« The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos

BONUS: Grateful Expectations


Grit and determination to change your habits can only get you so far... if you want to be happier you have to stop and think about how nice people have been to you and how nice you can be to them in return. This circle of gratitude - the science suggests - will also make you a better friend to one of the most important people in your life... your future self.

Dr Laurie Santos investigates this effect with Northeastern University's Prof David DeSteno - author of Emotional Success: The Power of Gratitude, Compassion and Pride.

For an even deeper dive into the research we talk about in the show visit happinesslab.fm

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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Think I'm a relatively nice person, but if I'm being completely honest, there is one person out there that I do tend to screw over com really now mind you, I don't intend to be a jerk to this person. I mean actually about her a lot, so I not purposefully out to get her, but I do inadvertently wine making her life a lot more difficult. I wrote her into doing all kinds of things she didn't want to deal with. I've cheated out of money. I've made her pickup Pieces whenever I miss a work deadline and I've even forced her to eat healthier. While I get to pick out this poor girl wines at being the collateral damage in nearly every bad decision. I've ever made so who, this easy mark that person constantly sabotaging she is future lorry she's me just in the future to Morrow Lorry or next month Laura.
We tell you from her perspective right now. Lorry is a real bitch to be happier and twenty twenty I need to stop screwing over future lorry that the only way I M going to form better habits and meet my new decade goals, but Stop sabotaging my future self. What can we all do? avoid instant gratification and take better care of our tomorrow. Sal's online minds give us. What answer to this question? We need we'll power? Even if you Listen to our last episode. I bet you see, have the intuition that gritting your teeth is the way forward, but that just force yourself kind of willpower tends to disappears. Soon as times get rough deserving us the very moment we need it most. But what if I told you this Science teaches us an easier way to kick ourselves into goal mode, one delaying gratification to protect our future selves total breeze, sound too good to be true, well again,
even more shocking, because my feet first thing about this willpower supercharged strategy. Doesn't just help you achieve your future gauze and can also you happier in the process if you're ready to harness some self control and feel better, then join me doctor Laurie Santos for the next instalment of the happiness lab twenty twenty wanted to learn more about the strategy that help to achieve your future goals and feel good. So I dropped it to my friend David to Steno? Are we really here, we go. David Steno, professor of psychology, at Northeastern University and author of emotional success, the power of gratitude, compassion and pride? today. One of the things I love about your book is that it really disk. Since, in a lot of detail, the limits of willpower, I think in the book, you actually call it a candle in the wind. So what? Why is willpower so fragile vote
Let me give you some examples of wise. I say that so we tend to use willpower when we're trying to pursue a long term goal in something that has a big reward in the future, but might be difficult in the moment or require some effort on our part to persevere towards. You know what you're going to study to do well in school or on an exam exercising in eating right saving money rather than binding the new Iphone, and we tend to try and use willpower to overcome our desires for more immediate gratification and It's something that we consider even more important. You know this time of the year. We can think about New year's resolutions right eight per percent of New year's resolutions are capital, beers and twenty five percent are gone in the first week or two of January and so worked. Knowing something really wrong. If, if pursuing our long term goals, we all know leads to success there, yet our failure rate is that high and there's a lot of reasons. Why will power is weak from
oyster bar history here on earth is the human species. The future was very uncertain. I didn't know if the food I was looking at was going to be here tomorrow. I didn't know if I was going to be here in two months but now the world is a lot more certain and it's just that our mental calibration hasn't hasn't caught up to two that certainty. You're, always using willpower to kind of Tampa down desires for what you want in the moment. Then your body is kind of a perpetual state of stress, you're, always trying to tempt down one desire to persevere, tour, something in the long term tonight, each Anything you want that to exercise. That is a problem work by Gregg Miller. His psychologists, Northwestern University was looking at this in terms of students in high school and college. You, studying, for example, would he found when you train kids, in these cognitive strategies, to build willpower to build grit to kind of suppress their desires? Yeah they perform better, but
There was actually premature aging to their dna because of the stress which, if you extrapolate out, mean yeah I'm doing better, but I'm not gonna be around his long to enjoy the fruits of that at that success. But the other problem is often times we choose not to invoke. Will power in the first place, because we're really good as humans at engaging in rationalization right I deserve the extra scoop abandoned Jerry's I've been good this week. I deserve to spend money on myself or whatever it might be, and if we go that route, I could engage in will power in the first place. We're gonna give ourselves easy way out this. It's pretty bad for news resolutions re like this. This one thing we usually rot rely on willpower is not gonna save us. So if not willpower, if not pushing ourselves, you know what can we do? You know economist talk about this problem is of these a fancy term, which is called into temporal choice, which basically means do Why in immediate gratification, now
where my willing to forego that so that I can have a better gain in the future and if you think, about why we, as a human species, have the ability for self control itself control didn't have also. I could save from my for one k it. None of it existed for most of our evolutionary history. What mattered for our success was the ability to be a little bit selfless as opposed to selfish, that is, to cooperate with others to be fair. To be is to be generous. Those are the traits that allowed us to be good partners, invaluable partners to other people and what underlie those abilities, are a calm moral emotions things like gratitude, things like compassion things like off pride, not arrogance. In hubris they tend Make us more willing to be self was to cooperate with
others to engage and self sacrifice to be willing to tap down our desires for immediate gratification. Often ask me worry no Dave. If I want to be a success, should I be this guy or or nice woman, or should I be kind of a selfish jerk, and by that I mean, should I cooperate and work fairly but others or should I basically exploiter There is indeed very self interested in, and the answer was fine shows is you know I say: well, what's your time frame, I hit it If you want to be a success in the short term yeah, you can be a jerk, you can be selfish. You can exploit others the visuals, who are self interested, exploit other people's rise very quickly, but over time they begin. Fail because no one wants to cooperate with them. No one wants to work with them and individuals who are self less, who have the ability to come, roll their desires for immediate gratification, selfish behaviors,
Do well in the long run, and so a lot of what I argue in in this book in my work is that we are now using the emotional tools that we have our arsenal to help us succeed in the long run we relying on these weaker tools of kind of tamping down emotional. Responses dear will pay. For that researchers shown our pretty fragile So, let's zoom one of these tools in particular, you mentioned gratitude like what is gratitude. Yes, gratitude is the emotion that we feel when someone gives us something of value at some class to themselves a present or financial assistance. It can be, you know a shoulder to cry on. It can be someone who's gonna, help us and mentor us the important thing about, it is that we feel that the benefit that this person is giving us? We could did she very easily on our own and doing it not to help themselves, but at some cost
and it's not a feeling of indebtedness and in a negative sense, but a feeling of of this person really help me. I value that I want to go above and beyond to pay them back. That feeling is gratitude. Mean gratitude, sounds also minute increases happiness, but at first blush it doesn't seem obvious that this emotion has anything to do with the willpower. You know that that feeling grateful isn't gonna help me eat healthier or get the Jim in the morning, but like what's a connection there, while the beautiful thing about Greece dude is in any emotion really is, while we feel it. A kind of sets are expectation for what we should value and what we should do now Why would you have an emotion that only focused on the past right feeling an emotion that can't change anything you do in the future its away. Even metabolic Lee. Why would the brain want? You did wasted time feeling something? So I people? Gratitude is really about the future. It makes
value, long term goals more then immediate gratification. You may still doubt the idea that gratitude is more powerful for protecting our future south, then good old fashion the power, but there's some super cool scientific results to back it up ones that will hear about right after this break fabulous loud, we'll be right back. What's the biggest obstacle to being kinder to our future selves to getting more sir size and stopping procrastination and saving more money turns out it's our lying minds. We tell ourselves that all we need is a bit more willpower that are self control will save. But, as we seen when push comes to shove, our rationalizing mines. Would you say it's ok to screw of our future solves just this once, but what if we try to different strategy, would have we harness and emotion like rats
to one that naturally primes us to protect our future selves. This was exactly what researcher David distend set out to test. He devised an experiment to see whether people could be nice to their future yourselves face of attempting reward. So in our we bring people in, we have them Azra bunch of questions of the form. Would you rather have ten dollars now or thirty dollars in three weeks right and to make it real. We tell them. Are gonna pick one of your answers and honour it. So if you said I'd rather of ten dollars now than thirty dollars in three weeks, we gave you ten dollars fish that had rather thirty dollars in three weeks. We send you a check in three weeks, found right is that most people tend to be pretty impatient, that is they discounted, value of future rewards a lot so, for example, are average subject said they would take seventeen dollars now, rather than a hundred dollars in a year
another way of saying that is they view two hundred dollars in the years worth seventeen dollars now, and I don't know about you are sure listeners, but if you don't need that seventeen dollars to survive right now, then passing but opportunity chinese quintuple, your money given with the banks, are paying its not the greatest decision. When we made people feel grateful suddenly how much they discounted the future. Our patient, they were to get that money in their hands change these folks suddenly view two hundred dollars a year. Not is worth seventeen where's now, but as were thirty dollars. We'd have to give them at least thirty dollars before they passed up the opportunity for a hunter, dollars near what that means is their discount the value of a future award last and if you take this and you extrapolated out to the real world the decisions that matter, you know, other people have found that people who accept in gratitude are more willing to exercise for better health.
There are more willing to save their money rather than spend it on impulse spies. There are more willing to work harder for, long term goals. And so what we see here is just by changing the emotional state, your in how much We value the future changes so that Is the question of you know? How did you as this clever experimentalists, get people to experience gratitude? You know how you make people more grateful in the lab one way we do this We have them doing this task on the computer, that's designed to be God awful boring. How do I get it that we are going to God of a boring and right as they think they are about to be done? computer is rigged crash or to look like it crashes on them, and then they expire better comes in and says sorry. You're gonna have to do this. All over again, let me go get the Tec and, of course, people are not happy.
We have somebody else in the lab who there are subjects believe with another subject: take the study, but it's actually an actor who works for us, and this person will be walk over to them and say this is terrible. I'm pretty with computers. Let me see if I can help you and so you know she starts fighting with the wires and sir particularly had two key. That starts a timer and loan the whole bang the computer comes back on, and ninety five percent of our subjects are incredibly grateful for this five percent of them think somehow they fix it themselves, but are they they get excluded, but for the most for if people are very grateful because they don't want to do this got off its Basque over again, and in that way, what we can find is that the people who are actually experiencing gratitude in the moment compared people or feeling neutral or people who are feeling happy in that was important because we wanted to show it wasn't just that you were feeling positive, but there was something really particular about gratitude.
What gratitude makes you do is is engage in self control and, as I said, evolution narrowly speaking that so you're willing to be less selfish But if you think about it, when you feel good, attitude. There's one person besides strange sure people you meet on the street or France, where you can help that important to your own future goals, and that is your own future self what we find is when you're feeling grateful yes, you're willing to sacrifice for other people. But we are also willing to sacrifice fear own future self and that's how you can pivot the power or of gratitude from just being this emotion, ass kind of a moral cast to do the right thing to repay debts are to begin, more away to actually help your own feet self achieve her. His own goals, I wanted to talk a little bit about some of the specific domains at which gratitude helps because I just design these data is totally fascinating. So, in your book you show that gratitude and just help you on financial decision making. It also hope you like it your job yeah, it's just.
What your job is. So you know Adam Grant, has this great data where he shows that people who are working in a call centre and talk about a thankless job, calling people for fund raising asking people to donate money when attitude, as expressed in those offices. People's productivity goes up fifty sent, and not only do they work harder, but there actually happy about it. They feel good. And so there's no stress their when you're a doctor right, if you're feeling gratitude x, you more willing to invest the effort to do the right thing and through your more willing, the data show too engaged in greater fought in terms of your diagnoses and so gratitude Whatever the realm is that we're talking about by giving you more patients by giving you nudging, you is going to improve the outcome and while its doing it, it's gonna solve to other problems for unite, and something else that I really want to talk about is that it does.
In a way that better for your mind and your body in terms of your physical health and your mental, well, Hence the talk about the mental wellbeing part, because one of the things were trying to do in this many series is to help people find strategies that can allow them to achieve their goals, but in doing so can make them happy in the media to an that's, really, there using thing about gratitude. Is it doesn't just help? You exercise more and save more if it feels good, unlike willpower, that's right so different Let's talk about that, there are two types of virtues people have resonate virtues which are the virtues like being dogged. Working here having quit trying to get ahead and eulogy virtues things like being fair, being generous B, and the unity virtues of the ones that ultimately we want to be remembered for their though once that draw other people to us that give us the relationships that help our allies. So if we are pursuing our own success would ever realm it might be.
You know, as I said, for for millennia. The other way to do that was to have good character to be fair beach. It used to be that you would you virtues and resonate virtuous were the same. There was no difference between them. Because of the way we structure our lives. Now we can pursue, success in a very optimistic manner. That is, we can just be dogged, and if we earn enough money we can me Oliver needs. We don't have to have other people around us as much but leads to a not very fulfilling life in its very stressful existence, when you choose to pursue success by cultivating emotions like gratitude. By virtue of what you're doing yes, it's going to give you the self control to pursue your goals. To have patience. To persevere in the face, difficulty, but it's also going to change your relation it's right when we feel gratitude. Not only do we work harder, but we show more appreciation to others around us. It makes
behave more loyally. It makes us behave more compassionately toward other people, and so we build social safety net better. There, too buttresses And so you know, when you look at gratitude, people who feel more gratitude. Yes, they exercise more. Yes, they save more. Yes, they get ahead in life more, but they also sleep better at night They also have better blood pressure. They show less stress reactivity, then do people who don't experience gratitude more often they even petticoat strong. How and why these things are intertwined is, is an interesting story it having to do with the stress and and do they exercise more because of that gratitude, etc, but granted it really is a buffer. It helps us pursue our resume virtues and our eulogy virtues at the same time so striking about though, is that I think if you ask people, people often think those resume virtues and eulogy virtues are in conflict right, like you,
to boost up your resume. You gotta see no stop writer fellow man about right, but it's just the opposite. So so much of this podcast is the idea that our minds are leading us astray right. We have this bad into in about what gratitude gonna do like it makes us weak here. It's gonna make it help others rather than getting idea and part of that right is you know. I think our resolution are eulogy virtues we think of them. Ass, distinct,. For most of our evolutionary history they weren't and were kind of toll. But you know the way to succeed is to be self interested, but You actually look at the data. It true, I think we're being sold at a bill of goods. You know it is in the short term right. The faster way is to kind of be self interested, but in the long run it is people who experience gratitude hooks Syrians compassionate empathy. Do really really well. You know my friend by francs and at Coronel. I read this great book called success and lock any talks about
the illusion that people have that the way the any thus exceeded was through our own self determination. I am not saying that doesn't matter. Of course it does, but there's out of walk along the way and if you think about what a lot of luck is it it's not really luck its people, opening doors for us, its people, supporting us in our hours of need and in helping us out and are doing the same for them right. That's what a lot of Lock is not all when people do that. I only want to pay those people back but to pay it forward to other people. So, for example, in our studies, we were talking about so, for example, in our studies we were talking about, we make people your gratitude in the lab and then they believe the lab thinking the experiment is over and we have a stranger approach them who asks for help them help the stranger too.
And the reason why is when you feel gratitude it makes you want to help someone else right that the brain is is nudging you that way, because in the long term, not a successful strategy, I'm it's. The beautiful thing about gratitude is it makes us pay it forward and creates Conover an ongoing cycle, and so I think people often feel that gratitude can be a sign of weakness, but really good attitude is in emotion of power as Hopefully, the listeners are sold on this idea that becoming more grateful is a good thing, but then that raises the question: how do you do that? What can blisters you to improve their sense of gratitude one strategy is simply doing daily reflections, I'm thinking for a few minutes about what it is that your grateful foreign life, what's people do gratitude, diaries aid for foreign. We all have the you We think that were incredibly grateful, foreign our lives, but if you think doubt the same things over and over again thirteen alive.
Their power, you gonna, habituate too, it's gonna, become boring and so think about little things about the person who gave you their seat on the bus Or the subway think about the person who gave you direction to let even on the highway someone who held the door for you- and you might say Dave really is that gonna work it does so I told you earlier about the way we induce gratitude in our lab, where we have these these big shenanigans. We go through where computers crash on people, but when we we asked people reflect on something in your life at your grateful for whether at something somebody did for you, your parents, a friend the university, believe in God, God, whatever it might be. Those simple reflections prick to use the same exact effects- and so it may sound trite, but it's not cultivating gratitude daily in your life. I will do this reform in another way, is to engage in something called the reciprocity ring. This is great, if you
have an office in you're trying to create a culture of gratitude or classroom or even for families at home? Have everybody take a post it? No, and right on the post. It know something they need help with. Then on a border on the refrigerator. Aware paint be stick up those posts No, it's kind of a circle. Never we take a different color poster, no and write your name on it and go up and stick it next time posted no up there already, where a person's request helps you're, saying ah John says he needs help with this Dave, I'm gonna help him with this right and then what you do is draw lions or tie strings or tape whenever you might being what you'll see is connection in the circle and then, most importantly, go give that assistance that you said Anne this does is, is a few things one. It shows that asking for help is ok and offering to help. Is ok
and by you actually helping the person who you said. You were going to help that person feels gratitude and what our research shows is in that person feels gratitude, increases the probability very dramatically that they're just going to go and offer help to someone else, way of creating kind of a norm in a culture for gratitude in your family or your classroom, or your workplace heavy this in your lab or in your own family yeah, you know before starting this research. I wouldn't say I wasn't ungrateful person, but I dont think I thought a lot about gratitude in my life But what I realised through doing this work is that you can cure Your own emotional life right emotions don't just happen to us. We can curate what we feel by. By taking time to think about what we want to feel by paying attention to the people that help us as opposed to the people that annoyance.
So. What I have begun to do in my own daily life now is to do that if it is to focus on when somebody does something for me or someone helps me do not say. Thank you. Quickly move by that, but to focus on it for a few minutes Surely the emotions that I feel are important and valuable in my daily experience, as opposed to the ones that art and what happens when you do that, as it begins to change the land sea which you automatically vigour life, so that suddenly gratitude isn't something you're trying to cure it, but it becomes a lens that you pick out things with daily in life and I think it you know it becomes a habit. Some ways and beautiful thing about gratitude is, as who's. The habits, as you know, if I have a habit to save money that work for saving money, if I have a habit to study that works for studying, but if I have a habit to experience gratitude gonna bleed over into making me better able to pursue my long term goals in any realm, and I would
You know, encourage you're listeners to try and create gratitude as a habit. After talking to David hearing about his work, I've decided on a personal goal for this new decade. I'm to stop sabotaging future lorry I'm going to stop. Assuming that willpower will save me instead, I'm going harnessed the power of my moral emotions, I'm going to work harder to become a bit more grateful starting now. So here goes I am so grateful that Dave, and so many other scientists took time out of their busy schedules to share these insights with us I'm so so thankful that we all have a fresh start with this new decade to make a bunch of positive. It is that we want to see and twenty twenty and I'm so so grateful for you think so. Much for listening to this podcast and thank you for being a part of this journey you science to live a little bit better and finally ip
super grateful if you joint future large for our third bonus episode of happiness, lad, twenty twenty, The happiness lab is cholera and introduced by Ryan Delhi. The show was mastered by Evans Yola in our original music was composed by Zachary. Reseller thanks to bend Davis meal about Julia Barton, Carlini, glory, Heather thing, Maggie Taylor, Maya, caning and Jacob iceberg. The happiness lab is brought to buy Pushkin industries.
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Transcript generated on 2020-05-26.