Recently, I had the chance to hear Dr. Catherine Sanderson give a talk on the Science of the Happiness at the Braintree Town Hall. This event was sponsored by Mayor Joseph C. Sullivan and the Braintree Community Partnership on Substance use. Dr. Sanderson has her PhD in psychology from Princeton University and is the author of the book, The Positive Shift: Mastering Mindset to Improve Happiness, Health, and Longevity.

In her talk, Dr. Sanderson focused on how a positive mindset can lead to better psychological and physical well-being.

Three key takeaways from Dr. Sanderson’s talk:

  • Happy people are fundamentally different from unhappy people. They tend to be more kind, more helpful, and more productive. Importantly, happy people also experience better health and live longer.
  • Most people look for happiness in the wrong places. Money, climate, and major life events, like retirement or getting a promotion, do not make us happy.
  • Being happy does not come naturally to everyone. We need to choose to be happy and put the effort in to make changes in our lives that will increase happiness.

In today’s world of social media, we are flooded with images of other people’s “perfect” lives and news that often focuses on tragedy and despair. It is not always easy to choose to be happy. However, Dr. Sanderson outlines several practical and proven ways that we can improve our happiness; the most important of which is to build and maintain close relationships.

Similarly, strong, supportive relationships are an important protective factor in preventing substance use. They make youth more resilient and reduce the likelihood that they will use harmful substances, like drugs and alcohol. As parents, teachers and caring adults in the community, we can promote the happiness and resilience of our youth by cultivating relationships and providing them with a sense of belonging.

Listen to a version of Dr. Sanderson’s talk on the Science of the Happiness and learn how to increase your happiness at