Optimism Brain

Submitted By:
Rebecca T. Wolski, Katherine Delmar Burke School, San Francisco, CA

The Case for Believing in Yourself by Dacher Keltner and Shuka Kalantari
Episode 108, The Greater Good Science Center, January 6, 2022

Do you ever find that students struggle to define their goals? This episode of The Science of Happiness podcast, a co-production of UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, presents both the practice of visualizing your best possible self and the science to support the benefits of optimism and hope during difficult times. In the first half of the episode, professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley, Dacher Keltner, interviews comedian and co-host of Feeling Asian podcast Youngmi Mayer. In a refreshingly honest manner, Mayer describes what it means to be vulnerable, see herself, and gain perspective on her identity—all in hopes of achieving her dreams. The second half introduces the effect of optimism on the brain as described by senior producer Shuka Kalantari and psychologist and Chair of Experimental Health Psychology at Maastricht University, Madelon Peters. Simply imagining a better future and your role in it can be enough to lower cortisol levels, reduce stress, and allow people to better cope with trying circumstances. In the midst of the Covid pandemic, students and faculty alike should consider making time for a practice that grounds them in optimism and helps to answer the following important question: how do you define your best possible self?

Science of Learning
Social-Emotional Learning
Teaching Practice