It’s more important than ever to ground healing work with expertise, careful research, and study. Otherwise, it’s basically just cheerleading. This is why I brought on one of Canada’s best social psychologists, Lara Aknin. Lara’s work centers on not just what makes people happy, but what keeps them happy: gratitude, reminding yourself and others of shared connections and community, and more.

Obviously, the pandemic shut out a lot of ways we cultivate connection and community—at least physically. So I wanted Lara to share some scientific grounding on how covid has affected anxiety and depression rates, stress levels, and mental resiliency in general.

Lara Beth Aknin is a Canadian social psychologist. She is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Simon Fraser University and a Distinguished University Professor.

After earning her Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia, Aknin joined the faculty of psychology at Simon Fraser University in 2012. That year, she published Giving Leads to Happiness in Young Children with J. Kiley Hamlin and Elizabeth Dunn, which supported the idea that humans may have evolved to find giving rewarding.

In 2014, Lara and her colleagues Michael Norton and Elizabeth Dunn co-published a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and CIHR funded review of whether spending money had a positive effect on people’s happiness. The following year, her contributions to the field of social psychology earned her the President’s New Researcher Award from the Canadian Psychological Association and a fellowship at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. By 2019, she received an SSHRC grant for her project, Can Repeated and Reflective Giving Nurture Canada’s Next Generation of Philanthropists? She was also honored by the university for her research and contributions to social Psychology with the title of Distinguished SFU Professor.

During the pandemic, she has served as Chair of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Task Force of the Lancet COVID-19 Commission. She also serves as an associate editor of the World Happiness Report.

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