The Science of Happiness


Learn research-tested strategies for a happier, more meaningful life, drawing on the science of compassion, gratitude, mindfulness, and awe. Hosted by award-winning psychologist Dacher Keltner. Co-produced by PRX and UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center.


United States




Learn research-tested strategies for a happier, more meaningful life, drawing on the science of compassion, gratitude, mindfulness, and awe. Hosted by award-winning psychologist Dacher Keltner. Co-produced by PRX and UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center.




How Music Evokes Awe

Why do some songs send chills down your spine or give you goosebumps? We explore the science of how music induces awe — and how that affects our well-being. Episode summary: In the last episode of our awe series, Dacher explores the mysteries of how music inspires awe and can transport us to another space and time with sound alchemist Laura Inserra. Later, we hear from the scientist who showed how awe-inspiring songs change the way we think and feel. This is the last episode in our...


Happiness Break: Feeling the Awe of Nature from Anywhere

Host Dacher Keltner leads us through an exercise in feeling the serenity and wonder that nature brings us, no matter where we are. How to Do This Practice: Find a spot where you can sit and rest comfortably. Once you’re ready, close your eyes. Begin breathing slowly and deeply. Focus on your breath and unclench your muscles from head to toe. Think of a place in nature that is sacred or significant to you. What do you hear? What do you see? Try to create as clear of an image as you can...


Why We Should Look Up at the Sky

When did you last take a moment to really look up at the sky? Shifting your gaze upward can help us be more creative, it improves our capacity to focus - and it's a gateway to awe. Episode summary: Natalie didn’t spend much time finding shapes in the clouds as a small kid. And when she got older, looking up was even worse for her. Natalie spent time in jail, where she spent most of her days indoors under harsh lights. Today, she’s a student at a prestigious university. She tried a...


Happiness Break: Awe for Others

The communities we create are one of the most awe-inspiring parts of our lives. Host Dacher Keltner guides us in a meditation on awe and togetherness in this week’s Happiness Break. How to Do This Practice: Find a comfortable, safe, place where you can close your eyes and relax. Notice your breathing and begin to take deep, intentional breaths. Think about a community you are a part of – work, recreation, spiritual, any group you’re a part of. Cultivate a sense in your mind of being with...


How Awe Brings Us Together

Feeling awe changes your brain. In our first episode in a series about the science awe, we explore how awe can make you a better friend, partner, and community member. Episode summary: When Mirna Valerio tried out hiking for the first time as a young kid, she discovered something she didn’t expect: Being outdoors seemed to bring strangers closer to one another. It was like it somehow fastracked forming meaningful relationships. Today we know that the feeling of awe nature often inspires...


Happiness Break: An Affirmation Practice for the New Year

This New Year, affirm the wonderful qualities you already possess with this meditative writing practice called "I Am." How to Do This Practice: Take a moment to sit still and take a few deep breaths, and notice how you’re feeling right now. Open your eyes, and on a sheet of paper, write “I am ____,” and then fill in that blank. Set a timer for 1 minute, and repeat step 2 until the time is up. Take a moment to observe what you’ve written. Where did you begin? Where did you end? What can...


How to Make Life More Meaningful

Chris Sharma is one of the greatest rock climbers of all time, and he's taking on some of the biggest challenges in life: becoming a parent and starting his own business. Chris tries a practice shown to help us craft our own path and purpose in life. Episode summary: Chris Sharma spent his youth traveling the globe and becoming one of the greatest rock climbers of all time. His passion for climbing has filled his life with purpose, but now in middle age, he wants to also focus on other...


Happiness Break: Finding Presence Through Your Senses

Sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste: all of our five senses provide unique pathways to presence and happiness. We spend a few minutes being mindful of each one. How to Do This Practice: Find a comfortable place where you feel safe. Close your eyes or soften your gaze. Take a few deep breths, noticing the sensation of the air as it moves through your nose, into your lungs, and back out again. Sound: For a few breaths, pay attention to the sounds around you. Notice where they are in...


The Science of Synchronized Movement

Moving in sync with someone else — even a total stranger — can change how you feel about them, and how you act, without you realizing it. Episode summary: When was the last time you moved in sync with someone else? Dancing, exercising, even just walking in step — for some, it comes easily, for others, it’s a challenge. But can moving to the same beat make all of us kinder to one another? This week, our guest Chris Duffy steps out of his comfort zone to try a practice in Body Music,...


Happiness Break: Tune Into Your Body

Happiness isn't only in your head — your body is important, too. This week, we're led in a short Japanese calisthenics practice called Radio Taiso. Check out Radha’s video guide to this practice: Today’s Happiness Break guide: Radha Agrawal is Japanese-Indian author and a founder of Daybreaker, a company that throws sober dance parties at sunrise all around the world. Learn more about Daybreaker:...


How to Practice Gratitude When You're Not Feeling Thankful

One way to feel more thankful for things is to imagine life without them. Our guest tries a practice for seeing the bright side, even when you feel down. Episode summary: We know that gratitude is good for us. But what can we do when we’re struggling to actually feel thankful? Our guest this week is author and podcast producer Stephanie Foo. Foo built a network of close friends around her in California, where she grew up. As a survivor of child abuse and Complex PTSD, her friends in...


Happiness Break: 5 Minutes of Gratitude

Not sure how to start practicing gratitude? Psychologist Dacher Keltner guides you through a practice that can help you see the good things in your life that you might otherwise overlook. How to Do This Practice: Sit or lay down somewhere comfortable. You may close your eyes if you wish, and take a slow, deep breath in to ground into the present moment. Then, scan your body from head to toe, noticing how you’re feeling in this moment. Let worries and plans clear from your mind. Start by...


The Emerging Science of ASMR (Encore)

There are millions of YouTube videos with people crinkling bubble wrap or whispering about folding laundry. Our guest talks about why autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) makes her, and many others, feel more calm and happy. Episode summary: Melinda still remembers the tingling feeling she felt when she first listened to the close-up sound of someone drawing on a TV show at the age of ten. She learned later that the subtle sounds that create soothing sensations for her are called...


Happiness Break: Making Space for You

Consider what you want to make space for in your life in this 6-minute contemplation guided by Alex Elle. How to Do This Practice: Take a few deep breaths. File up your belly on each inhale. Drop your shoulder and soften your body on each exhale. Say these eight phrases to yourself, or your own variation of it. Consider which resonates with you the most: a. “In the presence of fear, I will make space for courage.” b. “In the presence of self-doubt, I will make space for...


How Humor Helps us Cope

Hardships in life are a given, but what if we found a way to laugh about it? Our guest shares how he's used humor to cope with the deepest pains in his life. Episode summary: When we go through hardships and struggles, finding the humor in them can help us relieve stress and change our perspective. This week on The Science of Happiness, our guest shares how he’s used humor to triumph over hardship in his life. Kerry Rudd is a former member of the Bay Area Freedom Collective, a re-entry...


Happiness Break: Restore Through Silence

When was the last time you spent a moment savoring silence? Tricia Hersey, aka The Nap Bishop, guides us through an appreciation of silence and its restorative powers. Scientists have found that spending just two minutes in silence can lower your blood pressure and heart rate, even when compared to listening to slow, relaxing music. How to Do This Practice: Find a quiet place to rest. Set a two-minute timer and put it aside. Close your eyes and soften your face. Allow yourself to...


How to Focus Under Pressure

Jeopardy! champion Amy Schneider tries a body scan meditation to sharpen her focus and calm her nerves as she prepares for the Tournament of Champions. Episode summary: Amy Schneider is the most successful woman to ever compete on Jeopardy!. Part of her winning strategy was to shut down all her mental chatter and completely focus on the competition. But when the cameras are off, she struggles to find the same calm. For today’s show, Amy tries a body scan practice to connect with her body...


Happiness Break: How to Awaken Joy

Cultivate more joy in your life with this practice led by meditation teacher and author Spring Washam. How to Do This Practice: Think about an area of your life that brings you joy, it could be anything. Imagine yourself experiencing that moment of happiness. Feel the smiles, the peace and laughter. As you reflect on the moment, say to yourself, “may my joy and my happiness increase.” Next, practice “sympathetic joy.” To do this, think about someone you know having a great...


Why Listen to the Other Side?

These days, it's hard to imagine befriending people with different politics than your own. But these two men did it using a tried and true practice. Episode summary: When a graphic work of art depicting two men having sex was hung up in a busy hallway on a community college campus, it stirred up a huge controversy. Some students wanted it taken down, while others opposed the idea of censoring art. Instead of retreating to their respective echo chambers, two students who disagreed had a...


Happiness Break: Six Minutes to Connect with Your Body

Dedicating a little time to tune into your body fortifies you to better handle the stresses of daily life. How to Do This Practice: Find a quiet place where you feel safe and comfortable.You can be standing, sitting, or lying down. Make sure that you feel relaxed. Close your eyes, and take a few deep, long breaths. Move your attention through your body slowly, part by part. Focus on your feet, then your calves, knees, and so on, until you get to the top of your head. Without judgment,...