In pursuit of happiness

Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to establish a new happiness laboratory on campus.

The $189,647 will be put towards infrastructure for Zelenski and his students to study why some people are happier than others. The answer may not be as simple as you might think.

“Money doesn’t seem to make people happy,” Zelenski explains. “The more we get the more we want.” Despite measures saying society has made great strides in terms of health and prosperity, “we haven’t seen the same increases in happiness,” he says. It just goes to show that the roots of happiness aren’t that easy to dig up.

And while unearthing the causes of happiness is a fundamental objective, researchers are also working to find more accurate and reliable ways to measure it.

“One of the best ways to find out if a person is happy is to ask them,” says Zelenski. That being said, the new lab will allow Zelenski and his students to go beyond asking a one-time question, and study individuals over a longer duration using a wider variety of measurements, including facial expressions and electrophysiological signals. The ability to cross-reference data allows a more focused process, in turn delivering more precise results.

Although Zelenski primarily hopes to make great strides in the pursuit of happiness, his research will also provide a greater understanding of depression and related mental illnesses. “If we can understand happiness, we can better understand prevention of illnesses such as depression,” he says.

On a personal note, “I’m a fairly happy person,” says Zelenski. “But I’m completely baffled by my happiness.” Hopefully with the new lab, Zelenski will solve the mystery of his own contentment – and of others.

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