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From ABC, this is the 10 percent happier podcast. I'm Dan Harris. Hello, welcome to Episode four of our special New Year's series today we're going to dive into the science behind why so many of us get New Year's resolutions so badly wrong and how we can do better.


My guest is Dr. Laurie Santos. As you may remember, she made her debut on this show just over a month ago in an episode about how to handle the pandemic Winter Blues. She was such a font of practical wisdom that we almost immediately invited her back. Laurie is a tenured psychology professor at Yale, where she teaches a massively popular course on happiness. She's in the process of turning that into a book right now. She also hosts an excellent podcast called The Happiness Lab, where right now she's doing a whole series of episodes along a very similar theme, what she's calling A.I. resolutions.


So I definitely recommend checking that out. It's a great show in today's conversation. On this show, though, we talk about why resolutions are a thing in the first place, why they so often go pear shaped. And we talk about common pitfalls and misunderstandings in our attempts to lose weight, exercise more or make more money. She really breaks down those different and very common resolutions and talks about the psychological misfiring that can happen there.


And as we've been stressing throughout the New Year's series here on this show, Lori argues that one powerful antidote to our resolutions morass is self compassion. There's a ton of research that shows that self compassion is much more effective than shame when it comes to motivating yourself to make healthy habits. I've been referring to it as a kind of Luber habit out of which all other habits can flow. Speaking of self compassion, Laurie, I'm happy to report, has signed up for our free New Year's meditation challenge taking place right now in the 10 percent happier app where the whole goal is to help you train your mind and self compassion through meditation.


The challenge started on Monday, but it is not too late to sign up. You can join the challenge right now for free by downloading the 10 percent happier app wherever you get your apps or by visiting 10 percent dotcom, that's 10 percent all one word spelled out dotcom. If you already have the app, just open it up and follow the instructions to join. Here we go now with Laurie Santos. Laurie Santos, welcome back. Thanks so much for having me on the show.


I'm very, very, very happy to have you back. So we're talking about resolutions. I'm very interested to hear what is your history with resolutions?


I make New Year's resolutions all the time, actually, not necessarily ones that I stick to, sadly, but I definitely make the resolutions. And I do that because behavioral science suggests it's actually a good idea. There's some work by the psychologist Katie Milkman on what she calls the fresh start effect, which is this idea that there are these natural times what our motivation is higher than usual know. As you know, motivation is not linear. It's not this consistent thing.


It's high sometimes and down at others. But one of the times that it tends to be high is that natural sort of temporal breaks. So like Monday mornings, like your birthday. But New Year's Day is one of those. Like the beginning of January is a time when our motivation is higher. And while motivation being high doesn't necessarily mean you're going to succeed at developing new goals, it's actually a lot better when your motivation is high. So I'm a big believer in fresh start effect.


I like to kind of dive in and like harness the New Year in different ways. So I'm pro resolution. The problem is that people tend to do them wrong. And so the key is we have to pick good resolutions. I want to talk about that in a second. But just curious, what kind of resolutions have you made in the past which have worked, which have not?


Yeah, well, I'll be honest that for most of my adult life, I was picking some resolutions that I now know the research suggests are pretty dumb resolutions I was really heavily into, oh, my gosh, I'm going to finally lose weight camp the like. This year is going to be the year that I only eat plants and that's it. Camp, you know, I feel like through most of my 30s, those were my New Year's resolutions. These days, I think the resolutions are a little bit more evidence based.


They're trying to be more present, trying to be more social. Last year, I had the resolution to try to improve my time and have a little bit more time affluence, which given covid, was a little bit easier given that all plans were canceled. And I had a lot of Jomo this past year. But yeah. So I think you got to kind of dive in. And the key is to kind of figure out which plans, which goals are really going to help you feel happier in the New Year.


I may be a mutant, but I've never made New Year's resolutions, I have made big vows to do behavior change. Like, for example, I decided one day while gnawing on a chicken bone that I was going to give up animal products. And I did. I decided one day I was going to start meditating and I did it. And neither of these was tied to any date on the calendar was just random. I don't know what's wrong with me, but I can somehow do this.


Yeah, well, you're not alone.


I mean, people like Gretchen Rubin talk about this sort of lightening moments or light bulb moments, right. Where everything changes, you're like, yep, that's it. Today, I'm never going to eat an animal product again for the rest of my life and then people can stick with it. And so, you know, sometimes you get these random moments of motivation. I actually think psychologists don't understand them very well. It'd be great if we could understand them so we could harness them a lot better.


But the research does suggest that sometimes these temporal boundaries can give you a little bit more umph. Again, not necessarily to stick with things, but just to kind of give you the idea that you can try. And one of the reasons the fresh start effect works so well is that we tend to think of ourselves as a new person, like a blank slate. When the New Year rolls around January 1st, it's like, oh, all the mistakes of the past, they're gone.


I've got this fresh, clean, three hundred and sixty five days to be a new me. And that blank slate can feel really powerful. It really can motivate us to change.


Yeah. I've never felt that birthday's new year and just never landed with me as a fresh start.


So I guess that's maybe why I've never really done it.


So I'm curious, I know that most you'll probably know the statistics here, but I know that most people don't stick with resolutions too long. What is the failure rate and why is it so high?


The failure rate is pretty high. I've seen estimates as high as 90 percent, 95 percent of New Year's resolutions don't stick. And I think there are a couple of things. Sometimes I think we're not really true to ourselves when we're picking New Year's goals. We know there's so many behavioral biases where we're awful at planning, we're awful at deciding what goals are going to be good for us. We tend to kind of have this sort of optimistic bias to think that we're just going to be able to do anything.


And so I think part of it is that our wonderful fresh start effect gives us the sort of optimistic glasses that make us think everything's going to be perfect in the new year. And that means we don't necessarily plan well. So there are better and worse ways to plan for your New Year's resolutions, such they stick a little bit better. But I think a bigger issues were often picking like things to do that aren't necessarily great goals. So once we dig in and really start working on these new habits, we discover that they're not necessarily working for us in the way that we thought before.


And so it makes it harder for these things to stick because they're not having the effect.


We assumed when you said before that we tend to get resolutions wrong. Is that the main sin or mistake that we we just picked the wrong kind?


Yeah, and I think it's part of our general misconception about the kinds of things that make us happy. A lot of the things that we talk about on my podcasts and that I talk about in my class at Yale are the misconceptions we have about the sorts of things that are going to make us happy. First off, we assume that they're really circumstantial. They have to do with our bodies and our body size and our salary and just how many material possessions we have and things like that.


And the evidence suggests that those things just don't matter as much as we think, mostly because when things are going well, we have the perfect body or a great salary. We get used to it. So the happiness impact it could possibly have isn't really working in the way we think once we get used to something is just not giving us as much happiness bang for our buck as we could be getting out of something. We're much better off doing changes that really reflect new mindsets.


New behavior is right rather than just kind of change the way our body looks or what our bank account looks like.


So we use a sort of developing mindset. What do you mean by that?


Yeah, so mostly what I mean is that when we tend to think about resolutions that are common, right. They're all about changing our circumstances, we're actually better off focusing on resolutions and goals that involve changing our mindsets, trying to look at the world through a different lens, trying to become more present and trying to become more grateful, trying to become more compassionate. Those are the kinds of changes that really will have a long standing impact on our wellbeing.


The problem is that we don't realize they're powerful. And so they tend not to be in the big lists of New Year's resolutions that we see every year.


I know one of the things you're talking about on your show is the development of self compassion as one of these skills, a kind of I've been referring to it as a kind of UBA resolution that's upstream from all the other more traditional resolutions.


Yeah, I love this idea of UBA Resolution two, because it's a great thing to focus on for two reasons. One is it's a good goal in and of itself. Right. Bumping up self compassion, the research suggests, is going to allow you to have all kinds of other positive changes. Kristin Neff, a researcher at UT Austin, who we interviewed for the podcast, has all this work showing that by boosting yourself compassion, you naturally do a bunch of things.


You naturally, for example, eat healthier. You naturally, for example, are more likely to work out and take care of your body because you're kind of being kind and loving your body. You're naturally more likely to procrastinate less and to kind of continue at a hard project after you fail the little bit. And so whatever other things you want to achieve in the New Year, like focusing on self compassion, is actually going to help you get there.


It's UBA resolution because it might make all the other tinier resolutions a little bit easier. Plus, in and of itself, self compassion will actually boost your well-being. So just the act of kind of focusing on self compassion can bump up your happiness. And it makes it easier for you to pursue other goals that will also bump up your happiness. So it's really a win win and it's kind of sad that more of us don't realize it can be such a powerful technique for kind of getting all the stuff we want in the New Year.


I think that's because the science hasn't been as well publicized as it might be. And I think now the two of us are going to put a dent in that. But I also think it's because there are all sorts of blocks to embracing self compassion. In particular, I'll say as a male of the species, you know, it's it comes off as really cheesy. And also I think there's also the fear that people have that if they take it easy on themselves, they'll fall into sloppy resignation.


You hit the nail on the head. I think we think it's weak, right. You know, we have this sort of culture of a Protestant work ethic and even the general notion of New Year's resolutions. I feel like in some ways we feel like they're supposed to be hard. Right. They're supposed to be this sort of reframing of ourselves where we kind of shame ourselves for past deeds and old. Years and sort of make it better, right? This idea kind of being nice to ourselves, it feels really culturally foreign and it plays into these misconceptions that we have that the only way forward is through stuff that's going to feel hard.


And this comes up all the time. And happiness research, we often think, you know, that the only way to change our behavior is through willpower. And it turns out there's tons of behavioral science work suggesting that willpower just doesn't work when we really need it to like willpower might work when our motivation is high and everything's great, but it falls apart as soon as things get tough. Right. And so I think, you know, the fact that we don't realize self compassion can be so powerful is just part of our deep misunderstanding about how human nature works.


That kindness and compassion and being nice to yourself can be powerful forces for achievement and success. You know, it feels strange. And as you said, a little hippy dippy to. I have really good news for anybody who's insistent upon having hard news resolutions that say this is somebody who spent the last few years very assiduously working at cultivating self compassion and applying in my life and writing a book about it, et cetera, et cetera.


It's hard, right? Yeah, yeah.


We think we being nice to ourselves is super easy, but it involves the kind of soul searching that is really time consuming and emotionally wrenching, which is basically the hardest kind of New Year's resolution you can engage with.


I'm sure you talked about this with Kristin Neff on your show. She's been on this show before, her partner in crime. From a research perspective, Christopher Guerma is we just put up an episode from him the other day. I'm sure you've heard this from Kristen. And I know that Girma was talking about it here, that the process of trying to muster some warmth for yourself, often in self compassion meditation brings he calls it Backdraft. It brings up all of this stuff that made you mean to yourself in the first place.


Most of us developed this armor in response to trauma or difficulty in the world. Disarming requires going back and looking at a lot of that stuff and then remembering to apply it in your day to day life when you have all several decades, in my case of conditioning, that involves using a cattle prod internally that combine all of that and it's quite a project. So anybody who is looking for a big project, I highly recommend this one. Much more of my conversation with Laurie Santos right after this.


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Before we dive back in with Laurie, I just want to give you another quick reminder that right now we're running a free twenty one day meditation challenge in the 10 percent happier app. In this challenge, our teachers will guide you through a series of meditations demonstrating the many benefits of developing self-love, compassion and acceptance and also showing you how to actually do it. Here's how the challenge works. Your goal will be to meditate at least 15 out of twenty one days.


Every day you get a short video from me, accompanied along the way by some very special experts. And then the video slides into a related guided audio meditation, which will be about 10 minutes long. The insights into self compassion, combined with regular practice, really ought to help you develop the resilience that is so critical when it comes to making sustained healthy change if you're a long time listener. This challenge is an opportunity to learn directly from the expert teachers you know and love.


As guests on the podcast, Susan Piver tourist Jeff Warren. The challenge also features our most recent guests, Chromeo, the TV host from Netflix, from the blockbuster reboot of Queer Eye. And if you've never meditated before, no sweat. Our challenges are specifically designed to help you boot up a practice. So join the challenge now for free by downloading the 10 percent happier app today. Wherever you get your apps or by visiting 10 percent dotcom, that's all one word spelled out.


If you already have the app, good for you. Just open it up and follow the instructions to join. The challenge kicked off on Monday, January 4th, but there is still time for you to join. And remember, Laurie Santos will be participating in the challenge right alongside you. There's a link in the show notes to add her as a friend on the challenge. And speaking of Laurie, let's get back to today's conversation with her.


So you talked about the Tufa of self compassion before, but there's another two fer that I know you talk about, which is that the ways to apply self compassion as a concept to resolutions, there's a self compassionate approach to, you know, booting up any new habit or breaking an old one.


And there's also the self compassionate choice of which habit you're going to attack misstating your thesis correctly.


Yeah, that's exactly right. I mean, I think, you know, as you probably talked about in the last episode, self compassion really works, right? If you want a strategy that's going to allow you to meet your goals and not procrastinate and not be worried about failure, self compassion is really powerful. But the second thing we know from the happiness research is that the kinds of things you pick can also work well in terms of boosting your well-being.


If you pick stuff that's about being kind to yourself, about not depriving yourself of things or trying to be someone you're not or so drastically changing your circumstances that you become this awful drill sergeant. We also need to pick changes that are going to work for us and be kind to ourselves when we're picking those things. And that, I think, gets us to some resolutions that aren't in the norm, maybe like exactly the opposite of the norm. Take dieting, which is one of the biggest resolutions.


Every single year, people decide on January one that they're going to completely reshape their bodies. That, however they're shaped is just wrong. I mean, I used to do this, too. I spent many years picking exactly that resolution on January 1st.


And in some ways, it's a really unkind resolution I like it's about oftentimes hating your body and hating your sheep and really kind of changing the way you eat, not in a kind of compassionate way where you're trying to sort of experience some nutrition and stuff like that. But in a way that's really about changing something that's going to be hard, if not impossible to change. And so I think a much more compassionate resolution when it comes to kind of eating and physical health and things like that is to engage with more of a practice of mindful eating right.


To kind of compassionately choose to put things into your body that feel good for you. And that's really different than the like keto paleo, you know, I don't know, like whatever strict diet is. The thing for twenty, twenty one is really different than the common approach, in part because it embraces this kind of compassionate approach. What you're trying to do is to figure out what's going to feel good in your body. Now it's going to change how you look or whatever, what's really going to be nice to you.


And that can be a tough choice. So a comment and a question here, the comment is, I appreciate you talking freely about your having made that resolution in the past, that's not an easy thing to talk about. And I will just add that while I don't make New Year's resolutions, that that dialogue of I don't like the way I look in the mirror and I'm going to wrestle my body into some different shape so that I can finally be in some sort of psychological Valhalla as a consequence.


That's present in my mind as well. And so then the question is, have you heard of intuitive eating? Yes, yes, yes.


I don't practice it all the time. I wish I did, but it's just a fantastic approach. I mean, basically, intuitive eating is just this idea of trying to give your body what is going to make it feel good. And it's hard because that's not how many of us grew up eating. It's sad. I feel like sometimes I watch little toddlers eating and they pick what they want and they eat something and they kind of push it away. And it's not like, you know, they're spending hours craving cookies, going to kind of fill themselves with stuff that's going to make them feel nasty afterwards.


They just sort of eat when they're hungry and what they want and that's it. And then when they're full, they go off and do other fun toddler things. And in some ways, we've lost that form of eating. But it can be an incredibly powerful way to give ourselves some nutrition in a way that's like loving and also that's moderate. You know, where our heads are filled with diet books, worth of statistics about what we're supposed to be doing.


You just eat what kind of feels good for you. Amen to that, I have two six year olds around the house and I love eating dessert with them because they just stop eating when they're full, which means I can eat the rest different. So I was getting so on intuitive eating.


I had a guest on the show this time last year.


Evelyn Tribble was one of the co creators of Intuitive Eating. She and a co-author wrote the first book about this called Intuitive Eating, and we actually just reposted the episode a few weeks ago. If anybody wants to go back and listen to it and genuinely.


Meeting her changed my life, I was in the throes of a ton of classic embarrassing midlife crisis stuff around, you know, my you know, my abs no longer being visible and whatever and doing sort of gruesome workouts and, you know, really trying to stick to some pretty strict calorie counting vegan diet thing and meeting her and then working with her one on one.


Over the past year, it has taken a ton of time for her very simple message, which you articulated well to penetrate my cranium. But it has been a revelation and has genuinely changed my life in terms of how I eat. And, you know, one of her little mantras and again, I get I can feel my whole body posture changing as I say this because I feel so cheesy saying it. But it is like what is the kind thing to do for your body right now?


And if you can really take that in and have it in your molecules, it just makes the whole thing much more simple. It's just listen to your body as you eat.


Yeah. And don't assume that the kind of thing always has to involve some sort of deprivation. Right. I mean, I think that, you know, sometimes we can get that wrong. We think that, well, the kind of thing must be to never cross paths with another, you know, don't in the rest of my existence. Right. But what we know from psychology is that our minds kind of don't work that way. You know, one of the easiest ways to get your mind obsessed with something is to try to tell it not to do something.


I'm not sure if you've talked on the show before, but this is a series of studies by the late psychologist Dan Wagner called the White Bear Experiments. And they go something like this for the next 30 seconds. Try not to think of a white bear. And, you know, we could we could run the timer down. But I bet a lot of your listeners right now, and you probably are laughing, is you realize your brain, which is never really probably given much thought to white bears, is scrolling through polar bears in that bear, in the Coca-Cola commercials and blah, blah, blah.


Like as soon as you tell your brain not to do something, it gets obsessed with doing something. And that's in part because our mind doesn't really have an off switch. The only way we can represent not to do something is to think of that thing. And so when you tell your brain, OK, no cookies, whatever I do, no cookies, no cookies, no cookies, all your mind is thinking is cookies, cookies, cookies, which is an easy way to make it really hard not to, like, eat cookies if that's what you're trying to do.


And and so we constantly have these theories about how to change our own behavior that are not just like incorrect, but they do exactly the opposite thing, exactly the thing that will make it hardest for us to change our behavior. And the thing that is easiest, like eat in a way that is really kind to your body feels really counterintuitive. It's very frustrating that human nature works this way, that it's so hard to be kind to ourselves. I know I brought this up before, and I'd be interested to see if you have a response to it, that the for me it's not so much that I misjudged what's going to make me happy, although I do do that, of course.


And I love that. You know, that is a huge emphasis of yours. And I think it's really spot on.


But for me, it's also that and even with Evelyn a little bit, you know, I love Evelyn.


I mean, I really love it. She's an incredible human being.


But even with her, like, I think part of the reason why it took me so long to do what she'd been telling me over and over and over again is just the formulation. The words. Yeah. Struck me as like, no, I'm not going to do that. Do the kind thing for your body. Get out of here with that.


I'm going to do the like badass thing for my baby. Like, exactly. Crosthwaite thing for my body. Yes, yeah, yes. Yeah. No, I think we think I think a couple of things. One is, you know, it's got terrible branding. Right. You and I have talked about this before, like half the stuff that we know works from the field of meditation and research. It sounds terrible, right? You know, like lovingkindness like blaa like I wish it had better marketing, to be totally fair, but I think that's not what, you know, the practitioners were thinking about when they were developing practices that were going to lead us to Nirvana.


They weren't trying to like, you know, make it really palatable for modern day folks to kind of jump in. But but yeah, I mean, part of it is that it does sound really, really cheesy. And the second thing is, I think, again, it violates the way we've all been brought up, which is a sort of stiff upper lip. Right. You know, it's not worth it unless it's hard. Right. And that can be a hard thing to overcome to.


Yep, and I've got some pretty solid, stiff upper lip conditioning in my DNA. Let's talk about a few other common areas where we tend to make resolutions and see if you have any wisdom to share. I'm pretty sure you do. Let's start with exercise. What have you learned about the best way to approach exercise as a resolution?


Yeah, well, exercise is one of these where I think the content is right on. I mean, there's a ton of work suggesting that just getting in a little bit of cardio exercise can be incredibly important for your mental health. There's one study showing that a half hour of cardio every morning is as effective as one of the leading antidepressant prescriptions. I won't say which one for reducing symptoms of depression over time. And there's similar evidence for anxiety and things like that.


So exercise in and of itself, an awesome goal for twenty, twenty one. The problem is, again, how we go about the exercise, right. We should want to exercise in the same way that intuitive eating folks talk about picking a meal like what would be a way to move my body that would feel kind. Right. And again, when people choose exercise, it's not often out of the like intuitive exercise approach. It's often out of the, like, cross fit military body blast.


It is funny when you look at these magazine articles that talk about exercise in the New Year, they sound like a new military instrument of terror. You're blasting your belly and things like that. And so, again, it's not necessarily the what you're trying to do, it's how you're trying to do it. And the reason that that's a problem is, first of all, it's not choosing things that are going to be kind to your body, like the kinds of exercise you pick will be really different if you're taking a sort of compassionate approach than if you're taking a, like, purely hardcore military approach.


But the other thing is that I think your ability to stick with it is going to be better if you take a compassionate approach. Right. Like there are some times when your body just need some rest. There's some kinds of exercise that may or may not be fun for you. And if you don't allow yourself to notice that it kind of accept it just as it is, you're going to be pushing against the tide. You're going to be trying to make your body and yourself commit to things that just aren't fun, maybe not even good for your body.


And so I think that in the domain of fitness, we also need to take a little bit more of a compassionate approach. And this has been something that has been very hard for me. I feel like I was the chubby kid in gym class. Fitness was always something that I was either forced to do or did out of a hatred of my body and kind of coming around to figuring out no way you can move yourself in a way that just feels good.


And that should be the goal of this. Just like you were saying about intuitive eating. It's been a bit of a revelation for me, right, that, you know, the exercise can be fun, something I look forward to. That wasn't kind of how I grew up with fitness, but it's something that I'm trying to come to terms with. And, you know, it's just such a healthier approach.


What have you found? Feels good for you? Yoga for sure.


And often hard yoga classes. I think this is something that, as I've been more mindful about how exercise feels, I realized like if you're paying attention to your body, sometimes you want a very, like, chill. You know, you can practice if you know the yoga terminology, like, you just want to kind of do something that's a little restorative. But sometimes your body just really wants you to push it. Right. And I feel like if you're always trying to push it, then you can't tell the difference.


That means that, like, you know, 90 percent of the time you're just going to feel exhausted and it's not going to be fun. By paying attention to the way you want to push your body, you can get so much insight into what's going to feel good and what you really need. But yeah, for me, yoga has been really huge palletized practices where you have to pay attention and move your body. You know, then I get kind of some movement and the little kind of mini meditation in there.


But also another thing I've realized is the most fun exercise for me is when I'm exercising with someone else. And these days during covid, that means exercise classes with other people online or socially distanced hikes. Being out in nature is another big way to move my body. What I've tried to realize is that it's not about, you know, getting in exactly 45 minutes of a specific kind of exercise. It really is like, again, whatever is going to be fun and get you moving.


I love this and I plus one on everything you just said, there is another area where many of us tend to get focused this time of year, has to do with our finances, saving money, making more money, et cetera, et cetera. What have you learned in this sphere? Yeah, well, this is a topic that happiness researchers have been onto for some time. Right. And perhaps one of our biggest misconceptions. Right. Many of us think if we could just be rich, you know, everything would be perfect in life.


But when you go out and look at rich people, what you find is that their mood levels aren't as high as you would think. They are just as adapted to their new salary levels. And a lot of their current problems are about feeling like they don't have enough either. One of my favorite data points, it was a study where folks were asked, OK, what would be the salary level that if you got to it, you wouldn't need another cent?


Right. Once you got to that salary level, you'd never worry about money again. And so they asked people who are currently earning thirty thousand dollars a year in the U.S. and those folks said, if I could just earn 50000 dollars a year, I would be good. I never need another cent. So in theory, if you're earning 50 K, you should be good. Not one another. No, the same report looked at folks who are earning one hundred thousand dollars a year and asked them, are you good?


And these folks not only didn't say, yeah, I'm fine, you know, money stacking up in my kitchen. I don't need to know. What they said was not only am I not good yet, what I'd need to be happy is 250000 dollars. It's not just that you don't get there like it's you get more money, you want more. Right. The ratio between what you have and what you think you need actually gets more off as you earn more.


Right. And so I think, you know, that's a caveat we need to pay attention to. You know, if your resolution is save some money because you don't have a nest egg for an emergency, then definitely saving money is going to help you. You know, if your goal is to get your finances in order because you lost your job during covid or, you know, you're really living below the poverty line, then definitely. Definitely you're earning more money is going to help.


But if you're, like, solidly in a middle class income and have a reasonable nest egg and you just think that more money is going to be the path to happiness, the research suggests you're probably wrong. Like you'd be much better off focusing on the other kinds of things we've been talking about.


So Puffy and Biggie had it right when they said more money, more problems.


Yeah. One of my favorite episodes that we did early on in The Happiness Lab interviewed this guy, Clay Cockrell, who's a wealth psychologist. He's a mental health professional for the super rich. The point, zero zero one percent. And he has clients, right. Which was already shocking to me. Like these people who have, you know, yachts and houses and things like need you. And he has a wait list because people are so unhappy. And what's striking to him is that they think the cause of their unhappiness is often that they just don't have enough.


Right. Which kind of makes sense. Right. If you're on this thing, you know, like, you know, as soon as I get a million dollars, I'll be happy. And then you become a millionaire and you're not happy. What do you think you could think? Well, maybe money wasn't the answer. And I did shift gears. No. Instead, you kind of double down. You say, what was it, a million dollars.


I need you. I need to be a multimillionaire. I need to be a billionaire. And this is what he sees in his real clients where, you know, they stay up at night trying to figure out where they're going to park their yacht. And, you know, we could laugh at them and say, you know, like, boohoo. But I think it tells us something important that, you know, maybe we who are not the super wealthy are getting wrong to right where we just think if only I could get a little bit more than I'd be good.


But those kinds of resolutions tend to never work, mostly because once you get there, whether that's more money or a better body or better possessions or a new car or whatever, once you get there, you're going to get used to that, too. Yes, that's it.


Dudnik Adaptation. I think the Buddha had something to say about this. If you see his first noble truth about life being suffering, in other words, life will be unsatisfying if you cling to things that won't last. Do you think the dissatisfaction of the super rich?


Whether we're inclined to feel feel compassion for them or not, the morsel of dissatisfaction that could be scalable down to the rest of us would be that they probably are getting hung up on comparing themselves to other people.


Yeah, I think that's part of it. In the episode with Clay, he talked about that a lot, you know, the rich's perceptions of other folks who are just a little bit richer than them. And this is just another bias we have. Our mind has this negativity bias like we tend to lock on to stuff that makes us look bad, that makes the world look bad, but that also makes us look bad. And that means, you know, the millionaire out there isn't looking at the 99 percent of folks who have less money than he does.


He's looking at the guys who are multimillionaires. And we can test the millionaire for that. But we do it to every single person who's thinking, like, well, maybe I can just get a slightly better body. You're not looking to all the folks who know are doing worse than you. You're looking to the Instagram celebrities that are much better. Same thing about all the other things we care about, right? We crave, crave, crave, want more and more and more without realizing what we have, without kind of taking time to feel the gratitude for what we have.


And that kind of craving like it sucks. It feels awful. Right. That kind of pushing yourself is probably one of the least compassionate things we can do. And so having an approach where we recognize that's painful, you know, to experience that kind of craving and to engage in practices where we could try to control that craving and allow it and let it be, you know, using things like meditation, you know, those are way better ways than trying to like, you know, keep sprinting on that treadmill and hope that we get somewhere further, kind of knowing that we're not going to get very far away.


Luckily for me, before this podcast, you had a conversation with my brilliant collaborator, Samuel Johnson, talked about things that you would like to talk about and on the list, which is a very good list. One of the things I spotted was that there are resolutions that many of us might be tempted to make in a normal year that we can't make this year, like doing more traveling. And you mentioned that we might want to sort of do an appropriate level of grieving for our limited possibilities.


Yeah, I think this is something else we get wrong in the New Year when January 1st rolls around. We think, you know, everything is going to be wonderful and only positive and I'll never be lonely or sad or anything like that ever again. Right. We think that the New Year is only going to be perfect, perfect, perfect. And I think we kind of worry about that. Right. Like, we're scared to kind of let any negativity in.


And I think this year in particular, we have to allow the negativity like 2020 sucks. Like we need to give ourselves some time to grieve over the fact that it was a pretty awful challenging year, you know, to process the fact that many of us are still reeling from what was going on, you know, for the last few months.


And honestly, to recognize that many of the goals we might want to have for the new year, that could be really positive. You know, in terms of what the science suggests, it's going to be hard. You know, we could follow all the things that the science says about improving our happiness and want to engage in lots of social connection, you know, to buy ourselves new experiences, like all these things the research suggests could boost up our wellbeing.


But that's that's tricky in twenty, twenty one. And we have a lot of hope for where this year is going to go. You know, as we're speaking, I think the vaccine is shipping out right now and first responders are getting jobs of it. That's great. And I do think that months from now we're going to be in a different place. But we got some pretty cold, dark months where things are going to be like just as bad as they were in December.


Twenty twenty. You know, I joked that the first few months of twenty, twenty one are going to feel like twenty twenty two point. Oh right. But just colder and darker. Right. And that means, you know, we have to allow for some grieving over the fact that this wasn't the start of the new year that we were all hoping for and that, you know, that's going to take some processing of the sadness and the anger and the frustration we need to leave space for that to.


Well said, I know you're doing a lot on your show as a brief digression, I would say everybody listening to this should go check out the happiness lab because it's a great show and all of the brilliance you're hearing and insight you're hearing from Laurie as a guest. She brings all of that and more as a host. I know, Laurie, that you're doing a lot on New Year's resolutions right now on your show.


I'm just curious, what have you learned that's been new or surprising to you? Yeah, I think one of the biggest things that was surprising to me was really just the power of this kindness approach. I mean, I get from all the psychology training that obviously it doesn't feel great to shame yourself all the time. You know, like that was not a huge surprise to me. But I actually didn't know the research till I started these episodes on how powerful an approach it is.


It doesn't just feel good. It actually works. You know, there's a wonderful study out of UC Berkeley looking at college students who you make fail something. And I hang out with college students. They do not like failing things, especially when failing things involves their grades. And this was a case where college students were given these basically impossible grid type problems that we knew they were going to mess up. Right. So they all failed. And the question was how they then tried to come back from that failure.


And one group was given no instructions, but another group was given the instruction to try to deal with this failure through some self compassion to try to be kind to yourself, recognize your common humanity. Everybody feels something. Sometimes this is not a unique thing. And to be mindful about how it felt and and to kind of allow that sort of pain to be there and things. And what the research showed is that the students who didn't get any instruction, you know, did the normal thing, which is they probably self shamed.


And then if you look at their performance afterwards, they basically avoided studying for that exam, didn't want to take it again, feared failure and procrastinated doing anything about the fact that they hadn't done so well, whereas the Self Compassion Group did just the opposite, that compassion that they experienced and that they knew that it was OK to fail, that turned on their growth mindset, that made them want to learn even more, that made them want to kind of dive in even more deeply.


And that I didn't realize I mean, I knew that self compassion would be helpful and it would feel nice and so on. I didn't realize it was a path that much more resilience. I didn't realize it was the cure for my procrastination and imposter syndrome. And so realizing that it's that powerful really made me like a believer.


Like this is one of my main resolutions for this year is to try to engage with more self compassion. And it's in part because I've seen how well it works. Can you say more about how self compassionate applies to procrastination? I didn't know that was a problem for you.


Well, I mean, you know, I'm an academic. I feel like, you know, if you like, took a lineup of academics and asked who has problems with procrastination, I bet many of them would step up.


But, yeah, know, one of the reasons that self compassion can be powerful for limiting procrastination is that most procrastination is about a fear of failure. It's about that backdraft of all the messy, yucky things we tell ourselves when we don't do something perfectly. When you have a not so self compassionate mind, it really sucks when you mess up because you know, you're going to be barraged by a lot of mean thoughts and self talk and things. And, you know, our brains are smart.


You know, if we know there's going to be really awful consequences for messing up, we try to avoid messing up. And we do that by just like not starting the thing in the first place. And so a lot of procrastination could be healed if we just were nicer to ourselves. We're OK with feeling and didn't beat ourselves up. And self compassion can really help us with that, because if you know you're going to take a self compassionate approach, if things go badly, you're kind of more OK with the possibility of things going badly.


You know, you start in a way where you're not beating yourself up every 30 seconds. You know, I'm now starting a new book on happiness, kind of like a book version of my course. And these techniques are really powerful for me right now because every time I'm like two sentences and I'm like, oh, it's not the right word. Why am I having so much trouble with this? I watch my drill sergeant jump in and be like, you suck, you'll never be a writer.


And then I say, Oh, that feels yucky. You know, a lot of people have a hard time being a writer.


I even do the kind of thing that Kristin Neff recommended on my podcast where I kind of stroke my arm like a loving mom, my stroke, my arm. And then, you know, it sounds so cheesy. And even when I'm doing it, I'm like, there's another part of my brain that's like, this is so cheesy. What are you doing? But like and then I laugh it off and then I write the next sentence. Right. So if you kind of just know you're going to be there for yourself and not beat yourself up, it makes it a lot easier to do stuff that's hard and that you're probably going to mess up at.


We solicited a bunch of questions from our audience via voicemail, and if it's OK with you, I'd love to play a few and get your response.


Yeah, they'd be great. All right. So here is the first one.


Hey, Dan and crew, I can't thank you enough for doing this. My name's is and I'm a 60 year old physician getting ready to retire. This topic really resonates with me to this point. My life has been a quest for self-improvement rather than self acceptance, trying to be fitter, smarter, happier, nicer. I've had this nagging self-doubt and always have my negative self. Talk has been relentless and can derail me for days. Meditation has helped us a lot, but hasn't gotten rid of it completely on the concept of self-love.


I'm not sure I'm even comfortable with that thought. So my questions are how do we deprogram the years of self-criticism and loathing? Isn't self-love a form of ego or vanity? And as such, on life? I really look forward to the upcoming discussion and thank you for taking the time to listen to my questions. Please keep up your awesome work. Thanks. Thank you, Doctor. Over to you, Laurie. Yeah, I mean, so many reactions to that.


First, you know, does this woman live inside my head? Because this is exactly the kind of thing I feel when I go through.


When you first start giving yourself some self compassion, it feels viene it feels like, you know, self-indulgent, like, why would I do that? Right. I think that's part of the process. It feels foreign because we haven't done it before. You know, all the things we're suggesting you do for self compassion are exactly the kind of thing you would do for a good friend. If you're a parent, they're exactly the kind of thing you would do for your child.


Right? We are evolutionarily built to soothe. We just don't do it for ourselves very much. And so part of the challenge of self compassion is actually to go through that process of kind of coming to terms with the fact that it feels really foreign. It feels like you should feel guilty for doing it. But those are all the steps that we need to get through to kind of get to the point of being as kind to ourselves as we might want to be to someone else.


You know, we joke that, you know, you know, in the Bible itself, sells do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And I actually think, you know, honestly, given the way I treat myself sometimes that is bad advice. We not we should do unto ourselves the way we're constantly doing unto others, soothing them, being nice to them, giving them the benefit of the doubt, telling them they're human. Right.


We need to kind of do that same thing for ourselves. The second thing I'll say is that she asked, like, how do we get there? And, you know, we get there in the same way. You talk about on 10 percent happier all the time. It just takes work. You know, it just takes the act of sitting on a cushion, doing the process, giving yourself the self talk, watching the emotions that come up when you give yourself the self talk, but doing it anyway.


Right. It's just going to be a process that takes time. And, you know, the more you are kind of one of those people that were really strict with yourself and cared about self-esteem and treated yourself like a drill sergeant, the more time it's probably going to take to get to a point of really not just giving yourself some self compassion, but understanding that that's probably the right thing to do. If I may, I just want to say also to the good doctor, the retiring physician, about this issue of self-love being egotistical, I think that's a a common misunderstanding.


And the problem, I think, comes around with the word love because it's such a loaded phrase. And I think that's deeply problematic culturally and psychologically for us, because we've been sold this image of love from Hollywood and pop songs. That is quite grandiose. But in this case, we're talking about warmth, the basic capacity to care about yourself, and that is very different from puffery or ego or staring in the mirror and telling yourself how amazing you are, which, you know, again, actually can have some benefits.


But it's not just about building your self-esteem. It's about being OK with your own suffering, giving yourself some of the warmth that you give to other people and the net effect. And I think this is borne out and certainly borne out in my personal experience and it's borne out in the research, is that you are more available to other people because let's just take eating. For example, Evelyn Tribble says this all the time to me.


How much time, Dan, have you spent distracted over meals or even after meals when you're allegedly playing with your kid, beating yourself up about how much you overpaid or how you look, et cetera, et cetera, and not actually paying attention to the people you're with?


Self compassion is what can be a circuit breaker on that pernicious cycle. So I think it makes you more available to other people instead of having some sort of sycophant in your head. Honestly, in all the research bears that out to you know, Kristin Neff has worked showing that people who tend to be more self compassionate or even experience herself compassion training, they wind up happier in their relationships. So their partners say that they're you know, people say their marriages are better when they engage in this self compassion training.


And again, it feels counterintuitive that being nice to yourself means that you're going to just have more energy for other people. But again, if we don't have that much airtime caught up in beating ourselves up, it's amazing what we could do with the rest of that time. Mm hmm.


Back to my I'm always talking about the Tibetan phrase for enlightenment, which is clearing away and bringing forth and the self compassion is a very useful ingredient for that recipe. Let's try to sneak in one more voice mail.


If we're practicing self love and self compassion, which means, you know, kind of being more gentle with yourself, are you letting other people down? So some of what I beat myself up on is things that I'm not doing enough or well enough for other people. If I take on a leadership role, if I, you know, all kinds of things that I commit to do for other people. So how do you balance being kind to yourself with also doing what's right for other people and not then shoving stuff off on them or making their life more difficult?


Because I'm, you know, being kind to myself. So that's it. Thanks again. Thanks for that question.


Laurie, what say you again? A very common misconception that compassion is this like resource that we only have a little bit of. And if we use it up for ourselves, we're not going to be able to be compassionate or do nice things for other people. Totally get that intuition. It just doesn't fit with the data. You know, the research really shows that people who engage in self compassion, people who are kind themselves, people who fiercely protect themselves and their own boundaries, they're often the people who can give back the most.


Why? Because they're not depleted. Right. Like they're not so spent from all that negative self talk. And this is something that I personally have had to learn the hard way, especially when it comes to helping other people. Right. You know, if I look at some of the times I beat myself up the most, it's because I'm not doing enough for other people or oh, I said no to that thing and so on. But when I'm just saying yes to things out of a sort of self flagellation or just kind of doing more, because I have to do more and more and more.


And that's a time when I have the least energy for other people. That's the time when I'm cranky to my husband because I'm too busy, because I committed to too many things. That's the time when I'm kind of like you short with my students because I just don't have time for them. Kristin Neff talks about self compassion as being fierce sometimes. And what she means by that is that strictly trying to be kind to yourself and protect your own boundaries can be an incredibly powerful tool for like setting up your life in a way where you just have some space, where you have space for other people.


And a second reason that, you know, self compassion isn't as selfish as we often think is that, you know, the research, the neuroscience really suggests that compassion is kind of a muscle that we can sort of apply to anyone. You know, this is the beauty of doing practices like loving kindness, meditation. Right. You extend that loving kindness to people who are super easy. You start with your child or a pet or something like that, but then you extend the loving kindness to somebody who's kind of hard to love, right.


And that can be yourself. But what the research shows is that people who do these practices, it doesn't really matter what the compassions go into. You just kind of get good at tuning up that feeling and applying it. And that means that you're less likely to burn out when dealing with difficult people or difficult circumstances. And the reason I bring this up is that, you know, if you practice self compassion on yourself, your brain doesn't know that that compassion is for you.


You just get really good at soothing. And that means you've kind of built up this wonderful skill for, you know, soothing your colleagues at work, soothing your spouse, soothing your kids, being compassionate with somebody who's kind of hard to relate to. You kind of get the other compassion for free. Kristin Neff on my podcast mentioned that she's almost sad that she talked about the sort of concept of self compassion because it's kind of just compassion applied to one of the many people in the world.


Who's you? Yes, I mean, it's all just one thing and that that's that's actually a pretty deep concept. Never in the history of the show have we had on a guest twice in such rapid succession, and that is a testament to how awesome you are, Laurie. And you did a great job in this interview and you do a great job on the regular on your show. I recommend it to everybody. The Happiness Lab, go check it out wherever you get your podcasts.


Laurie, thank you so much.


Thanks so much for having me. Big thanks to Laurie, really appreciate her coming on and participating in the challenge as well. Speaking of the challenge, don't forget you can join. It's free at last for 21 days, although if you haven't signed up yet, you're not too late. It started on Monday, but you'll have missed the first two days and it's totally cool. You can start on day three. It's it's all good. You can join the challenge for free by downloading the 10 percent happier app right now, wherever you get your apps or just go to 10 percent dotcom, that's 10 percent all one word spelled out.


And as I keep saying, if you already have the app, you can just open it up and click to join the challenge. Big thanks to everybody who works so hard to make this show a reality. In particular, I want to point out that there's been an enormous amount of work that's gone into this New Year's series. So here are some of the names. Samuel Johns is our senior producer. D.J. Kashmir is our producer. Jules Dodson is our associate producer.


Our sound designer is Matt Boyington from Ultraviolet Audio. Maria Wartell is our production coordinator. We get an enormous amount of really, really helpful input from our colleagues such as Jen Point, Nate Toby, Ben Rubin and Liz Levin. Also, of course, big thank you to Ryan Kessler and Josh Cohen from ABC News.


And I want to thank some folks at the 10 percent happier app who have been working incredibly hard to make this podcast, series and the accompanying challenge a reality. Here are some names from that crew. Maggie Moran, Alison Bryant, Julia Wu, Kimberly McNish, Nico Johnson, Amy Breckenridge, Jessica Goldberg, Jade West and Matthew Hepburn. Joshua Perkowitz, Crystal Isaac. Connor Donahue. Liz Woodwell. Clea Castagnetti, Jade Chen, Roy Giovannoni, Derek Caswell, Eva Breytenbach, Rey Housemen Yang Young Victoria, Kerry Cross ogress Liz Farmer and Kalila Archer.


Before I go, one last thing. I promise this is the last thing on Friday. We've got something really cool coming up. We're doing a bonus, a bonus episode where we're going to bring back Susan Piver and Jeff Warren. And the only thing we're going to do is take a bunch of voicemail questions from you guys. So we'll see you on Friday for that.