About the Happiness Center
The Center for Health, Well-Being and Happiness is about human performance, human development, and ultimately living and working well – and happily. Our focus is on people, our people. Our students, our staff, and our alumni. Our goal is to help them perform at their best now, and to develop critical skills to live and work well along their life pathways. And to do this we draw findings and methodologies from science – medical science, health science, and positive psychology.
It may seem that living and working well is somehow something that should be easy to do. But by so many measures, it is clearly not. Globally, across social class, and across countries the prevalence of anxiety, stress, depression and loneliness are on the rise.
Our mission is to give our people practical, simple and sustainable life skills to allow them to thrive amid the many challenges they will face across their lifespan. This can be, and should be, the mission of a institution of a higher education institution – and we have made it ours.
Our bodies are the foundation of our daily performance. What we eat has an influence not only on our overall health, but also provides the daily “fuel” we need to get things done, to stay alert, and to persevere when faced with a challenge. The higher the quality of this fuel, the higher our performance.
Likewise, physical exercise is critical for health, but it also helps us rejuvenate our energy and it generates bodily neurotransmitters called endorphins that make us feel good – an effect often called “runner’s high”. And a growing body of research shows that the even small amounts of frequent exercise is sufficient to give us this performance advantage.
It’s a scientific fact that that our bodies play a critical role in giving us the energy and stamina we need to perform at high levels in our academic, professional and personal lives. Yet, many people have trouble finding the time for even a brisk walk, a quick run, or a short session of yoga. And eating high-quality foods can also be challenging amid the fast-pace of modern life and the prevalence of processed and packaged foods.
The Center therefore includes in its core focus, a strong emphasis on simple techniques and tools that focus on The Body as a critical element of human performance.
In school, performance is about being active and focused in the classroom, working positively and productively on team projects, and developing the ability to understand and help other people.
In the workplace, employees are challenged to be effective under the pressure of tight deadlines, long days of meetings and presentations, and teams that may be diverse and geographically dispersed.
And whether it’s in the context of school or the workplace, to perform at our best every one of us needs to understand our strengths and weaknesses, and build the capacity for self-awareness and self-regulation to perform at our best, in the moments that matter most in our daily lives.
The second core focus of The Center is therefore on The Mind, emphasizing practical methods to improve our attention, science-based techniques for building positive relations with other people, and tools for thinking more clearly and carefully about ourselves and the challenging situations we face daily.
High-performance is about being at our best from moment to moment of every day. Yet, it’s equally important to have a solid sense of where we are headed beyond our day-to-day. What do each of us want our lives to be about at a deeper level? What kind of impact do we want to have on others and on the world around us? What activities and behaviors might provide meaning to our lives?
From ongoing longitudinal studies spanning people’s lives, the scientific research is very clear: having close relationships proves to be among the most important predictors of long-term happiness – more than social class, IQ and genetics*. While this may seem obvious – the pressures of school and work and the constant demands of our lives lead many people to invest too little in the bigger things that matter most.
The third core element of The Center focuses on providing people with practical ways to define and cultivate their “purpose” – the larger motivations that help propel our lives forward in positive directions: social relationships, meaning and social impact, and connection to nature and the world beyond ourselves.
*Harvard Study of Adult Development, 2nd Generation.