Looking for the key to happiness? This simple solution has the science to back it up.
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What’s the key to happiness? It’s something we’ve all wondered about.

Maybe you’re one of the 43% of Americans dealing with chronic loneliness and wishing you knew more about how to make friends, keep friends, and escape loneliness.

But knowing where to start finding that happiness isn’t always easy.


Ads often encourage people to chase happiness through material things, like tech gadgets, cars, and clothes — but can you really buy happiness?

Well, according to Amit Kumar, a social psychologist who studies happiness and spending habits, you can actually give your happiness a serious boost by spending your money on meaningful moments.

Photo by Anna Dziubinska/Unsplash.

Kumar is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and has published several studies on the satisfaction people get from their purchases. He and his colleagues have compared experiential purchases like a plane ticket for a vacation to material purchases like electronics.

Kumar says they found that “people derive more satisfaction from experiential purchases like vacations than they do from material purchases like clothing, jewelry, furniture, electronic gadgets, and so on.”

So if you’re considering attending a show, visiting a new country, or taking a road trip, you might want to start packing.

According to Kumar, it’s not necessarily the purchase itself that makes you happy — it’s the memorable experiences that purchase leads to. In other words, your trip or outing will likely lead you to experience new and exciting things that you might remember forever.

And sometimes, what makes that experience memorable is the people you meet along the way and the unexpected connections you make with them.

It’s not like you need a big, dramatic moment to make this kind of connection. The moments of connection can be as simple as opening the door for a stranger, or offering a mint after enjoying a coffee with that long-lost classmate you ran into randomly while exploring a new city. Maybe, on your adventures, you’ll meet a waitress who goes above and beyond for her customers; or maybe you’ll strike up a conversation with someone in line to see that concert you’ve been waiting for all year. Maybe you’ll grab lunch with those hikers who warned you about a bear up ahead on the nature trail.

Photo by Mike Erskine/Unsplash.

Whatever these small moments are, you’ll be talking about them later, telling coworkers, dates, and new friends about that time a road trip led you to someone you might have never met otherwise.

And when you talk about an experience afterward, it lives on — and so do the feelings of happiness you’ve derived from it.

Jesse Walker, who co-authored a study with Kumar, says, “One-time experiences tend to grow sweeter in memory as time passes. Even a vacation that goes terribly wrong in every way often becomes a fond memory.”

So maybe, someday, you’ll even laugh about the road trip with your partner that got you horribly lost and spending the night in that scary hotel you swear was haunted.

Photo by Ivana Cajina/Unsplash.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to ditch material purchases altogether to find happiness — the key is to find some balance. Rather than getting pulled completely into the world of material things, Kumar says, you can put some of your spending money toward experiences, too.

You may even be able to get both at once: For instance, a cell phone with a great camera can give you mementos like photos and videos of good times shared with friends and loved ones.

Photo by Katie Treadway/Unsplash.

So look out for opportunities for those small moments of connection — they can carry a wealth of happiness.

Which means that finding the key to happiness is much simpler than many people think. It’s not about having the right material possessions to make you feel satisfied. It’s more about life’s little moments — sharing an experience and making a connection that leaves you with meaningful, happy memories.

While that may not be your only source of happiness, it’s a great start to help you combat loneliness and find the joy you seek.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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