Ways to stay positive: The Happiness Lab and Joyscrolling

— by Alexia Economou


Doomscrolling (going down a vortex of bad and depressing digital news stories) is so last year. As we all seek out ways to feel happier in the midst of a global pandemic, Joyscrolling is all the rage for 2021. The organisation Promote Iceland (designed to strengthen the country’s image and position on the world stage) has seized the term and set up a joyscrolling site to replace doomy web content with lovely images of sheep and waterfalls and other uplifting Icelandic sights and sounds. I personally love the idea of joyscrolling because what I am exposed to really affects my mood. Which is why I have been a fan of The Happiness Lab podcast since its inception pre-pandemic.

Fans of TED Talks may have seen its creator and host, Dr Laurie Santos, 2010 TED Global lecture in Oxford. The youthful 45-year old is a tenured Associate Professor, Head of Silliman (residential) College and a Harvard graduate. I became aware of her a few years ago when she hit the news for creating the most popular course in Yale University’s history – PSYC 157: Psychology and the Good Life. From the outset, over 1200 students enrolled – about one-quarter of all Yale’s undergraduates. Then, in late 2019, she created The Happiness Lab (THL) podcast as a spin-off. All of this has helped make her a rock star in the positive psychology world.



Dr Laurie Santos: photo via The Happiness Lab

Her most recent THL mini-series Happiness Lessons of The Ancients, has been wonderful in helping to reframe catastrophising thoughts and has won over many fans including Broadcaster Christiane Amanpour. Each episode starts with some context on the Greeks, Stoics or Buddha. Dr Laurie identifies one aspect of human behaviour to address for a happier life and her expert guests help apply the wisdom of Plato, Aristotle, etc… providing clear tools and tips that we can use to improve our own lives. Each episode is proactive and energising enough that you might want to give the tips a go. Even if you don’t, you finish the podcast feeling as if you’ve done something worthwhile with your day.

If ancient wisdom is not your thing, previous episodes have tackled everything from how to Sleep Right with guest Arianna Huffington (formerly of The Huffington Post), or the timely How to Be a Better Ally. There is also a 10-part series that might help through this most-recent lockdown, that touches on beating loneliness; healthy screen-time; how to coach yourself through a crisis; and other personal concerns.

Another reason this podcast is quality: The Happiness Lab is in the roster of journalist/author Malcolm Gladwell and Co’s audio production company Pushkin Industries. Along with Gladwell’s Broken Record and Revisionist History podcasts, you will find The Happiness Lab in the company of Tim Harford’s excellent Cautionary Tales.

If you like The Happiness Lab, and have some time on your hands, you may want to take the public, online version of Dr Laurie’s Yale course on Coursera. Re-named The Science of Well-Being, you can audit it for free or pay a small fee for feedback on your coursework and a certificate. Dr Laurie told The Cut, “The thing that makes this course different is that we also focus on what I call ‘behaviour change’ — the science of how you move your behaviour around,” she says. “How do you actually change your habits and use your situation to your advantage?” By replacing doomscrolling with joyscrolling this year, and taking a detour via the The Happiness Lab.




Alexia Economou is a design and culture journalist, and regular TNMA contributor @thedesignfeedTW

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