Science of Happiness Podcast

Science of Happiness Podcast


I’ve spoken previously about the Greater Good Science Center from Berkeley. They produce an excellent website called Greater Good in Action, a repository of techniques to build happiness and wellbeing.

I just got an email saying they’ve launched a podcast.


Here is the information from the email:

The show, co-produced by PRI, is hosted by GGSC founder and UC Berkeley psychology professor Dacher Keltner and highlights the most provocative and practical findings from research on empathy, gratitude, mindfulness, and more.

Each 15-to-20-minute episode features a “happiness guinea pig”–including Inside Out director Pete Docter, bestselling author Kelly Corrigan, and On Being’s Krista Tippett, among others–who tries a specific research-tested strategy for a happier, more meaningful life. Then Dacher explores the science behind their experience.


I listened to one of their podcast episodes titled “Quieting Your Inner Critic“. In it, the ‘guinea pig’ Steven, who had spent a good deal of his life in prison (including solitary confinement) but had bounced back in his life to become an academic at Berkeley, tried a technique called The Self Compassionate Letter.

In this technique you write a letter to yourself in which you expression compassion, understanding and acceptance of some aspect of yourself that normally brings you feelings of shame, insecurity or being faulty.

Steven, who described himself as highly self-critical and self-loathing, tried to take the perspective of his mentor when writing it, knowing that his mentor is a kind, compassionate and warm individual.

In the podcast he recites part of the letter. There were a few things he said to himself that I thought were quite powerful:

  • that even though he constantly felt inadequate, he was still a good family man, and worked hard. Those things were more the measure of his worth, not how he felt about himself.
  • that he was as deserving as anyone to feel ok.
  • that he was as deserving as anyone to take credit for the good things in his life.

Steven described writing the letter as difficult: he had to turn off the emotional parts of himself. Reading the letter back though did stir his emotions, and reminded him of his connection to others via the shared experience of being human.

After Steven shared his experiences, the podcast host (Dacher) then talked to academic Serena on what is self-compassion and how do self-compassion exercises work.

Self-compassion is about being kind and understanding to oneself, recognising that we are all human, that we make mistakes, and that bad things happen. Self-compassion involves striking a balance between acknowledging that some experiences or aspects of ourselves are not always great, but consciously not overblowing or overreacting to them.

Serena then reported on some of the benefits of self-compassion they had noted in experiments – including being more motivated to improve and greater acceptance following failure.

Finally, Serena explored why they think self-compassion exercises work. She suggested it is because you tend to take a different perspective when consciously applying self-compassion (e.g. the voice of a friend), and you step away from a first-person perspective (which is highly emotion) driven, and instead adopt a third person perspective, which is kinder in interpreting the facts.


So if this podcast sounds like your kinda thing, visit the website to learn more 🙂


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Podcast reviews Well-being

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