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Description: I do not know if you notice but stories about specific areas of Psychological research seem to pop up in bunches. I take this to be a reflection of there being a particular issue or need that is emerging around that point in time and the folks writing articles are looking for things, or research, that speak to it. Psychologists who do research are happy to talk about their work and enjoy opportunities to let people know about it but it IS interesting when a psychology topic seems to start popping up in a number of places withing the news media. I mention this because last week I posted about burnout and how to note signs of it within yourself and your emotions, thoughts and behaviour and this week I ran across an article containing an interview with Laurie Santos, the Yale professor who teaches a course called Psychology and the Good Life which is by far the most popular Yale psychology course and perhaps just the most popular (by enrollment) Yale course ever. So what? Well, Dr. Santos is taking a break, a leave, in order to address her own symptoms of approaching burnout! As she puts it, she is NOT taking the leave because she is burned out but, rather, because she wants to NOT burnout and is seeing a few signs and want to address them before they take a toll on her. Whether you read my previous post or not I think it is worth your taking a few minutes to read the interview linked below for the tips and advice and observations it offer particularly for college/university students of today.

Source: Yale’s Happiness Professor Says Anxiety Is Destroying Her Students, David Marchese, Talk, The New York Times.

Date: Feb 18, 2022

Image by AbsolutVision from Pixabay

Article Link: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2022/02/21/magazine/laurie-santos-interview.html

There are, in my humble opinion, a number of important possible take-ways in the interview with Laurie Santos. One is that our mind lies to us about what will make us happy. It is worth noting that money is only significantly liked to happiness when a person has practically none of it and is struggling below the poverty line. Above that level there is only a very small relationship between more money and more happiness. In addition, what we feel like we need to do after a stressful day to feel better likely includes things like a Netflix binge watch rather than work out or call and talk with a friend. Social media is something many people reach for to “connect with others” when it may be that “real” social contact (remember that?), would be better for them. Finally, the perceived purpose of post-secondary education seems to have narrowed with students reflecting views like the one quoted in the article as saying “…if I am not just working for grades and trying to get into college, then what’s the purpose of life?” I particularly like Dr. Santos’ answer to the question. “Its all the good things in life.”

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What sorts of things do our minds (brains) tend to do that makes it difficult for us to avoid slipping towards anxiety and burnout?
  2. What does Dr. Santos and the research she discusses suggest about how many people use social media?
  3. What sorts of things could (should) you be doing on a daily/weekly basis to reduce the level of anxiety you are experiencing and to increase your level of happiness now and/or in the future?

References (Read Further):

Reitman, D. (1998). Punished by misunderstanding: A critical evaluation of Kohn’s Punished by Rewards and its implications for behavioral interventions with children. The Behavior Analyst volume 21, pages 143–157. Link

Killingsworth, M. A. (2021). Experienced well-being rises with income, even above $75,000 per year. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(4). Link

Santos, Laurie (2019) The Happiness Lab Podcast – Season 1 Link

Helliwell, J. F., Layard, R., & Sachs, J. D. (2018). World happiness report 2018. Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Link

Steptoe, A. (2019). Happiness and health. Annual review of public health, 40, 339-359. Link

Zhang, Z., & Chen, W. (2019). A systematic review of the relationship between physical activity and happiness. Journal of happiness studies, 20(4), 1305-1322. Link

Quoidbach, J., Taquet, M., Desseilles, M., de Montjoye, Y. A., & Gross, J. J. (2019). Happiness and social behavior. Psychological science, 30(8), 1111-1122. Link

Madigan, D. J. (2019). A meta-analysis of perfectionism and academic achievement. Educational Psychology Review, 31(4), 967-989. Link

Gärtner, J., Bußenius, L., Prediger, S., Vogel, D., & Harendza, S. (2020). Need for cognitive closure, tolerance for ambiguity, and perfectionism in medical school applicants. BMC medical education, 20(1), 1-8. Link