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Letter to the Editor: New Year’s Resolution for Plumas County: Happiness!

We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same.
-Anne Frank

I would like to propose a New Year’s Resolution for Plumas County, for 2023 and beyond: happiness.

While the pursuit of happiness has been thought of as an art in the past, the last two decades have shown that it is also a science. Advancements in our ability to study the human brain have resulted in amazing discoveries in the field of human happiness, and the good news is that being happy is possible for all, regardless of age, gender, or socioeconomic status. You don’t have to travel to the Himalayas to find a mystic to share the secrets of happiness with you!

At Quincy Junior Senior High School, I teach an elective class called “Psychology and the Good Life.” It is a research-based approach from a course from Dr. Laurie Santos at Yale University. In the class, students learn about what makes humans happy and why, what doesn’t make us happy and why, then they practice “Rewirements” that are designed to change the lens through which they see the world. In large part happiness comes down to developing this lens and habits of mind that support it. Students learn about the importance of gratitude, random acts of kindness, making social connections, living in the moment, and other proven ways to be happy.

My goal is to share this knowledge with as many people as possible. I believe that happiness is attainable, and my hope is that Plumas County becomes a place where learning about happiness is central to who we are. This includes sharing the class with the other schools here, and with all of you. To that end, here is a link to an article from Dr. Santos:


Want to learn more? Dr. Santos has shared the entire curriculum for free! Here is a link to her Coursera course:


I encourage you to check it out, and share it far and wide. More than 4 million people have enrolled in the course, and I promise you that if you open up to the possibilities it can unlock, happiness will flow from it, for you and your friends and family. I truly believe all of us, including our kids, deserve it!

I am grateful to Plumas Unified School District for giving me the chance to share this with students. In particular, Assistant Superintendent Kristy Warren, QJSHS Principal Jennifer Scheel, and counselor Jill Dupras. Without them, the class wouldn’t have happened.

I would also like to thank Heather Caiazzo at Feather River College for letting me share this with her psychology class earlier this month.

Paul Cavanaugh


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