The Psychology of Happiness – Podcast

The Psychology of Happiness – Podcast

In today’s episode Nicholas Olesen, CFP®, CPWA® talks with Professor Jaime Kurtz, Ph.D. about her new audiobook, The Psychology of Happiness.

Through this conversation Dr. Kurtz shares her expertise and insight to help us all understand how happiness can be “coached” and internalized versus just a momentary feeling.  A few of the questions we covered are:

  • How has the field of psychology changed over time in regard to understanding and measuring happiness?

  • What can we do to cause happiness versus it just happens to be our internal bias?

  • How and why our happiness impacts to many other areas of our lives?

  • How can we spend money in a way that promotes happiness?

  • As the author of “The Happy Traveler”, in what ways can we change how we plan and enjoy vacations to help the happiness of them last longer?

Dr. Kurtz is an Associate Professor of Psychology at James Madison University, where she teaches courses on Social Psychology, Psychology of Personality, Positive Psychology, and Psychological Research Methods. She received her B.A. from Millersville University of Pennsylvania and my M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.

Dr. Kurtz has authored numerous journal articles and book chapters on happiness, and with bestselling author Sonja Lyubomirsky, she is co-author of Positively Happy: Routes to Sustainable Happiness, a workbook for putting happiness strategies into practice in everyday life. Her first solo-authored book, The Happy Traveler: Unpacking the Secrets of Better Vacations, was published in June of 2017 by Oxford University Press.

With the Institute for Brain Potential, Dr. Kurtz offers seminars on happiness and well-being to health-care professionals nationwide. In addition, she writes the popular Happy Trails online column for Psychology Today.

Always eager to merge her love of psychology and travel, Dr. Kurtz is the creator and director of Exploring the Good Life in Scandinavia. In this three-week summer program, she leads college students on a tour of two of the world’s happiest nations, Denmark and Sweden, where they observe and conduct interviews on cross-cultural differences in well-being, in addition to doing happiness-boosting exercises of their own.

We hope you enjoyed this conversation and took away a few useful tips towards improving and maintaining happiness.

Please send us feedback and any topic or questions you would like us to cover.  Email us at: [email protected] 

Transcript from our conversation:

Nicholas Olesen: [00:00:19] Hi. Thanks for tuning into A Wealth of Advice. My name is Nicholas Olesen, Director of Private Wealth at Kathmere Capital. Today, we have a really special guest on the podcast, Dr. Jaime Kurtz. Dr. Kurtz is the Professor of Psychology at the best university in the world, James Madison University, just happens to be the school that I love and went to, also named my firstborn daughter after that school. She’s the Professor of Psychology there and has a specialty really around happiness. She has a number of courses that she teaches and she’s also just released through Audible, a great course called the Psychology of Happiness. It was just released in January of 2021. I’ve listened to the 10 lectures and it is absolutely fantastic.

She also has written a couple of books, a lot of different news articles and publications out there, and we’re going to touch on the most recent course that she put out through Audible. And then also talk a lot about travel as she has both written a book called the “Happy Traveler: Unpacking the Secrets of Better Vacations”.

And she does an Exploring the Good Life in Scandinavia travel abroad program. It’s a three week summer program for JMU. And so just a great guest to talk about really diving into some of them practical advice around how to bring out happiness in yourself and the correlation or causation of other things in your life.

So without further ado, I hope you really enjoy this interview with Dr. Jaime Kurtz.

Dr. Kurtz, I appreciate you coming on here as we talked about in the intro, I’m a little biased as a JMU grad, to have you on, but I wanted to bring up and walk through happiness in general. I think it’s something we all strive for, but what you bring to the table in this 10 part lecture was a lot more of practical advice and the science behind it.

And then also what that kind of the bigger outcome than just being happy is. So I want to start off with that question, which is something I have thought about or talked to others about a lot, which is, is happiness an internal thing? Can you actually “coach it” or make it lasting versus just momentary happiness?

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:02:11] So happiness is definitely something like a personality trait. Some of us are naturally just happier than others, more optimistic than others, less likely to be depressed than others. There is a genetic component to it, but that’s only about half of the story and research suggests that there’s actually a lot that we can do in our own lives to control how happy we are.

And that’s what I was trying to really focus on in the course. Because we can’t change our genes, of course we can only change the everyday habits that we have and the way that we look at our lives. So that’s where a lot of the advice lies that’s where a lot of the hope lies or becoming a happier person.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:02:46] For sure. For sure. And when you think about that advice, I think a lot of us have heard the little phrases, like I’m going to use a really bad one, but “happy wife, happy life”, like all these little teeny things that are not, you know, there is some science behind it, but what has changed in the last 40 years to actually bring research beyond just phrases?

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:03:06] Yeah, we all have pretty strong intuitions about what makes us happy. And that goes all the way back to Aristotle, or maybe even before where people had pretty strong intuitions about what made them happy. And some of those are accurate and some of those maybe a little bit less, so. So around maybe 20 years ago or so now people really started researching happiness much more scientifically to go beyond those intuitions and get a sense of like, what does the data say about what generally makes people happy in the broader population?

So there’s been a lot of intuitions that have been confirmed by this research, for example, Other people, our social relationships are the biggest source of our happiness. I’m not sure that’s a huge surprise, but it’s nice to see it confirmed. And then there are some other things that are a little more surprising, like, money doesn’t bring us happiness in the way that we might think it does for instance that was surprising to a lot of people.

So it’s good to just study these things, go beyond our intuitions for sure.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:04:08] Yeah. No it is. And I think that we’ll touch on the money. One, you know, as financial advisors to clients, that’s obviously one that we touched on a lot and talk about and, you know, trying to dive into their goal side of things, which we’ll get to in a little bit with you, when you look at it though, on the research side, like how do you measure happiness?

Like, is there a, is there, I know there’s a lot of questions. Like I’ve, I’ve listened to lecture twice, so I know the answer, but I want to hear kind of all the differences for people listening. What, what are these ways of measuring it now?

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:04:36] Yeah. So the most common way to measure happiness is simply to ask people, how happy are you?

And the idea is that the person is the, their own best. They’re the best expert on how happy they are. Right? So that’s formalized in a lot of scales. So there are pretty brief and actually surprisingly good measures out there about a personal happiness. We know a measure, a measure is good when it kind of correlates with things that we would expect it to.

So people who score highly on measures of happiness tend to have better health, physical health, better social relationships more career success, more income. There are relationships there. Like all of these things that you think happiness would go along with tends to kind of play out when you look at these, the data from these scales.

So of course a scale can only tell us, you know, part of the story about somebody’s life, but even their brevity and how cheap and easy they are. Pretty they’re pretty good.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:05:36] Yeah. No. And with how much you guys use them and, and that one of the stories that I love in there and, and I can picture myself JMU’s campus a while back, but looking at it, you, you asking you one of the assignments you have is this perfect day assignment.

Can you explain this to listeners about what this is and why it’s so impactful?

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:05:53] Yeah. So this is something I use in my classes where students have to design the perfect day and I use the word perfect very intentionally. Perfect day. And then try and map it out. What would it look like and try to live that day?

And it’s hard because oftentimes they’re not at the beach or not the weekend or it’s raining or, you know, they’re busy, so it’s not the perfect day that they could most perfect data they could imagine. But given the constraints of their lives, design the perfect day and then try to live it. And then we talk about it.

And what’s interesting is when people are trying to live the perfect day, it’s often very stressful because they’re putting so much pressure on themselves. They want everything to go flawlessly. They get frustrated if other people aren’t on board with this. And why shouldn’t they be? And it’s often disappointing.

So I liked that assignment a lot because it really drives home this idea that we can’t pressure ourselves to be happy. We can’t force happiness. And that’s been one of the lessons from one of the more recent research in positive psychology is that happiness is the byproduct of living your life a certain way. It’s not something you can just strong arm yourself into feeling.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:07:10] Interesting. So is that that causation versus correlation, you know, what can we do to cause happiness versus it just happens to that’s my internal bias, if you will. So are there, are there practical things that we can do that, that you offer as the research has found, this is practical things, you know, two or three things that we could do to increase our happiness.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:07:31] Yeah. Sure. So the correlational causation question is really, really important to keep in mind because on of the relationships are just things that kind of go together, but we need experimental research to show what’s causing what. And fortunately, we have a lot of that. So three things you might consider one of the biggest ones, simplest ones is gratitude.

Hmm. Just taking a moment and looking around and taking note of all of the good things from you. They might be things that you’ve failed to notice. We get very used to all the good things around us, especially if we have them a lot. So writing it down can be really powerful. Just the simplest form is just like write down three good things that you’re grateful for.

Three things you’re grateful for and doing that regularly, maybe two or three times a week has been shown to significantly boost people’s happiness. Yeah. So that’s one. Another thing you might do is kind acts for other people. So that one is a little less intuitive than some of the others, but really putting yourself out there for other people does cause increases in happiness.

And that happens because you feel better about yourself. You feel more competent, people appreciate you. You feel more connected to your community. Sure. Yeah.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:08:50] And are those to stop on that one? Is that, how has the research shown the random acts of kindness or the, to a stranger to somebody love? Like what, or is there a scale there if you will? If I had to say, Hey I’m going to selfishly just pick one. Like which one for me it brings the most happiness internally.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:09:10] Sure. So this research is fairly new, and there’s not as much looking at like the nuance but what we do now is that varying what you do tends to bring more of a benefit. So for example, at JMU, the norm has always been holding doors, right?

Nicholas Olesen: [00:09:27] Yeah.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:09:28] Maybe the first couple of times you hold a door and somebody smiles and says, thank you. It brings you a little boost, but the more you do it, the more, it becomes very expected that the reaction you get and it doesn’t really buy you any more happiness. So hold the door once or twice, but then the next day you might, you know, throw some trash away that somebody missed when they were checking it toward the cash bin. Or buy somebody a coffee at Starbucks or something like that, variant. Okay. Another thing is to maybe not have it be so anonymous. So if you donate money, you say online anonymously, you’re going to miss out on some of the benefits of feeling connected to people, of being acknowledged to being thanked. So of course we don’t, that’s not the reason why we help other people to help. Thanks. But it’s a nice side benefit. So making your helping kind of public or in person as opposed to anonymous and virtual. Yup.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:10:27] Okay. And what’s what you, I cut you off when you had a third tip for happiness.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:10:31] Whew. Ooh. Gosh. There’s so many. I could give you your main exercise. Physical exercise is a huge one. Just moving our bodies, even if it’s a little bit of a walk around the block. Nature especially. The power of nature, just to kind of distress the stress us and make us feel connected to something outside of ourselves and get us out of our own heads. So being outside in nature is a great one, too.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:10:58] When you talk about this exercise and outside you know, one of the things that you said was, was green and outside is kind of the best thing for you. Why, why is that? Why is it when you said it’s bigger than you?

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:11:07] So there’s, there’s this concept known as biophilia, which basically is touching on this idea that we are all evolutionarily speaking. We evolved in nature, in open spaces with fresh air, with green stuff, with vast spaces and more and more and more our lives have come inside. And we don’t expose ourselves to those things for many days, in some cases. Especially in the, over the last year. So that is something that we have to kind of consciously choose to expose ourselves to so that we can get all those benefits.

So there’s some really interesting studies looking at people say blood pressure and stress hormone levels before going out in nature for a walk. Some people are asked to go out and walk in nature while some people might walk in an urban area and then they come back and get those things measured again. And people show this decrease in stress, hormones, and blood pressure, just to name two markers when they’re walking in nature. So it has a really clear, measurable stress effect on our stress levels and our happiness.

Yeah. And

Nicholas Olesen: [00:12:16] of those two, those two, the, the stress and happiness. I feel like there’s. You mentioned in this perfect day, which is you get a little stressed to make the perfect day.

So how, how do you balance those two between trying to be happy and then just, you know, a phrase we use with our kids all the time, like savor the flavor, like just sit and be grateful for it. Like how do you balance those two things to not stress yourself out?

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:12:39] Yeah, that’s a great question. And there’s lots of different tips. One might be to just not make any plans. And I always have some students who just want to be spontaneous and let things unfold that might naturally. Another thing might be to let somebody else plan it for you. So you don’t have pressure. Just jumping ahead to travel, I find that’s really helpful with travel is like having somebody else to think about, or have you letting somebody else take the reigns can really just take some of that pressure off.

You have to kind of let go of that control. Some of us have a hard time doing that, but if you can that might be really helpful.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:13:20] Okay. Interesting. And is that a and so let’s go on the travel side of it is that when, when you look at the travel and the best tips for it and the best way to kind of enjoy it. Is have you seen, or is there research that shows the spontaneousness of it is, is really benefit again, we are all coming out of, of fun 18 months or however long this has been you know, what, what does, what should we be thinking about when we think about travel to make sure the best for us?

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:13:47] Well, it’s hard because travel is so rare and especially for going far away and sending off money. It’s hard to just be like, Hey, we’ll just see what happens. Right. So, and we also know that it’s not great to have every moment planned because then you have no opportunity to. Just kind of have serendipitous, lovely things happen. So trying to find that balance is it’s really hard. Some advice might be to plan, you know, maybe plan a general outline of your day, or be sure you have some free time so that you can allow for spontaneity.

So you don’t want to play it every moment, but you also don’t want to play nothing. So finding that sweet spot. Is probably the best, the best advice. And then also taking into account who you are as a person is something that sometimes, you know, the research kind of forgets to acknowledge, but we’re all, we’re all different.

So looking within a bit too.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:14:40] Yeah, no. And you, you hit on the control controlling and allowing others to plan things out for you. I think you have to know if that’s something you can do and that’s a big one thinking of it. Hey, do I really want to be. You know, kind of giving up that side of it. And, and this, this kind of pulls on the thread of, or it goes down the Moneyline and also the travel line, which is a lot of the research that you came back and showed was how we use our money is really important and experiences and time were usually kind of the biggest ones that were most worth it, I think is a good phrase to use. Like, why is that? Why, why.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:15:12] So there’s a lot of research showing that experiential purchases tend to make us happier in general than material purchases that cost the same amount of money. Okay. And it’s not obvious because really, you know, experiences exist in time. And then they’re over and material things we have for life of that item, which can be forever or years. So one thing that happens though, is that those material possessions kind of lose focus. They get old, they get rusty, they fall apart, better things come out. Whereas a memory such as an experience, like a great meal or a trip or a concert or any number of things, those things just get better in time, as we think about them, as we look back at the pictures and tell the stories. Those things tend to get shinier and fancier over time and the material things just get kind of dingy. So that’s one reason. They also feed into our sense of identity a lot more. Now imagine you buy gosh, a weekend away at a ski lodge versus buying yourself a couple of new pieces of clothing. Like, which is going to feed into kind of, kind of person you are and the stories you can tell the parties and those kinds of.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:16:21] Yeah, no. And that identity one is, is key because I think in listening through the lectures on it, you know, this more who I think myself, who I think of myself as do I think of myself as someone who’s optimistic, has gratitude, is engaged, has a meaning to my life has a huge impact on happiness. So how, how can we increase those, those characteristics in ourselves?

Are there things we can do habits we can form.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:16:46] So gratitude, optimism, those kinds of things?

Nicholas Olesen: [00:16:49] Yeah.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:16:50] So gratitude, you know, I mentioned that count your blessings kind of gratitude, journaling exercise, which is sort of a classic, like writing down those things. Just practicing seeing them. And then the more you sit down and consciously write down, say three things.

You’re grateful for your life and practice that the more you’re going to just naturally see those things in your day to day, and you won’t have to write it down anymore. So that’s kind of the idea is you’re making a new habit. Yup. Optimism and happiness are really bound up together. Very strongly related.

So it’s hard to imagine like a happy pessimist. Right, right? So that’s another thing we can practice if we’re not inclined to think that way, kind of thinking about how could this go. Well, how could this upcoming thing be a success? Right. Looking back on your past, how, how have things gone well, for me in the past and kind of practice that mindset until again, it becomes a little bit more habitual.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:17:48] Yeah. Yeah. And that’s, that’s the one that you did say exactly right. Which is I don’t, I can picture people in my life who, I just think of them as always happy because they are optimistic, but there’s nobody that you think of as always happy who’s pessimistic towards things.

So like on that optimistic, is there any research around how to increase kind of a  or not just asking that question? Hey, how can this go? Well, or is that the question like, is that how we kind of become more optimistic by nature?

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:18:14] Well, yeah, so kind of practicing that, writing about it, writing is always more powerful than just thinking dwelling on it.

Something a little bit more formalized is an activity called best possible selves, where people are asked to write down for like 20 minutes, their best possible life that they can imagine for themselves, maybe five or 10 years down the road. So you can think about your career, your family goals, your hobbies, like they’re not a person you want to be at. Just really write out what that life would look like. And not everybody loves doing this. Some people like when I ask college seniors to do it, they get very stressed out because, ah, stop asking me about my future.  Everybody is doing that right now, but for a lot of people, this is very beneficial. It takes kind of maybe nebulous ideas about what the future might look like and kind of forces you to write them out in a way that’s structured and seems more attainable.

So that’s something that in addition to helping you kind of identify your goals also can just foster a sense of optimism, the more you practice it. So that’s, that’s one thing that has been looked at in the research.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:19:24] Yeah, no, that’s interesting that they have the writing down is, is we’ve seen that you know, as financial advisors, a lot of our work is around goals and trying to make sure people are aligning what we call, align your values with your capital.

Like make sure those two things are are in line in the writing down of goal. Like again, it brings out stress and people. That’s the funny part to me, is writing it down and having to say, this is my goal. It can be achievable and it can be, but it brings out stress. Like why, why do we all get so stressed about hoping for the future?

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:19:53] Well, I think one of the biggest stressors is the unknown. So what’s more unknown and what’s more unknown in the future. Or maybe if you have a really big goal and you write it, write it out, you see how much work it’s going to take. And, you know, it’s easier to just lay around and watch TV.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:20:11] Netflix it up, and you’re done it.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:20:13] Netflix it up. Yeah. While it is a good thing, it’s also, it can be a little bit stressful. There’s a lot of overlap, I think, between I told you I just got off my Peloton, so exercise on the brain, but yeah, being happiness and exercise. Sure. A lot of the things that bring these good feelings eventually, are a little bit hard, a little bit painful and it’s easier to not do them, but the benefit long-term is huge.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:20:39] Yeah, no, that’s, it’s having read a lot of your stuff and, and in preparation for this, one of the things I quickly noticed was that you’re a runner and that you do a lot of marathons and, and you had one article where you talked through, you know, not wanting to fit in, not wanting to go run the marathon.

And then what are all the reasons why? And I think it does, it brings on this stress. It’s, you know, it’s, that’s my identity. I said to people, I was going to do it. I wanted to achieve this goal. And then on the flip side, like how much more happier were you that you were able to accomplish that versus just kind of,

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:21:13] Oh, hugely.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:21:15] Yeah, I think that’s why we all do it. Like that’s, that’s the big thing. When I read through that, I pictured myself there and just said, yeah, like I, if I have to tell people I didn’t do it, then you have this huge weight on you.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:21:27] Definitely. That’s where you miss the strength and the growth that comes from it.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:21:31] Yeah. Yeah, no, so much of it, the story that’s. So on the, on the money side and back to kind of things that we buy, you know, one of the things that you said on there and this, this goes for things that we buy, and then also, I think just habits or food we enjoy, or things like that. You talk about selective deprivation.

Why, why does that help with happiness? Like how does that bring happiness or, or kind of joy back in?

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:21:55] Yeah, it’s a little counter-intuitive, which is one reason I love that idea. There’s this idea known as hedonic adaptation, which is a fancy way of saying that we get used to things, all the nice things around us, right. Especially if we have them in abundance, we have them all the time. So one way to play with..

Nicholas Olesen: [00:22:14] We live in America right now. So we do, Hey,

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:22:18] that concept is to just deprive yourself of it for a little while and maybe so. At this time, what is it? Spring of 2021. We are slowly getting all those things back that we’ve missed for the last year, and isn’t it great? We experiencing that right now. I just had my first dinner inside of a restaurant last week. Vaccinated been vaccinated for a month and it was amazing.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:22:45] I would say the joy you felt like we haven’t, we haven’t done that yet. And I can’t tell you how excited I am about.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:22:50] So that’s, that’s just one example of how that could become very ordinary if you do it all the time, when you don’t do it for awhile, you’re deprived of it. It just seems very special. So not to say a pandemic is a great thing. But we can, you know, benefit from the fact that we haven’t had a lot of these special, extraordinary things in a while. So keep your eye out for those things.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:23:17] Yeah. Now that it is one of those counter-intuitive, but I love it. It’s funny, a lot of, a lot of the happiness research that I read through your writing and things. So I, I have an eight year old, a six year old and almost five-year-old, and it’s these things that by default, I see in them, if I take a toy away for a little while, and then I bring it back, they play with it for hours with so much joy.

And so, but I never thought of it as, Oh, it’s selective deprivation. I don’t think of it that way. But so much of the it’s it was just interesting. All these little things that were yeah. W one of the other ones that I thought was just really interesting and people need to go listen to the, go listen to the audible lectures. Because it’s one in there that you had was temptation bundling. And I thought it was just such a smart trick. We’re not going to go into it. So people kept to go listen to your, listen to it, but it’s just a great. A great thing that you put on there. So that was, that was just fantastic.

So let’s, let’s transition and let’s talk, you know, we’re going to spend another, call it 10 minutes talking and I, I really want to get to travel because you’ve literally written the book on how to be a happy traveler, how to succeed there. I mean, the title of the book is legitimately “The Happy Traveler: Unpacking the Secrets of Better Vacations”. And as we just touched on this is spring of 2021, we are all eager to get our vacations back in. Give me just two or three things, we touched on a little bit earlier, but give me two or three secrets to a better vacation.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:24:42] Okay. One and I didn’t realize how key this was until I started talking about the book and the different concepts in the book. Once you spend, as who are you traveling with and how are you going to get along with that person? So generally we’re not used to spending so much time with someone, but when we travel with them, You’re together all the time and you both have very strong intuitions about what you’d want this expensive and very special experience to look like.

So communicating what those needs are, what those desires are, is. Really important and think about, are you even compatible? So, and sometimes we don’t get to choose our travel partners. They’re our family or our partner. So if you do think you’re pretty incompatible, like how are you going to, how are you going to deal with that?

Can you talk about it? Can you, you know, you get to plan one day in your fashion and I’ll deal with it and I’ll play it the next day and you deal with it. Yeah. But that’s, that’s one tip is don’t just assume that it’s going to go well. Because you’re somewhere beautiful. Right?

Nicholas Olesen: [00:25:48] Right. No, that’s a great, that’s a great one.

What, when you’re planning out these trips and thinking of them, and you mentioned kind of giving space, and I think that one, right when you said that I can think of 10, maybe 11 years ago. Now my wife and I went to Italy. We had 10 days of at, we only had 10 days and we didn’t a lot of money. So we just said, we’re going to pack everything in.

And we had one afternoon that was empty and we happen to just sit and find a random it was like from, to the 16 hundreds soccer football game in the middle. And it was this town celebration in the middle of Florence. And it, it, we still talk about that now. And it was that those spontaneous things that you remember that is an experience to it.

What besides kind of those where we can have those ones in the back of our mind from previous experiences, are there other tips to get people to give yourself that space or are there things, or is, is there, you know, is food the thing that people remember the most? Like what are the things about vacations that, that kind of, we can make the most of.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:26:47] It does seem like this is more intuition, but this, it does seem like when people look back on their trips, it’s those kinds of moments that they look back on a really unique little, a meal that they had, or a person that they met and had a funny conversation with as opposed to when I saw the Eiffel tower for the first time I saw the Mona Lisa for the first time, right?

So we have these checklists where we feel like we have to see this and this and this, and we don’t allow for those kinds of moments. So the first thing you need is just time. Like you have that afternoon. So allowing time and then putting yourself out there. You know, really talking to people, good, getting out of the tourist areas and trying to figure out where the locals go.

So there’s a, I’m reading a book right now called rediscovering travel. By a guy who wrote for the New York times, Eddie talked about I know we’ve been talking about my book, not his book, but you can take this out.  But,he talks about just taking risks. Taking chances that are not dangerous, but maybe outside your comfort zone. That’s really where those moments might be more likely to happen. If you’re just kind of trapped following around a tour guide or or group, you know, you’re going to have a good time. Don’t get me wrong, but you’re really chasing those unique, memorable experiences you have to get out of a tour group and go explore on your own and take some chances.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:28:15] Yeah, no, that’s it. The taking chances, it’s interesting.  That advice on travel fits in perfectly with one of the things that you write about or talk about in your lecture, which is talking to strangers. It. If, if you had told me, Hey, you need to go. And you know, when you’re standing in line for a cup of coffee, you gotta talk to somebody. I don’t know. 30% of the time I’d feel okay about it. The other 70% I’d be like, no, thanks. I’m okay. Why is that key? Both in travel. Cause I think you’re right, and in life and happiness.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:28:46] We get, so this is another surprising little tip. We get so much little daily happiness from social interactions. And we think those may have to be with our partners or our close friends or people we know. But actually we can get a lot out of just a really casual, short conversation with a stranger, with someone we may never talk to again. It goes back again to this evolution.

Like we evolved in groups. We evolved not staring at screens, not sitting alone by ourselves, but being connected to people. And over time we’ve gotten so far away from that. And just feeling that brief moment of connection with someone, even if it’s just like, Hey, beautiful day outside, or, Hey, do you think that that frappuccino thing is any good?

Chances are the person isn’t going to snap you, the person will talk to you and it’ll be a nice pleasant interaction that makes you feel surprisingly good. So yeah, taking those chances. It’s it’s just scary. It’s easier not to.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:29:48] Yeah, no, it is. It is. But it’s, it’s funny how much those conversations lead to the things you remember or kind of feel good about today.

All right. So for, I have. I put down four rapid fire questions will come up as the queen of travel. And I, I just am jealous of the kids that I know are going to go, hopefully 2022, you guys are back in Scandinavia, is that what I saw? I hope so, man. That’ll be, that’ll be good for them. So rapid fire question, partly because I’m a little biased towards Italy, just from the trip I told you about, we just still love it. Which is pizza or gelato in Italy, which one’s your favorite?

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:30:22] Pizza?

Nicholas Olesen: [00:30:22] Okay, well that timid timid answer, but I’ll take it.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:30:25] I got to spend three months in Florence, by the way afterI wrote my book. So I had a lot of material going through my mind, so that’s where the hesitation came from. All those gelatos… oh..

Nicholas Olesen: [00:30:35] Florence and that’s, that was our favorite city of in Italy, across the board. It’s just such, there is, there’s just so much, I don’t know. So much to that city.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:30:43] I got to go with JMU. We have a campus in Florence.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:30:47] Yeah, that is wonderful. I know everyone’s got to get, if you’re, if you’re young and listen to this, please go actually have a client who’s going to JMU whose child is going to JMU and I’m very excited for them it’s going to be wonderful. So I’ll let them know they got to go to Italy. So Sweden is from what I’ve seen and from your course, that’s where you spend a lot of time.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:31:04] Sweden and Denmark.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:31:05] Okay. Just because they’re generally happy people. It’s, it’s kind of a funny thing.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:31:09] They’re among the happiest people in the world, according to surveys. So we go and we try to figure out why.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:31:15] Why?

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:31:16] Well, yeah, there’s a lot of reasons. Some are things and not easily brought back to the U S like socialized healthcare medicine. The, the safety net and some of it is the term hygge. H Y G G E. The Danish word that means, most closely translated to like, cozy.

Okay. So if that’s something maybe we practice in the last year. Being home a lot, just kind of creating a nice cozy atmosphere at home and. You know, lighting candles and having nice warm drinks with our friends and just the absence of unpleasantries. So there’s the hygge atmosphere that we also explore something that we can bring back.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:31:56] Right, right, right. Yeah. Interesting. Very cool. Okay. So favorite city in the world to visit.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:32:02] Oh my gosh…

Nicholas Olesen: [00:32:04] You got to pick one.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:32:05] Copenhagen. Okay.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:32:07] Okay. Why, what, what brings that one into the forefront?

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:32:09] I love biking for one and it’s, it’s one of the most bike-able cities. It’s beautiful, you know, on a small scale, like there’s no grand mountains or sweeping vistas of that nature, but just so much attention to architecture and art and design. And it’s just, I get to go in the, in the beautiful spring time and summertime. So the weather’s perfect. The days are long. Yeah. And I guess I just miss it also.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:32:34] Yeah. Yeah. That was a good, good memory there. All right. And then the last one, which is best hikes around JMU?

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:32:41] Oohh, gosh.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:32:44] Or bikes. I, I I’ll, I’ll do either question.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:32:47] Ok, well I like to road bike. So there’s some beautiful roads out around Dayton.

Yep. And you’ll see horse and buggies, you’ll see mountains. You won’t see too many cars and that’s a, that’s a place I’ve had a lot of nice bike rides. And then for hikes as a bonus I’ll to be bonus anything. I mean, anything off Shenandoah Drive. Buy a national park pass for Shenandoah and just go explore.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:33:10] Yeah. It’s if you go out there, they’re used to being, I don’t know if it’s still there. We haven’t, we haven’t checked it out. There used to be a little stand on the way outside of Harrisonburg, you’d go towards West Virginia, there was a little teeny mom and pop shop that sold hotdogs and a soda for 50 cents. And it was the best deal in the world on the way to some good hikes. So. I’ll have to, I’ll put it, I’ll put a link to where that place is and see if it still there.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:33:32] Sounds like a perfect day.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:33:34] Yeah, there you go. I like this full circle. All right. Well, this was absolutely fabulous. We’re going to put links in the show notes to the lecture on audible to your other books. And I just, I really appreciate your time. This was great.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:33:47] This is really fun.

Nicholas Olesen: [00:33:48] All right. Well, have a great rest of day.

Dr. Jaime Kurtz: [00:33:50] All right, you too.


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