musings about food, travel, creativity and life

Happiness and Plum Sauce

How could I not go to a talk entitled, “What Makes Humans Happy?” This talk was presented in Ketchum, Idaho a few weeks ago by Laurie Santos, Yale University Professor of Psychology. Her course called “Psychology and the Good Life” is apparently the most popular class at Yale in over 316 years. About 1200 students signed up. Sounded good to me!

As you can imagine, a 45-minute talk could not do justice to a semester-long twice-weekly lecture class. Nonetheless, there were still many nuggets that provoked thinking and talking among the very crowded, mainly post-college age audience.

Here are some of my takeaways from Dr. Santos’ talk:

We have to practice happiness; it takes work, everyday, to get happy, stay happy.

Sometimes our mind lies to us about what will make us happy. For example, having a lot, having more, materialism do not necessarily correlate with happiness. However, having “time affluence” might.

It is important to make time for social connection.

Helping others can make us happy.

Expressing gratitude everyday promotes happiness.

Good daily exercise helps one’s mood.

Savoring–being in the moment, enjoying something wonderful– is an upper.


Audience comments suggested two additional means to happiness:

            establishing meaning and purpose in one’s life

            being in a faith community


As a result of this lecture, I was inspired to take a Coursera course presented by Professor Santos called “The Science of Happiness.” I have just started it and so far I am liking it.

For the course notes, I just had to buy the folders pictured above. I know, I know–material possessions don’t necessarily correlate with happiness but if you have to buy file folders anyway, why not go with happy, fun ones.

And for this week’s homework assignment– savoring and gratitude–I made plum sauce from our very own plums that have been growing on our tree right outside our window; I savored every step of the process. Picking the fruit, washing and cutting it, simmering it, and then having a few dollops of it on my morning yogurt. What a gift from the earth! Thank you. I’m happy!


4 thoughts on “Happiness and Plum Sauce”

  • I love all of your posts but this one resonated in a special way. I’d love to take the course. Is it on line? Ready to start when you are or do you have to pick it up at the beginning at a certain time.
    I am grateful for your blogs and I am grateful for you!

    • Thanks, Kathy! I’m so glad you’re liking the blog. The Coursera courses are on-line, and when I signed up for this one, it was free. I think the payment (or no payment) varies per course and whether you want a certificate or not. See what you find and if you need help, let me know. It will be fun to compare reactions to the material!!

  • This sounds wonderful. I have always known you to be a happy soul. It takes more work for me. You may not know that you were my inspiration to really start traveling WAY BACK in my 30’s (oh my….time flies). I saw how happy exploring our country and the world made you and thought it might be my happy key and VOILA….it was. So thank you for being a wanderer and motivating me to find my happy which attracts more happy into our lives. I will look forward to hearing about your class.
    Ciao, Ciao. xoxoxo

    • This makes me smile, Lauren. Thank you! And just reading what you have written about travel gets the gypsy in me excited.
      Yay! We are lucky folk, me thinks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *