Harvard Is Opening A "Center For Happiness"

by Brianna Wiest

In the world of research and academia, it's clear which subjects receive precedence. We all know why it's important to study physics, or culture, or even language — but equally as important is understanding human fulfillment, which is why Harvard is opening a Center for Happiness. The University plans to open the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness to take a multidisciplinary approach to studying happiness. The school will be an offshoot of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The center will promote and study "positive psychological wellbeing," and will utilize the expertise of anthropologists, biologists, and psychologists, among others. The center is being made possible by the Lee Kum Kee company, which made a large donation. The school will be named after the company's founder (who invented oyster sauce... random, but true!). The goal of the school is to observe and analyze positive aspects of socialization (health, relationships) in order to better understand what builds and sustains overall happiness, and how we can best utilize our resources to ensure people are living more fulfilling lives.

Would you rather live a long, happy, and healthy life, or a life that is merely without disease?” Laura Kubzansky, co-director of the center, said in a press release. “Medical and psychological practice and research have traditionally focused on the diseases and deficits that cause poor health. But there is real value in focusing on the positive side as well — the assets that keep us healthy or help us recover more quickly from disease and injury. More rigorous research is urgently needed to understand these positive assets and how to promote them for millions of people around the world.”

The Center plans to study everything from income to social media to systemic inequality, and trace how it relates to emotional wellbeing. By taking a more holistic approach, they hope to best happiness as holistically as possible. Ultimately, they hope to get to a place where they can systemically quantify, measure of formalize theories what happiness really is (and what it takes to experience it truly).

This is really significant, because though there's been a ton of public health research on psychology, physical issues, and even social phenomena, a Harvard-based school specializing in happiness alone really shows that culturally, we're moving toward a place where we value people's mental and emotional health as much as we do their physical and social standing.

According to the press release, researchers believe that the study of happiness could contribute significantly to understanding other major issues, such as disease, psychological warfare, or even public policy. Undoubtedly, understanding the root of suffering and lack of emotional fulfillment would help us better understand ourselves and one another. The more we understand people's core motivating forces (seeking pleasure, avoiding pain) the better we can make informed decisions as a whole, and have compassion toward one another as individuals.

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