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'Happiness 101' Offers Wash U Prof’s Secrets For A Happy Life

Tim Bono has written the book on "Happiness 101."
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Tim Bono knows what will make you happier. And it may not be what you think. “[T]he common denominator of happiness has a lot to do with the denominator itself,” writes the Washington University lecturer in psychological and brain sciences. “The happiest young adults craft lives that ensure that what they want doesn’t get larger than what they have.”

But as Bono explains in his book, “Happiness 101,” it’s not about keeping expectations low. It is about keeping them realistic — and remembering what you have by practicing gratitude.

Bono’s book was originally titled “When Likes Aren’t Enough.” It has a new title for the newly released paperback version. And on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, Bono discussed what he’s learned in his years teaching a course called The Science of Happiness at Wash U, and how we all can instill more happiness in our lives. 

Bono pushed back on the idea that we should all be happy all the time. 

“A really important part of psychological health is understanding that distress, anxiety, sadness are simply part of the human experience, and so as important as it is to pursue happiness, it’s also important to have strategies that allow us to cope with the inevitable stressors that are simply part of life.”

He added: “People expect, ‘Either I’m going to be happy, or I’m going to be unhappy.’ But it’s better to think about those residing on a continuum and asking ourselves, ‘How can I be happier?’ instead of, ‘How can I be happy?’”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Joshua Phelps. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

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Sarah Fenske served as host of St. Louis on the Air from July 2019 until June 2022. Before that, she spent twenty years in newspapers, working as a reporter, columnist and editor in Cleveland, Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles and St. Louis.
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