Professor Tim Bono teaches one of the most popular classes ever offered at Washington University. And, no, the class isn’t about archaeology or mathematics. It doesn’t cover the periodic table or a period in history. And it isn’t an elective like dance or yoga. It’s a psychology class on how to be happy.
Why does he think today’s students are drawn to a class on how to be happy in such numbers?
Well, in addition to teaching, Tim also conducts research. And he’s making some alarming findings.
“In every dataset I’ve ever collected,” he told me when I interviewed him last week for the podcast, “the more time teens are spending on social media scrolling and looking through other people’s posts or posting information about their own lives, the less self esteem, sleep, confidence, and optimism they usually have.”
For most members of this generation raised on technology, it appears especially important to learn the science of how to be happy. Today’s teens need this knowledge in order to combat the negative impact of so many hours spent on devices.
What can we do to teach teens how to be happy?
Dr. Bono is a true expert on the science of teenage happiness. In addition to being a professor and researcher, he is also the author of When Likes Aren’t Enough: A Crash Course in the Science of Happiness. Tim says there are simple things parents can do with teenagers to start improving their level of wellbeing.
One thing parents can do is help teens understand their sleep cycle–and it’s more complicated than you might think.
Also, Tim revealed how you can give teenagers gifts that will help them live happier lives and teach them how to be happy for years to come. He recommends focusing on social experiences. Things teens can do with their friends are great gifts, Tim says.
Finally, parents should instill an internal locus of control. We want teens to feel like they have control over the world, not like they are just at the mercy of fate. This will ultimately lead to greater success and happiness in life.
The way to achieve this is to talk to teens about what they specifically did that caused something to happen. For instance, did they do poorly on a test? Or do well on a test? Tim recommends asking them to think about their study habits and preparation and how these things might have contributed to the outcome. If we make a habit of doing this, it will train our teens to have happier and more resilient brains.
As an example of how to put this into practice with your own teenager, I developed a word-for-word script you can use for inspiration (or even just memorize). To download it free now, enter your first name and email below. I’ll also show you how to sign up for my free 10-day email course that reveals the secret method behind the word-for-word script. And I’ll even hook you up with a free trial membership to the entire website!
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2 Quotes from
8 Clips from
CLIP 1 (1:32)
Is Social Media Making Our Teens Less Happy?
Tim’s research shows some startling results: the more social media teens use the less happy they are with their lives.
CLIP 2 (1:44)
Key Questions You Should be Asking Your Teen
Use the questions Tim reveals in this clip to direct your teen’s behavioral attributions inward.
CLIP 3 (2:10)
Train Your Teenager to Restore Their Own Mood
We want teens to interpret failure as a source or motivation rather than a sign of defeat. The key is being able to bounce back.
CLIP 4 (1:59)
More on the Effects of Sleep on the Teen Brain
In addition to the obvious, sleep helps teens re-balance emotions, regain mental acuity, and regulate their impulses.
CLIP 5 (4:31)
The Science of the Perfect Nap
Help your teen (and yourself) take the most effective naps possible using this fascinating sleep science.
CLIP 6 (1:44)
This Crazy Fact About Smartphones Will Blow Your Mind
Tim discusses a study about how smartphones affect our ability to focus even when turned face down on the table.
CLIP 7 (1:30)
Set Your Teen Up for Success with This Conversation
It’s critical to align your teen’s expectations with reality. Here, Tim lays out a simple method for doing just that.
CLIP 8 (1:30)
How to Give Teenagers Gifts They Will Love
Studies show that contrary to popular belief, money can buy happiness, if you just know how to spend it…
A faculty member at Washington University in St. Louis, Tim has won several teaching awards and thousands of students have taken his popular courses on the Psychology of Young Adulthood and the Science of Happiness. He is the author of When Likes Aren’t Enough: A Crash Course in the Science of Happiness as well as an expert consultant on psychological health and happiness for a number of national media outlets.
Find Tim on Twitter.