March 29, 2023 10:23 pm

March 20th is the UN International Day of Happiness. To commemorate the day, News Medical speaks to Professor Bruce Hood, Professor of Developmental Psychology and Society at the University of Bristol, about his course The Science of Happiness and beyond. 

Please can you introduce your self and inform us about your experienced background?

My name’s Bruce Hood, and I am a Professor of Developmental Psychology and Society at the University of Bristol. My initially degree was in psychology when I did not even know what psychology was. I became fascinated and fell in enjoy with it, so I decided to train as a psychologist.

As my undergraduate project, I’d performed perform on babies and was fascinated by the creating thoughts and how young children develop into adults. I was fortunate to get a position at Cambridge operating with a group, seeking at visual improvement. Their strategy was from a physiological point of view, which is the neuroscience aspect of my coaching. I studied the improvement of the eye movement technique in quite young babies.

What is chemically taking place in our brains when we speak about feeling “happiness”?

Happiness is not a single type of mental state. It covers different issues, from bliss and ecstatic feelings to a sense of contentment. Most persons are familiar with the thought of there becoming neurotransmitters that are released. We speak about endogenous opioids, which are these neurotransmitters that produce feelings.

Image Credit: Tatiana Shepeleva/

A different neurotransmitter typically discussed anytime you hear about happiness is dopamine, a quite typical neurotransmitter spread all through the brain, but it is taken on this function as the pleasure chemical. Dopamine is component of the reward technique. It is undoubtedly involved in these optimistic experiences, but the study suggests it is extra to do with wanting than liking. You can distinguish amongst these two varieties of behavior.

You can want a thing and not necessarily like it. Addiction is a classic instance, exactly where addicts will pursue or want a thing and not necessarily get the higher they anticipate. So wanting and liking in the brain are distinctive systems.

It really is not the prevalence of a unique neurotransmitter or drug rather, it is how they operate on the distinctive systems, which much better explains how pleasure and happiness perform. Take opioids, for instance. There are centers deep in the brain that we know that different recreational drugs act upon, but you only have to move a millimeter inside the brain, and the impact of that drug is entirely distinctive.

How does happiness effect our wellness, each mental and physical?

We all knowledge happiness as a fluctuating every day state of thoughts. Some issues make us unhappy, and some issues make us pleased. Interestingly, the study indicates that these mental states effect our physical properly-becoming. We have identified that intuitively, we do not really feel up to our most effective physical self at occasions, which is usually linked to our mood.

But the definitely intriguing perform is the extended-term effects of becoming unhappy. There is now perform coming out demonstrating that optimism impacts our longevity. A study published in 2019 looked at 70,000 persons more than about 40 years. The most optimistic lived longer, about ten to 15%, in other words, eight to ten years.

How do we alter psychologically as we develop up, and how does it effect our happiness?

I believe that improvement is the important to happiness. The largest predictor of adult happiness is childhood happiness. It really is definitely intriguing mainly because, in basic, young children are happier than adults.

As a youngster, you happen to be blissfully unaware of lots of of the troubles in the globe, and you happen to be the center of focus in most nurturing households. Most young children are raised in a quite egocentric globe exactly where they are the concentrate of focus. But with improvement, you get a improvement of identity and a improvement of self. So you have to grow to be significantly less egocentric to get on with other persons.

I contact that a shift towards becoming allocentric, which indicates you can see other people’s perspectives. The issue is that when you start out to be warier of what other persons are considering, that tends to make you quite self-conscious. Young children grow to be increasingly anxious about their status and how they seem to other folks.

There is a shift from the young youngster who’s been told they are wonderful by their parents. As they move into adolescence, they are now comparing themselves to their peers. As they leave adolescents, they enter the globe of adulthood, exactly where competitors is definitely significant.

Young young children are pretty insulated from negativity and criticism. But as they grow to be extra independent, that exposes them to lots of extra unfavorable views and thoughts.

There is a network in the brain named the default mode network. This is the brain circuitry that kicks into action when you happen to be not focusing on a activity. When your thoughts wanders, the default mode network becomes overly active and is related with unfavorable rumination.

Could you inform me about your course “The Science of Happiness”?

Six years ago, I decided I required to do a thing about student properly-becoming mainly because they had been extra preoccupied with their marks than enjoying this period of life. By coincidence, a former student of mine who I had taught at Harvard, Laurie Santos, had place a course on at the time named Psychology in the Superior Life, and it was all about optimistic psychology. Laurie and I collaborated to place collectively a course. The a single I did is somewhat distinctive from Laurie’s but quite significantly primarily based on her strategy.

The course is quite broad and open to initially-year students who can take open units. As far as I am conscious, my course is completely special mainly because students earn credit on our course, but there are no graded examinations. I did that mainly because it felt hypocritical to lecture students about the dangers of examination tension and then give them an examination.

Image Credit: SeventyFour/

We’ve created a course completely primarily based on engagement, so it is not just lectures. They have to turn up routinely. And they meet in modest groups that we contact happiness hubs, which are mentored by third-year students who we’ve educated to run modest groups. In these groups, they do activities and issues we propose through the lectures. We also get them to do weekly journals and measure their happiness at the starting and finish of the course. That is how we’ve established that this course has a optimistic effect and added benefits their personal mental properly-becoming.

What is the existing state of student mental wellness?

I really feel that we’re not preparing students for university. The way that we educate is quite significantly in a competitive way. When they hit university, which is quite distinctive from college mainly because it is significantly extra self-directed mastering, it is significantly extra independent. I believe the students are struggling with that, the clash, and the transition to university. They want to do properly, but they fail to recognize that their efforts and perfectionism can be counterproductive.

It really is significantly extra significant to train the subsequent generations about how to deal with adversity and create resilience. The globe is unpredictable, and although mastering content material is all quite properly, it has to be performed in a way conducive to properly-becoming. I believe that is missing at the moment.

Had been there any surprising findings from the course that are straightforward for persons to implement into day-to-day life to aid increase their happiness?

There is practically nothing I am saying that hasn’t been mentioned just before. But understanding is not sufficient. You can watch as lots of TED Talks or study as lots of self-aid books as feasible. It will not make a distinction unless you actively engage in it. You have to act. That is why our course is primarily based on active engagement.

When we looked at the extended-term added benefits of our course, we identified that, as a group, most of the students returned to their baseline measures once again. So the added benefits they had subsided, except these students stuck with the activities. About half of them continued to do the gratitude letters,  meditations, and all these workouts.

It really is like physical exercising if you do not hold up with the plan, you will go back to your baseline once again. Like a muscle, you will not all of a sudden grow to be robust selecting up the heaviest weight. It requires time, and it requires continual work.

How do you think we can develop a happier and kinder globe collectively?

I believe the sorts of targets we set ourselves are somewhat misguided by industrial interest. We’ve got to fully grasp that to get a balanced society, it operates at the person and societal levels. That indicates altering the way we appear right after every single other.

What is subsequent for you and your perform?

I want to attempt and get Bristol to adopt other courses, which I believe will empower students with life expertise they can take into the globe of perform. For instance, economic literacy, presenting expertise, and so forth. I am operating on structures and tactics to get the university to make space in the curriculum for what I believe are generic expertise that we could all do with.

Exactly where can readers locate extra details? 

About Professor Bruce Hood

Bruce is Professor of Developmental Psychology in Society at Bristol University given that 1999.  He undertook his Ph.D. in neuroscience at Cambridge followed by appointments at University College London, MIT and a faculty professor at Harvard. He researches youngster improvement, origins of superstition, self-identity and ownership. For the previous five years he has been concentrating on how to develop happier. Bruce is a Fellow of the American Psychological Society, the Royal Institution of Excellent Britain and the British Psychological Society. He gave the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures “Meet Your Brain” in 2011 broadcast on the BBC to more than four million viewers. He also gave the Christmas Lectures on tours to Japan, China, Singapore, and South Korea. Bruce has written 4 well known science books published in 16 nations – SuperSense, The Self Illusion, The Domesticated Brain and Possessed. He has produced quite a few media appearances on radio and Television and featured in the 2019 award-winning eco-film, “Living in the Future’s Past” with Academy Award winner, Jeff Bridges. Bruce has received quite a few academic awards and honorary degrees for his solutions to popularizing science. He is presently operating on his subsequent well known science book about the science of happiness. 

Written by

Danielle Ellis

Danielle graduated with a two:1 in Biological Sciences with Specialist Education Year from Cardiff University. Throughout her Specialist Education Year, Danielle worked with registered charity the Frozen Ark Project, building and advertising different types of content material inside their brand recommendations.

Danielle has a wonderful appreciation and passion for science communication and enjoys reading non-fiction and fiction in her spare time. Her other interests incorporate undertaking yoga, collecting vinyl, and going to museums.


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