She’s a Happiness Professor. Her Lessons Are Helping Her Beat Burnout

A dental emergency was Laurie Santos’ wake-up call. It wasn’t even her own: One of Santos’ students at Yale University needed her sign-off before getting some work done. Instead of feeling sympathy for her student, Santos mostly felt annoyed about the extra paperwork she’d need to complete.

That reaction was unusual and concerning for Santos, a psychologist who teaches Yale’s single most popular course, on the science of happiness. She knew that cynicism, irritability, and exhaustion—all of which had been gnawing at her recently—were telltale signs of burnout, a condition that almost 30% of U.S. workers say they experience at least sometimes, according to a 2022 McKinsey Health Institute survey.

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