Yale News

Head of Silliman College Laurie Santos is preparing new episodes of her podcast “The Happiness Lab,” which will be released in early 2021.

Santos released her podcast in September 2019, following the immense success of her 2016 Yale course “Psychology and the Good Life,” which garnered 1,812 enrollees. The podcast — which released its second season this year and is now in its second miniseason — has garnered upward of 23 million downloads. In an interview with the News, Santos said that she is excited about the new slate of content.

“We had always planned to do at least two seasons of ‘The Happiness Lab,’” Santos said. “But I was even more inspired when the first season received such a positive response.”

The current miniseason discusses ancient methods of finding happiness and discusses Buddhism, Stoicism and the ideologies of Plato.

Santos noted that she interviewed Earlham College assistant professor of religion Liz Angowski, an expert on Buddhism who “will walk us through the wisdom of the Buddhist noble truths and eightfold path.”

“Comparing what we learn from those sources with what modern psych research teaches us can help us bring into relief an even richer store of insights into what it means to live well now,” Angowski told the News.

The miniseason, which will consist of four total episodes, will feature interviews from Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Tamar Gendler and author Robert Wright. Two episodes of the planned four have already been released.

Santos has also already begun work for season three.

“Season 3 will launch this year and is already set to have some pretty fun episodes about the science of nostalgia, how our environments affect happiness and what we can do to fight loneliness,” Santos said.

Some of the planned interviews for season three include figures such as actor Rob Lowe, public speaker Jay Shetty and National Geographic explorer Dan Buetter.

While season three is in production, guests can look forward to bonus episodes. According to Santos, one upcoming bonus piece focuses on how to protect mental health in the face of racism and “so much news about anti-Black violence.”

The podcast has managed to maintain its planned episodes even in the face of a pandemic, finding new ways to make the show possible.

“I would often do interviews over Skype and Zoom before the pandemic,” Santos said. “The difference is that now my guests are not inside fancy recording studios. Often, they’re just recording their side of the audio on their iPhones. So, you do need to do a bit of podcast 101 with the guests to be sure they get the recording right.”

According to podcast guest Angowski, the socially distant podcasting crash course consisted of a Zoom meeting prior to the interview where Santos ensured she was set up in the right space with the correct equipment.

According to Angowski, the remote setup works well.

“I think we’re in an age now where the technology is getting easier to use,” Angowski said. “People are generally good-humored about any potential snags or setbacks.”

The only major difference for “The Happiness Lab” due to the pandemic has come in the form of in-person collaboration. Co-writer and producer Ryan Dilley lives in London and was unable to work in person in the U.S. due to travel restrictions.

Dilley expressed sadness at not being able to work with long-time friend Santos. However, the two have found virtual paths to continuing the podcast production process.

“While a few fun things we had planned for Season 3 won’t now be possible, I don’t think audiences will hear a dip in creativity or quality,” Dilley wrote in an email to the News. “We’re so lucky to be working in audio — we can invent worlds, even when we can’t record in them.”

Santos’ podcast seems more useful now than ever, talking through topics that are more consequential in the wake of COVID-19, according to Dilley. In his email, he wrote that learning from the podcast has helped him better react to the pandemic.

Even as Santos prepares to launch new content, she told the News that she is particularly excited about another potential upcoming project.

“I’m hoping to teach ‘Psychology of the Good Life’ again in 2021-2022,” Santos said. “And I’m hoping to include lots of new content I’ve learned about since making the podcast.”

During the first year “Psychology and the Good Life” was taught, it ranked as the most popular class ever offered at Yale.

Liz Carter | liz.carter@yale.edu