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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at NCSU chapter.

I LOVE podcasts. I listen to them when I walk to class, work out, in the shower. Everywhere. All the time. 

Today, I listened to an episode from the podcast The TED Interview: a series that interviews successful TED Talk speakers and dives deeper into what they study. In the episode entitled “Dan Gilbert on the Surprising Science of Happiness.” Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert explains why happiness may be more internal than we tend to believe.

  • Lottery winners and paraplegics show similar levels of happiness a year after 
    • Yes. you read that right. A year after winning the lottery and a year after losing limbs, studies showed that everyone felt similar levels of happiness. Not only do bad events affect us less than we may believe, but good events will not all of a sudden make us feel happy. 
    • Additionally, it is easy to live in the future: life will be better with money, a better car, or a better relationship. In actuality, winning the lottery tends to not improve people’s happiness as much as they may have believed it would. 
  • We overestimate how badly we will fare
    • Dan Gilbert explains that as people, we see things through the lens of a worst-case scenario. If something goes wrong, it feels like the end of the world. Gilbert explains that as humans, we are innately resilient. When we imagine our future, we think things will turn out worse and how we will feel. In the case of the study involving paraplegics, those affected were in a better place than they thought they were just a year after they lost limbs.
  • We as people find ways to be happy
    • Gilbert gives the example of a proposal to demonstrate human rationalization. If someone proposes marriage and they accept, they’re thrilled they got exactly what they wanted. If a proposal is rejected, we tend to rationalize what happened. We tell ourselves that they weren’t that great and we are better off not marrying this person.
    • With this, Gilbert explains how it’s not that one scenario is more true than another, it’s that as people we adapt to the situations and rationalize.

“When people are rationalizing, they aren’t just making crap up. They are coming to a different but equally reasonable understanding of what has occurred to them.” Dan Gilbert

Dan Gilbert felt it is important to understand that it doesn’t cheapen the way we feel just because we had it in us the whole time. Allowing ourselves to justify and rationalize our lives is a way for us to understand our situations and create our own happiness.

Hi! My name is Isabella Castineyra, I am a senior majoring in communication media with minors in journalism and criminology. I am from Boston originally, so I am all for Boston sports teams (go Pats)! I love taking naps, listening to Billy Joel, and rewatching the same shows over and over again. Go Pack!!