UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center has recently issued its year end wrap up of the top scientific insights produced by the study of happiness, altruism, mindfulness and gratitude.  These findings can be useful to all of us as we work to create the highest possible life for ourselves and work to create a world that works for all of us.

Here are some of their key findings:

Mindfulness can reduce racial prejudice—and possibly its effects on victims. Why? Mindfulness has the power to interrupt the link between past experience and impulsive responding.

Gratitude makes us smarter in how we spend money. How? Possibly because gratitude reduces “excessive economic impatience” and strengthens self-control and the ability to delay gratification.

It’s possible to teach gratitude to young children, with lasting effects. Instead of lecturing, it is suggested that the curriculum encourage kids to think about something nice that another person did for them, and to see that kindness as a “gift.”

Having more variety in our emotions—positive or negative—can make us happier and healthier.

Natural selection favors happy people, which is why there are so many of them. Why? Because the benefits of happiness include better health, longer lives, greater fertility, higher income, and more sociability which all lead to greater opportunities to pass those traits on.

Activities from positive psychology don’t just make happy people happier—they can also help alleviate suffering.

People with a “growth mindset” are more likely to overcome barriers to empathy. Why? People “who believe empathy can be developed expended greater empathic effort in challenging contexts than did people who believe empathy is fixed”.

To get people to take action against climate change, talk to them about birds. The reason suggested for this is “that threats to humans cause us to think about death, which activates defenses against the anxiety caused by confronting our own mortality”.

Feelings of well-being might spur extraordinary acts of altruism.

Extreme altruism is motivated by intuition—our compassionate instincts.

I encourage you to take a few minutes and read this article from The Greater Good website.  There are some findings here that have practical application in the world.


Photo credit: AlicePopkorn / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA