If our bodies came with an instant happiness button, would we push it? That’s the question UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner has put to generations of students. Usually, they say they’d rather find true joy themselves, even if they have to work for it.
Each episode highlights a key research finding, and uses human guinea pigs to try out some of the steps to boost their sense of well-being, among other positive outcomes.
Upcoming podcasts will feature such notable figures as filmmaker Pete Docter, who directed the Pixar movie Inside Out; Krista Tippett, journalist and Peabody Award-winning host of the public radio podcast On Being; Kelly Corrigan, bestselling author of the memoir, The Middle Place; and Dani Shapiro, author of the bestselling memoir Hourglass.
So far, episodes have aired on “How to Quiet Your inner Critic” and “Three Good Things.” For the latter, the guinea pig was Bay Area freelance journalist Shuka Kalantari, who was tasked with trying three ways to help her slow down and savor experiences while juggling challenging work and parenting her 2-year-old son.
For the podcast, Kalantari was asked to spend 15 minutes a day reflecting on and writing about three good things that happened that day. Among the experiences she recorded was a trip she and her husband and son took to the Berkeley marina “just being the three of us, throwing pebbles into the water and trying to keep the kid from running into the water.”
And for the most part, it was successful: “You slow down and start savoring things,” she said.
A more stressful experience that she talked about in the “Three Good Things” podcast was a work interview assignment during which she forgot her wallet.
“I was not happy,” she admitted. Moreover, she had only enough money to put 16 minutes on the parking meter, and the interview lasted over an hour.
Yet despite the setbacks, Kalantari enjoyed a productive interview while somehow avoiding getting a parking ticket. “When I accepted that the day sucked, good things started happening,” she said.
What she learned? “Instead of beating yourself up for not being the best you can be, it’s OK to accept that some days, things just suck.”