Ask a happiness expert if the East Bay is a great place to pursue happiness, and you’re likely to hear that our circumstances—including where we live—have surprisingly little effect on our sense of contentment. A better question might be: What makes the East Bay such a rich environment in which to explore the science of happiness?

“I think the interest in well-being, kindness, and collaboration is part of the identity of Berkeley,” says Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph.D., the science director at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center (GGSC), a research hub dedicated to furthering our understanding of the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being. “Some of the practices—for example, [in] the mindfulness or contemplative space—were already embraced and happening in the Bay Area before scientists came in and were like, ‘Wait a minute, let’s see if this stuff works.’”

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