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New Casey Fellow zeroes in on happiness

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a distinguished professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, speaks to students, faculty and the wider UCC community on Nov. 27. 
“I plan to talk about the importance of being happy,” says Lyubomirsky. “Happiness is not just about pleasure. People who are happy are more creative, more productive and more helpful to each other. Happy people also make better leaders.”

After devoting her entire career to the concept of happiness, Lyubomirsky is in a position to speak with authority. Her research focuses on three important questions: What makes people happy? Is happiness a good thing? And how and why can people lead happier and more flourishing lives? In addition to her research, she’s the author of two books on the subject: The How of Happiness and The Myths of Happiness.

Lyubomirsky is currently exploring how people can become happier over time and has found that almost everything that contributes to being happier is related to feeling more connected. She’s researching how people can connect better through conversations, what kinds of conversational opportunities work best and how to make conversations better. 

“A lot of what I talk about isn’t rocket science, but it’s helpful for people to see the empirical research; it’s validating,” she says. 

It’s certainly useful for youth.

“Young people feel like they don’t have control over their lives and their problems, so anything we can do to give them a sense of agency is good.”

Lyubomirsky has been interested in happiness since her teen years and began studying it in 1989.

“It was then called ‘subjective well-being’ and there was really only one researcher, Ed Diener, doing the work. It felt very fuzzy and unscientific at the time, but it has grown to be a very big field.” 

The Casey Fellows Program for Mental Health and Student Wellbeing was established in 2018 through the generosity of Matthew Casey ’83, and brings world-renowned experts in the field of wellbeing to Upper Canada College.
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