CM 094: Emiliana Simon-Thomas On How To Be Happier

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We have more control over our happiness than we think. And if we follow the advice of the most cutting-edge happiness researchers, we can help others achieve it, as well.

Emiliana Simon-Thomas happens to be one of those researchers. A neuroscientist and Science Director of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, she speaks and writes about the connection between happiness, meaning, compassion and wellbeing. She also co-teaches an online course, The Science of Happiness that, to date, has been taken by over 450,000 people.

In this interview we discuss:

  • Just how important social relationships are to our happiness and wellbeing
  • How our baseline for study is social, not solitary
  • The fact that social deprivation leads to greater stress, lowered resilience, and less happiness
  • How friendships helps us reframe challenges as more achievable
  • The fact that an ongoing sequence of pleasurable moments does not guarantee happiness
  • How happiness is derived from a rich emotional life that includes negative emotions
  • How happiness speaks to the ease with which we experience the entire range of human emotion
  • The fact that happiness stems from our ability to transcend ourselves – to view our lives in relation to a bigger purpose
  • How the ways we spend our time, where we put our focus, and how we view others determines our happiness
  • How forgiving others can have a greater impact on us than the person we forgive
  • How mindfulness is about noticing the world beyond ourselves
  • How graduates of the Science of Happiness course show significant improvement when it comes to happiness, flourishing, and connections to others, along with decreased loneliness and stress
  • The fact that the quality of our relationships has a significant impact on our happiness
  • The game changing difference it makes when we express our gratitude toward others
  • How practicing gratitude helps us feel more optimistic, decreases our self-absorption, and increases feelings of pleasure that can create a reinforcing loop
  • How practicing gratitude and showing appreciation can shift workplace culture
  • The difference between valuing someone for who they are versus what they achieve
  • How our ability to express gratitude and to show compassion are culturally influenced habits, not gendered skills
  • How the data shows that happier employees are more productive, more engaged, more loyal and more attentive to creating a better customer experience
  • The importance role self-compassion plays in our ability to be happy, to show compassion to others, and to improve or maintain our wellbeing

Links to Topics Mentioned in this Podcast

Emiliana R. Simon-Thomas


The Expanding Gratitude Project

Gratitude and Wellbeing at Work

The Science of Happiness course

Eric Liu

Social baseline theory – James Coan and David Sbarra

Robert Emmons

Judson Brewer

The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan

Center for Positive Organizations


Kristin Neff

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Thank you to Emmy-award-winning Creative Director Vanida Vae for designing the Curious Minds logo, and thank you to Rob Mancabelli for all of his production expertise!



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