Resources: What is Happiness?

The texts and media below have been selected to support the Project One 2017-18 theme, "What is Happiness?" If you have any questions about these resources, would like to incorporate one or more of them into your curriculum, or are interested in co-sponsoring a campus event on one of these resources, please contact Dr. Lacy Hodges at

tv ivon FILMS

Ever the Land (2015)

Ever the Land explores the sublime bond between people and their land through a landmark architectural undertaking by one of New Zealand’s most passionately independent Maori tribes, Ngāi Tūhoe. [...] This is a film about past and future, tradition and modernity. Most of all, though, it’s about the grandest hopes—and what it takes to fulfill them. --From

Happy (2011)

Does money make you happy? Kids and family? Your work? Do you live in a world that values and promotes happiness and well-being? Are we in the midst of a happiness revolution? [...] Taking us from the bayous of Louisiana to the deserts of Namibia, from the beaches of Brazil to the villages of Okinawa, Happy explores the secrets behind our most valued emotion. --From

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

Inspired by the true story of Chris Gardner, a San Francisco salesman struggling to build a future for himself and his 5-year-old son Christopher, The Pursuit of Happyness is a film about love, trust, and hope in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds.


Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Bringing to life scientific research in psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy, and behavioral economics, this bestselling book reveals what scientists have discovered about the uniquely human ability to imagine the future, and about our capacity to predict how much we will like it when we get there. --From

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

A collection of essays and short stories written by Marina Keegan, published posthumously following Keegan's death in a car crash five days after she graduated magna cum laude from Yale University in 2012. The stories and essays in The Opposite of Loneliness range on topics from life and death, to love and hope. You can read the title essay here.

The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris

Are you, like milllions of Americans, caught in the happiness trap? Russ Harris explains that the way most of us go about trying to find happiness ends up making us miserable, driving the epidemics of stress, anxiety, and depression. --From

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Carlton Abrams

In April 2015, Archbishop Tutu traveled to the Dalai Lama's home in Dharamsala, India, to celebrate His Holiness's eightieth birthday and to create what they hoped would be a gift for others. They looked back on their long lives to answer a single burning question: How do we find joy in the face of life's inevitable suffering? They traded intimate stories, teased each other continually, and shared their spiritual practices. By the end of a week filled with laughter and punctuated with tears, these two global heroes had stared into the abyss and despair of our time and revealed how to live a life brimming with joy.--From

Sustainable Happiness by Sarah Van Gelder

The authors of Sustainable Happiness marshal fascinating research, in-depth essays, and compelling personal stories that lead to a life-altering conclusion: what makes us truly happy are the depth of our relationships, the quality of our communities, the contribution we make through the work we do, and the renewal we receive from a thriving natural world.--From


The Surprising Science of Happiness (21 min, 16 sec)

Dan Gilbert, author of "Stumbling on Happiness," challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if we don’t get what we want. Our "psychological immune system" lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned.--From TEDTalks

The Happy Planet Index (16 min, 49 sec)

Statistician Nic Marks asks why we measure a nation's success by its productivity -- instead of by the happiness and well-being of its people. He introduces the Happy Planet Index, which tracks national well-being against resource use (because a happy life doesn't have to cost the earth). Which countries rank highest in the HPI? You might be surprised.--From TEDTalks

This American Life: Pursuit of Happiness (59 min, 05 sec)

We as a nation declared our independence based on, among other things, the right to pursue our happiness. But what does it mean, over two centuries later, to grow up in a country with an inalienable right to pursue happiness? Stories of people pursuing happiness, and sometimes, achieving it.--From NPR

Happy Brain: How to Overcome Our Neural Predispositions to Suffering (18 min, 06 sec)

Twenty years ago, Dr. Amit Sood, a Professor of Medicine at Mayo Clinic, came to the U.S. thinking he was coming to the Disneyland of the world. He expected everyone here to be very happy. What he saw surprised and shocked him. In this funny, fast-moving, and deeply insightful talk, Dr. Sood shares his journey over two decades and across two continents, finding a way to help us outsmart our neural predispositions to suffering. In the process, he takes us on a back-stage tour of the human brain and outlines the gist of a structured program he is taking globally to decrease stress and improve focus, resilience, and happiness. --From TEDTalks