to know about your happiness is that 50% of our personality and outlook on life depend on our genes. Thus, some of it is out of our control. The other 50% we can dictate through our behaviors and the relationships we surround ourselves with.
“Three months is about what it takes to get a habit down. And the important thing is to make it easier.” Dr. Sanderson said when asked a question about how to incorporate all of her strategies into their life. She explains that it’s unnecessary to include all of her strategies because they’ll feel like a chore and won’t be effective.
“Find something you like and then find a time for it in your day.” Dr. Sanderson said.
So what are her ten strategies?
1. Change your behavior
By changing your behavior, Dr. Sanderson meant to do things like making sure you’re getting enough sleep, exercise so you can increase your endorphins, and meditate.
2. Find what you love doing both professionally and personally.
3. Spend time in nature
You can combine this with exercising, meditating, or even just looking at a picture of nature. Looking at a picture of nature (or out your window) results in your brainwaves becoming the same as they would be if you were sleeping or meditating. It puts your mind into a calm state.
4. Express gratitude
Before you go to bed at night, it’s more beneficial to think of a few things you’re grateful for instead of going through a mental list of all the things you have to do the next day.
5. Make a gratitude visit
In this strategy, Dr. Sanderson recommended writing a letter to someone you care for, about all the ways they’ve positively shaped your life, and then going and reading that letter to them. Dr. Sanderson said, “Most of us wait to express what somebody has meant to us until they’ve died; we do it at a eulogy. This idea is to not wait for the eulogy, but to take advantage of the opportunity to share with someone what they have meant to you, while you still can.”
6. Smile (even when you don’t feel happy)
In her talk, Dr. Sanderson described that smiling could change your happiness levels. Not only this, but when you smile, your pain levels and how your body responds to pain change.
7. Give a gift to anyone
8. Spend your money wisely
Dr. Sanderson explained that the best way to spend your money is on experiences, not belongings. With belongings, you’ll adapt to owning them quickly, and the happiness will wear off, but with events, the happiness is prolonged while you anticipate it, experience it, and think back on it.
9. Avoid comparing yourself and your situation to other’s lives.
10. Build and maintain positive and supportive relationships (all relationships, not just romantically)
Dr. Sanderson talked about research findings that show that happiness is a muscle, and the more steps you take towards practicing it, the more it will start to shape your personality and ultimately change your life. The first step is deciding you deserve happiness and then putting in the effort to attain it.
To learn more about Dr. Sanderson, you can visit her website SandersonSpeaking.com or follow her on Instagram @SandersonSpeaking.