REVIEW: ‘The Happiness Lab’ is the most important podcast of our time

Topics range from why being a millionaire doesn't make you happy, to how grades actually get in the way of learning. (Courtesy photo by Pushkin Industries)

“Our minds are constantly telling us what to do to be happy, but what if our minds are wrong? What if our minds are lying to us, leading us away from what will really make us happy?”

This is the introduction to “The Happiness Lab,” a podcast created by Dr. Laurie Santos, a Harvard professor who pioneered a course called “Psychology and the Good Life,” which garnered unprecedented enrollment. As you might have guessed, Santos’ course taught the science of happiness.

While politicians, doctors and school administrators bemoan the crisis of ailing mental health among youth and search for ways to to address it, many of them are ignoring what is driving this crisis in the first place.

“The Happiness Lab” cuts through the noise and gets straight to the heart of why it feels so hard to be happy nowadays. It is a condensed version of this course, and is fortunately much cheaper than going to Harvard.

In many ways, “The Happiness Lab” is a user manual for how to understand one’s brain, an important message most high school — and potentially college — educations fail to really address. It fills in the holes in many people’s education with the latest science on psychology research.

Beyond just despairing at the negative trends in our society, the podcast provides practical ways to apply psychology research to improve your mindset and fight the social and psychological forces keeping you down.

The podcast provides thoroughly science-based and culturally cognizant approaches to navigating the mental health crisis our society is facing, for young and old people alike.

Santos explores the effects of technology, social media, economics and academic pressure on the way our brains function and how it affects our happiness. Each episode explains a different facet of our psychology, in addition to commentary by experts or innovators in each particular area of focus.

Topics range from why being a millionaire doesn’t make you happy to how grades actually get in the way of learning.

As a student, I learned more from this podcast than I did from many classes, unfortunately. I learned that having too many choices isn’t always a good thing, how forcing yourself to think positive can backfire and why we should be talking to more strangers.

“The Happiness Lab” is the most important podcast you can stream right now. It melds science, history and culture for a uniquely holistic approach to mental health and happiness.

Most students probably wouldn’t want to add another class to their already bustling curriculum, but this is the one class you can’t afford to miss.

This podcast won’t just change the way you think — it will change the way you live your life.

Rebecca Vrbas is the Collegian’s culture editor and a senior in journalism and mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to

My name is Rebecca Vrbas. I’m the culture editor at the Collegian and a junior in journalism and mass communications. My hobbies include obsessing over an ever-expanding pool of musicals and cats (not the musical). I love writing because of the infinite intricacy of language, as well as its power to cultivate a sense of community through sharing experiences.