Reflections on the philosophy, science, economics and psychology of happiness.


In 2012 the United Nations adopted a resolution recognising happiness as a universal goal for the wellbeing of humanity.

What does happiness actually mean and how do we achieve it?

Listen to a collection of interviews about the science, psychology, economics and philosophy of what has been called “the most cherished yet elusive of human desires”.

Ruby Wax on mindfulness

Ruby Wax

Ruby Wax Photo: RNZ / Dru Faulkner

Ruby Wax is world-renowned as a comedian, celebrity interviewer, and script editor of the 1990s classic Absolutely Fabulous. She also has an OBE for her services to mental health and a Master's degree in Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy from Oxford University.

Currently in New Zealand to address a conference of health professionals, Ruby Wax connects to Jesse Mulligan's "neural Wi-Fi" for a conversation about mindfulness and staying sane.

Gretchen Rubin on happiness and good habits


Crossroads Photo: CC By 2.0 Lori Greig

Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin Photo: Dave Cross Photography

Gretchen Rubin is the best-selling author of The Happiness Project. Her latest book is Better than Before. Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives.

Her thesis is that habits make change easier as they are the invisible architecture of daily life and remove the need for decision making and using self control to make changes.

But, she says, before we try to form new habits, we have to know ourselves, and know what will work, and what won't.

The Happiness U-Curve - Carol Graham

Carol GrahamCarol Graham researches what makes people happy.

She's found that the lowest times in peoples' lives occur when they are in their forties, but after that their life satisfaction improves. It's called the happiness u-curve and it is a pattern that's repeated all over the world, no matter what the socio-economic conditions of the country.

So why do people get unhappy in their forties, but then get happier in their fifties?

Carol Graham talks to Kathryn Ryan about happiness and well-being.

Carol Graham is a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland who has written several books about happiness, including one about the paradox of "happy peasants and miserable millionaires".

The positivity ratio - Barbara Fredrickson

Increasing your daily diet of positive emotions also transforms people for the better; builds their resources, builds their resilience, builds their social networks, builds their health, on a physiological level.

Leading social psychologist on the science of happiness and the value of cultivating positive emotions. She discovered that experiencing positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio with negative ones leads people to a tipping point beyond which they naturally become more resilient to adversity.

Oliver Burkeman: happiness and self-help

Writer for The Guardian and Psychologies magazine, Oliver Burkeman's book is The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking.

Philosophy with Ann Kerwin: William James

William JamesThe thoughts on life and happiness of American philosopher and psychologist William James (1842-1910)


Happy cities?

Cities where people express a high level of trust for strangers and neighbors, not only happen to be the same places where people say they’re happier with their lives, but they actually get richer as well…

In his book Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design Charles Montgomery argues that cities can be happy places to live. With the world's urban population forecast to nearly 5 billion, or 60 percent, of the world's population by 2030, let's hope he's right!

Dr Rick Hanson - Rewiring Happiness

We have the opportunity to use our minds, and our good hearts, and our good wills, to gradually change our brains for the better...

Dr Rick Hansen is a neuro-psychologist who says it's possible to train your brain to get the most out of positive experiences so that they'll see you through lifes challenges.

The Happiness Trap - Dr Russ Harris

There’s an epidemic of depression and anxiety and a lot of it's being fuelled by misleading ideas about happiness…

Dr Russ Harris is the author of The Happiness Trap: Stop Struggling Start Living. Starting off as a GP with a growing interest in mindfulness, Russ Harris has gone on to become an expert in the field of stress management.

Hans Becker: Aged Care

Wellbeing has a big scale of things: activity, restaurants, conversations pieces etc  and we have tried to make a nice mix of that. And I’m here in the library of Palmerston, and to my astonishment, it’s exactly like the sheltered village squares we are trying to make in Holland. It’s a very very nice library I am in here.

CEO of the Humanitas Foundation, which uses the philosophy of happiness to revolutionise the social and commercial approach to retirement villages in the Netherlands. He was the lead speaker at the Ageing Asia Leadership Workshop in Palmerston North in 2013.