Catherine Sanderson never thought she’d study psychology, let alone the science of happiness.
As an undergraduate at Stanford University, she always thought she’d become a doctor. One psychology class changed that.
“I knew nothing about psychology,” Sanderson says. “But I took a class and fell in love with it. It was an accidental start, but here I am.”
Sanderson is teaching an hour-long lecture with the One Day University program, an adult-education program founded in 2006. The class will be held on Saturday, Feb. 24 at the Tucson Jewish Community Center.
Sanderson’s lecture is appropriately titled “Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness.” Among the many things on her agenda, Sanderson will discuss why happiness matters, the errors and expectations of happiness in society, and what individuals can do to increase happiness in their own lives.
“Obviously, everyone wants to be happy,” Sanderson says. “It’s not an unusual thing to want.”
Sanderson says the idea of happiness always interested her because she was never a naturally happy person, but wanted to understand how to become happier.
“What’s also interesting to me is that there is lots of evidence suggesting that happiness has a major influence on our health,” she says. “There is strong evidence that our happiness and our health are very connected.”
Sanderson says that, in general, people who are happier are healthier.
“Research shows that being happier is healthier, whether that’s taking better care of yourself or living longer,” she says. “It’s a really important finding in terms of improving people’s psychological well-being.”
“There’s this expectation that our happiness is about our personal circumstances and that there’s nothing you can do about it,” she adds.
“But actually, happiness is in all of us. That’s what’s most important.”
Sanderson, currently the Manwell Family Professor of Life Sciences at Amherst College, gives One Day University lectures nationwide roughly 10 times throughout the year.
“There’s a lot of research that suggests that lifelong learning is one of the best ways to stay mentally sharp,” she says. “The people who attend these lectures are learning and pushing themselves in new and exciting ways.”
Besides Sanderson’s lecture, the One Day University will also feature an hourlong lecture from Louis Masur of Rutgers University. He will discuss the facts and fiction of Abraham Lincoln.
Steven Lamy of the University of Southern California will also teach an hourlong class. His lecture will be about foreign policy.