Putting the Science of Happiness into Practice

A Weekend Retreat at the Esalen Institute

  • Venue: Esalen Institute
  • Date: February 27-March 1, 2015
  • Price: $421-$1,766, depending on accommodation type

We all want to be happy, and there are countless ideas about what happiness is and how we can get it. It may be difficult, even disheartening, to dig in. But what can science teach us about the nature of happiness?

Led by experts from UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center (GGSC), this workshop will explore the roots of personal happiness and offer concrete, science-based approaches to boosting happiness in yourself and others. Utilizing new findings from psychology, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and more, the workshop will zero in on the ways that happiness stems from strong, supportive relationships; from the cultivation of mindfulness; and from “pro-social” qualities like compassion, altruism, and gratitude. It will also elaborate on new areas of scientific focus, particularly the science of awe and wonder.

This in-person builds on material from the GGSC’s new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), “The Science of Happiness,” a free online course hosted on edX.org, although the online course is not a prerequisite for this workshop.

Lectures will be complemented by group discussion and experience with research-tested “happiness practices.” Significant time will be devoted to the importance of “fit”—that is, finding the happiness practices that are best suited to your individual lifestyle and personality in order to maximize the benefits that the science can offer you.

CE credit for psychologists, MFTs and LCSWs.

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    Emiliana Simon-Thomas

    Emiliana Simon-Thomas, PhD, is the science director of the Greater Good Science Center, where she oversees its Expanding Gratitude project. A former senior scientist for the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, her work examines the science that connects health and happiness to social affiliation, caregiving, and collaborative relationships.

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    Dacher Keltner

    Dacher Keltner, PhD, is a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, a founder and director of the Greater Good Science Center, and author of Born to Be Good and The Compassionate Instinct, among other books. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The London Times, Utne Reader, and elsewhere.

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    Vicki Zakrzewski

    Vicki Zakrzewski, Ph.D., is the Education Director of the Greater Good Science Center. In her blog for the Center’s website, Vicki explores how the social-emotional skills of students contribute to their academic success and future ability to become caring members of society. A former teacher and school administrator, Vicki spent two months in India—at a school awarded the Peace Education Prize by UNESCO and the Hope of Humanity Award by the Dalai Lama—in order to research their methods for developing teachers’ ability to create caring relationships with students. Vicki received her B.A. from UCLA and her Ph.D. in Education and Positive Psychology from Claremont Graduate University.

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    Hooria Jazaieri

    Hooria Jazaieri, LMFT, is a researcher and cognitive-behavioral therapist currently in the psychology graduate program at the University of California, Berkeley.

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    Matt Killingsworth

    While Matt Killingsworth was a doctoral candidate at Harvard University in 2009, he and his colleague, Daniel Gilbert, created TrackYourHappiness.org and launched the app to monitor people's happiness levels at random moments of the day. His research revealed stunning results, which led to publications including "A Wandering Mind is an Unhappy Mind." Prior to earning his Ph.D. in Psychology from Harvard University, he attended Duke University where he received a B.S.E. in Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Economics.

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    Robin Stern

    Robin Stern, Ph.D. is a licensed psychoanalyst, educator, and author, with over twenty five years of experience treating individuals, couples, and groups. Her most recent book, Project Rebirth, looks at the ways in which these resilient people took their grief and remolded it, bringing new meaning into their lives.


    Stern holds a doctorate in Applied Psychology from New York Univeristy and a post doctoral certificate in psychoanalytic group psychotherapy from the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health. She is on the faculty of Teacher’s College, Columbia University, as well as the Training institute for Mental Health in New York, and is a consultant at Yale University’s Health, Emotion, and Behavior Lab. Additionally, Stern is one of the lead facilitators and a senior supervisor for the Inner Resilience Program, created post September 11, to help educators build resilience and coping skills. Stern is a founding member of the Woodhull Institute and has created and facilitated workshops for women in personal and professional development for 15 years

  • Feb. 27, 8:30-10 pm

    Welcome and Introduction with GGSC Science Director Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph.D.: Weekend Overview, Defining Happiness, Setting Intentions, and Finding your Happiness Fit

  • Feb. 28, 10-11 am

    Self-Compassion and Happiness with GGSC Education Director Vicki Zakrzewski, Ph.D.

  • 11 am-noon

    Compassion and Happiness with Hooria Jazaieri, LMFT

  • Noon-4 pm

    Lunch and free time

  • 4-5 pm

    Presence, Mind Wandering, and Happiness with Matt Killingsworth, Ph.D.

  • 5-6 pm

    Mindfulness, Social Emotional Intelligence, and Happiness with Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph.D.

  • 6-7:30 pm


  • 7:30-10 pm

    GGSC Director Dacher Keltner, Ph.D. on Awesome Happiness Frontiers

  • March 1, 9:30-11 am

    Author (Project Rebirth) and psychoanalyst Robin Stern on Gratitude

  • 11-noon

    Bringing It All Together: Putting the Science of Happiness into Practice with Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph.D. and Dacher Keltner, Ph.D.

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