Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky's Quest for Human Happiness

By Kathryn Webber, Graduate Student Editor

Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky

With the aid of a $1 million grant from the National Institute of Health, Prof. Sonja Lyubomirsky is continuing her pursuit of human happiness. Prof. Lyubomirsky, an associate professor in the Psychology Department at UC Riverside, has been examining the makeup of happiness for the past fifteen years since her days as a Stanford graduate student.

Now, working together with Professor Kennon Sheldon from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Prof. Lyubomirsky will be studying the “architecture of sustainable happiness” or the ways in which people can increase their happiness above their genetically pre-determined level. The study will be conducted over a five-year period, examining 200 subjects for their ability to maintain long-term happiness.

The study will focus on activities, cognitive and behavioral, which may lead to increased happiness. These strategies include the maintenance of a journal in recalling “moments of gratitude,” engagement with daily positive thinking and reflection, and the practice of routine acts of kindness.

While Prof. Lyubomirsky notes that other researchers have been skeptical about the pursuit of happiness, she feels that “durable increases in happiness are indeed possible and within the average person’s reach.” Prof. Lyubomirsky’s research holds promise not only for the average person’s happiness, but also for those who are experiencing depression. Her research suggests that, contrary to common knowledge, “repetitive and self-focused rumination” may contribute to symptoms of depression.

Prof. Lyubomirsky’s contention that “happiness is one of the most salient and significant dimensions of human experience” which “yields numerous rewards for the individual. . .[and] for a better, healthier, strong society” is supported by the attention that her study has recently received in the national media. In “The New Science of Happiness,” an article featured in the January 17 th edition of Time Magazine, Prof. Lyubomirsky details the methods by which happiness is boosted. She has also appeared on The Jane Pauley Show to discuss her research.

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