DiscoverThe Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos
The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos
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The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos

Author: Pushkin Industries

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You might think you know what it takes to lead a happier life… more money, a better job, or Instagram-worthy vacations. You’re dead wrong. Yale professor Dr. Laurie Santos has studied the science of happiness and found that many of us do the exact opposite of what will truly make our lives better. Based on the psychology course she teaches at Yale -- the most popular class in the university’s 300-year history -- Laurie will take you through the latest scientific research and share some surprising and inspiring stories that will change the way you think about happiness. iHeartMedia is the exclusive podcast partner of Pushkin Industries. 

66 Episodes
Our recent episode about happiness and nostalgia prompted a lot of listener feedback. Since people seemed to really enjoy our chat with 80s star Rob Lowe, we thought it would be fun to bring you an appropriate episode of Literally! With Rob Lowe. In this edition of his podcast, Rob talks to fellow 80s icon Molly Ringwald. Find out what magazine reigns supreme (Bop! or Time), how a cowboy hat could have transformed The Breakfast Club, and what supervillain Molly would play in a film! (Contains adult language). Learn more about your ad-choices at
Dr Laurie Santos doesn't have so much fun these days - which is really bad for her health and wellbeing. So Catherine Price (author of The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again at is staging an emergency fun-tervention which will take Laurie to the beach and totally out of her comfort zone. Learn more about your ad-choices at
Peter Pan was her childhood hero, but Dr Laurie Santos woke up one day and realised she'd broken the cardinal rule of Neverland - she'd grown up and stopped having fun. Research suggests that goofing off and enjoying yourself is vitally important to your health, productivity and wellbeing. So Laurie asks Catherine Price (author of The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again) to come to her rescue and stage an emergency fun-tervention. Learn more about your ad-choices at
Change is the only certainty in life. We may desperately want to change ourselves and our surroundings, or we may fear the disruption and distress some changes bring. Dr Laurie Santos talks to change expert Dr Maya Shankar (host of A Slight Change of Plans) about how we can put change in perspective and learn to fear it less; and also how we can bring about far greater changes in ourselves than we ever thought possible. Laurie and Maya also take a few listener questions. Learn more about your ad-choices at
When Kitty Genovese was murdered, her family and the wider world was told that bystanders watched, but did nothing to intervene. Psychologists tried to explain this callous inaction with a popular theory - the "bystander effect". Dr Laurie Santos was taught this theory - that most people won't in step help - but talking to Kitty's brother and Lady Gaga's mother she reveals that the "bystander effect" is wrong. People do like helping out, and we get a happiness boost from being kind. So how do we encourage more bystanders to intervene? Learn more about your ad-choices at
We might love gruelling hikes, trips to see far-flung relatives or super hard crossword puzzles, but often we lack the motivation needed to embark on these fun things. How can that be? They make us happy, right? Dr Laurie Santos explores why our brains don't encourage us to do things that we know we'll enjoy, and presents some strategies to help us do more of the activities that will result in happier and healthier lives. Learn more about your ad-choices at
Companion pets - especially dogs - are credited with making our lives richer and more fun, but does the science back up this belief? Dr Laurie Santos breaks down what it is dogs can do to make us happier - and what behaviours we can adopt to experience the wellbeing boost of dog ownership even without buying one. She'll also introduce you to Georgia the motorcycling dog and her owner, Laurette Nicholl. Learn more about your ad-choices at
Space crews, athletes and pop stars all indulge in strange rituals before moments of high stress. It's easy to mock these behaviours - indeed even the people who practise them often admit they're a bit weird - but they can act like performance enhancing drugs. Dr Laurie Santos looks at the research to show why creating a good luck ritual can make us perform better and feel calmer, happier and more confident when faced with life's big moments. Learn more about your ad-choices at
Being shunned by a lover, a school or an employer hurts - but we're only just beginning to understand how real this pain is and what steps we can take to administer a bit of emotional first aid to stop the experience scarring us for good. Dr Laurie Santos talks to leading experts in the science of rejection... and to actor/marine/golfer Tim Colceri about one of the most extreme real life stories of humiliation and dashed hopes you're ever likely to hear. Learn more about your ad-choices at
Actor Rob Lowe LOVES the 1980s. And who can blame him? He was one of the most famous men on the planet. But, as he tells Dr Laurie Santos, he's careful not to wallow in nostalgia for the music, fashions and events of his youth too much - and happiness science backs him up on this. Research suggests that our memories of the past can be very selective and highly unreliable - causing us to misremember events and cast them in a rosy glow. Sadly, this also causes us to make very bad decisions about what will make us happy in the future. Learn more about your ad-choices at
There are no stupid questions when it comes to discussing happiness - so Dr Laurie Santos has joined forces with fellow psychologist Angela Duckworth (host of the No Stupid Questions podcast from Freakonomics Radio) for a special crossover episode to talk about how we all want to fit in; why we should do dinner and movie on separate date nights; why we should imagine bad things happening to our homes; and why a change for the worse in your life can actually be a happiness gift. Check out No Stupid Questions wherever you get your podcasts! Learn more about your ad-choices at
The challenges of life often cause us to work frantically to overcome our difficulties - but the Chinese thinker Lao Tzu recommended that instead we should emulate the slow, steady, yet powerful flow of a river. Solala Towler has studied and taught the principles of Daoism for more than 30 years - and explains how we can implement them into our daily lives. Things like retaining our childlike wonder, being content to go with the flow, and appreciating moderation in all things so that we don't burn ourselves out. You can read more about Solala's work at Learn more about your ad-choices at
The Covid pandemic has robbed us of many rituals and ceremonies we took for granted - from simple handshakes to elaborate graduation ceremonies. Their loss is important - rituals contribute to our happiness in so many ways. Something the ancient Chinese teacher Confucius contemplated deeply. Harvard professor Peter Bol (who teaches ChinaX at explains why Confucius thought that ritual behaviours can bring us and our communities peace and joy - but why we need to create traditions and rules and customs that serve others, not just ourselves. Learn more about your ad-choices at
Miroslav Volf teaches at Yale Divinity School - and is celebrated for his work on reconciliation and forgiveness. But book learning alone does not explain this focus. Miroslav’s brother was killed in a childhood accident, and the Volf family’s journey through misery and hatred finally ended in a powerful act of forgiveness inspired by Christian teachings. He tells Dr Laurie Santos how seeking to "unglue" the deed from the doer is a gift we can give others and ourselves. Learn more about your ad-choices at
Sarah Hurwitz worked 24/7 at Harvard, and barely took time off as she built a career in DC writing speeches for first Hillary Clinton and then Michelle Obama. Sarah would even take her cell phone into the shower. But as she explored the teachings of Judaism, she began to appreciate the vital importance of the commandment to observe a day of rest, and found that sometimes doing less made her happier. Sarah is author of Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life in Judaism (After Finally Choosing to Look There). Learn more about your ad-choices at
Sarah Hurwitz grew up thinking there was little the great texts of Judaism could teach her - she even hatched a plot to get out of Hebrew school. But in adulthood she discovered that The Torah contains instructions to act with gratitude, kindness and solidarity that all chime with the latest happiness research.   Sarah is author of Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life in Judaism (After Finally Choosing to Look There). Learn more about your ad-choices at
Moving more is great for your happiness - but many of us decide to exercise because we're unhappy with our bodies and long to change them. What should be fun and life-enhancing often becomes saturated with self-loathing. Jessamyn Stanley identified as a "fat and awkward weirdo", who shied away from exercise until she realised that it was her own body-shaming that was holding her back. She tells Dr Laurie Santos how she decoupled her love of yoga from the corrosive idea of transforming her body - and in the process became an inspirational teacher and author for those who think exercise isn't for them. Learn more about your ad-choices at
Diets and "healthy" eating fads are a January fixture - but few of us stick to these harsh regimes. And when the dieting ends, we often go back to the "bad" foods we craved during our fasting. Psychotherapist Andrea Wachter says this dieting "roller coaster" makes our minds obsess over food and causes our bodies no end of harm. Andrea stepped off the roller coaster by taking a kinder and calmer approach to the foods she consumed. She tells Dr Laurie Santos the key rule - feed yourself like you'd feed someone you love. Learn more about your ad-choices at
Reconnect With The Moment

Reconnect With The Moment


Psychologist and meditation teacher Tara Brach felt too stressed and busy to spend time with her elderly mother - until she had a lightning moment of realisation. Why couldn't she enjoy living in the moment with her beloved parent? What fears and insecurities were preventing her from devoting time to her mom? Tara tells Dr Laurie Santos how she created RAIN - a mindfulness practise that allows us to Recognise, Allow, Investigate and Nurture our emotions. Once we consciously engage with those emotions, Tara argues, we can decide what is really important to us and our happiness. Learn more about your ad-choices at
We often start a new year hoping to make big changes in how we look, feel or act. This can involve a lot of self-criticism and adopting things like tough diets and brutal exercise regimes. But being hard on ourselves doesn't deliver results. Dr Laurie Santos examines why being a nasty drill sergeant to ourselves is less effective than being a kind coach; and hears from researcher and author Kristin Neff about why developing self-compassion is vital to helping us achieve our new year goals. Learn more about your ad-choices at
Comments (169)


this entire podcast has been super helpful for my mental health this year. loves these last two episodes about integrating more fun into your life

Oct 22nd

Mary Mary

enjoy the extra fun this week! :)

Oct 9th

Ilene Toth

This has been one of the best podcast subjects I have heard in a long time. It has me thinking how I can bring FUN back into my life because I also thought I was too old to have fun. #fun #nevertooold #tomatoplant

Sep 30th

Reyhaneh mojoodi


Aug 30th

Mary Mary

loved this episode :) Rob is amazing

Aug 17th


Excellent episode. All work is important. It's finding what we bring to it or get out of it that's the most important thing😊

Aug 7th

Maximilian Quellmalz


Jul 4th

Shannon Compton

I wonder though why we notice our natural desires and do not wonder if we should even press against them in such a procured way for the sake of progress or in the U.S, capitalism.

Jun 19th

Old man

I've been living simply, and preaching Simplicity for years. It's an undervalued peace of mind.

Jun 17th



Jun 3rd

Old man

I tend to enjoy interaction with strangers more than I enjoy interaction with friends and family. It seems that strangers are more polite than people who take you for granted.

Jun 1st
Reply (3)

Old man

handing out snacks on the chatty car... Oh my God no! So people are talking to you, spraying you with bits of food and you get to hear that nasty smacking noise I'm out

Jun 1st


good. just for mohammad!

Apr 18th
Reply (1)

Leslie bailiff

Great show and good to hear Phil's voice again.

Mar 30th


Phenomenal! Thank you 🙌❤

Mar 1st

Dana Pellegrino

Wasn't really a fan of this guest. Her grouping of dieting and eating disorders was counter-productive, unhelpful, and harmful. Eating disorders are serious issues that people die from, and to group even her own experience of recovering from an eating disorder with these "steps" she took and that everyone can take is just ridiculous. Dieting and disordered eating should not be grouped in with a mental illness. The former group these tips would work for; the latter requires much more in-depth care, counseling, and treatment.

Feb 24th

Marzieh Golabbakhsh


Feb 9th
Reply (1)

Elena Kundrotaite

This made me feel very grateful for my life. Thank you so much for all the work you're doing 🙏🙏

Jan 28th
Reply (1)

Dr Farbod

imagine the first day of summer as your new year's Eve. with lots of traditional ceremonies for celebrating the start of the new year as the nature is having a rebirth that's how our year starts here in Iran

Jan 27th

Angie montes

I really needed to hear this today! Thank you!🌻

Jan 23rd
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