Anxiety Destroying Students Happiness

How to help yourself stay positive!

A cognitive scientist and psychology professor at Yale named Laurie Santos has a popular podcast called ‘The Happiness Lab.’ On this podcast, she discusses the topic of happiness and how it is so prominent in our lives but most people, still are not happy themselves. Additionally, Santos takes note of what is affecting her student’s mental health and elaborates on it during her podcast, along with what makes people generally happier. An article in ‘The New York Times’ covers these issues and solutions that Santos presents.

What is the issue?

In the article, Santos discusses that happiness is different to every individual, and every individual has a strong intuition on what makes them happy. For example, we may be aware that watching television generally may make us happier according to our intuition, but Santos emphasizes that most of the time our intuition doesn’t drive us to do the most positive things for our life, providing a more long-term happiness. We know we may need to do more productive things and get stuff done, but our intuition will lead us to watch TV for that quick happiness fix.

Furthermore, Santos emphasizes that culture is a big issue causing students anxiety. Marketing and advertisements, or just what some students may see on social media causes anxiety on what products to buy, how to present themselves, etc. Social media trends are big reasons for student’s anxiety, feeling they need to follow these trends to “fit in.” Culture also may make us feel as if we won’t be happy without a product or, certain things will “make us happier.” She shows the clear anxiety being caused by culture on her students.

What can we do to be happier?

To begin, Santos addresses ways to deal with the intense anxiety behind culture that may be presented to us on social media. She explains one common misconception with social media and happiness; how people typically delete their social media thinking it will lead to an overall better long-term happiness, but Santos argues the contrary. She explains social media to be our “tools,” and while social media can be both positive and negative, its all in the way we use these apps. For example, Santos expresses one positive aspect of social media is the ability for students to connect with communities. Finding people with similar interests as them, finding a group to connect with to uplift and understand each other, or just reaching out for a helping hand can all be found through connections on social media, which can be positive as opposed to negative. She also expresses how social connection generally makes people happier, so forming connections through social media as opposed to mindlessly being engaged in negative culture that comes with social media, is a much better use of social media platforms that can overall make us happier.

Santos also provides more simple solutions to achieving happiness. She emphasizes the importance of taking those mental health breaks and how they can help in the long run. If you feel you are overwhelmed and stressed out, take a break and step away. Clear your mind, do something you enjoy, and then return to the situation or the work that was overwhelming/ stressing you out to begin with. Mental health breaks can help greatly by giving you that time to calm down and attack the task with a better, more positive, mind.

Another simple solution from Santos about happiness is by coming to terms with and realizing that money cannot buy happiness. She claims, “money only makes you happier if you live below the poverty line.” She then further elaborates that there’s a lot of evidence that shows being rich doesn’t affect one’s positive emotions. The amount of time that someone takes to earn the vast amount of money can be replaced with a simple and more happiness evoking task such as journaling, getting to take a nap, etc. She says this realization is something she struggles to get her students to realize, but it is just as important to recognize and understand as a solution.

One very important way to increase happiness is by taking action. Santos references a study that a positivity psychologist, Kostadin Kushlev, has done on the mental health effects of taking action in protests or fighting back climate issues and whether it makes you happier, or does the complete opposite. He found that people who report having more positive emotions are in fact the ones who are taking action on global issues. Additionally, people who report higher positive emotion are the people who help other people the most. So, taking action on global issues and spreading awareness can help make someone happier.

Laurie Santos provided many useful ways to look at happiness. Additionally, she elaborates on how to change what may be making a negative impact on our mental health, and turn it into a positive, such as she explained with the topic of culture and social media. Look at what makes you happy and destress and analyze if it is productive, or the opposite. Then, try and change things up to become more productive while increasing your happiness.