Expert on Psychology of Happiness Speaks at Convocation

What is happiness? Can people increase their happiness, and if so, how? These are the questions that drive the research of Loomis Chaffee’s first convocation speaker of the year, happiness expert, psychology professor, and author Sonja Lyubomirsky, who addressed the community and spent the day on campus on September 21.  

Ms. Lyubomirsky, the author of this year’s all-school read, The How of Happiness, recounted examples from her book and discussed the science of happiness in her convocation address, which fit with this year’s school theme, “The Pursuit of Happiness.”  

“Happy people experience frequent positive emotions, and they feel a sense that their life is good,” Ms. Lyubomirsky told the audience of faculty and students. Through her research and writing, Ms. Lyubomirsky has identified and described both the immediate and long-lasting impact of happiness in our lives. People who report being happy in their lives and with their lives tend to be physically healthier, be better leaders and negotiators, have stronger social support, contribute more to charity, and bounce back quicker from adversity than those who are less happy, she said.  

Ms. Lyubomirsky also has studied ways that people develop happiness. We are more likely to find happiness by connecting with people in our families and communities and expressing our gratitude for people in our lives who connect with us, she said.  

“Other people matter,” she concluded. “If you want to be happy and if you want to enjoy the benefits of happiness ... you need to focus, not on yourself, but on other people, on supporting other people and recognizing how other people have supported you.” She emphasized the need for human connection to be genuinely happy, and she warned against looking for happiness through social media. People tend to be happier when they are not on social media and are instead spending time with other people or helping others.  

After the convocation, Ms. Lyubomirsky continued the discussion with a smaller group of students and faculty in the Burton Room. Later in the day, she met with a Neuropsychology class and the Chaffee Leadership Institute and other students and faculty.  

Ms. Lyubomirsky received her undergraduate degree in psychology from Harvard University and her doctorate in social/personality psychology from Stanford University. She teaches courses in social psychology and positive psychology and serves as the Department of Psychology’s vice chair at the University of California, Riverside. According to her biography, she has been recognized with the Faculty of the Year Award (twice) and the Faculty Mentor of the Year Award for her work with students.  

Ms. Lyubomirsky’s visit to campus was part of the Hubbard Speakers Series, made possible by a gift from Robert P. Hubbard '47.