This Emotional Life This Emotional Life The science of happiness: What it is, why it’s important, what we’re doing to find it and what’s standing in the way.

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Happiness isn’t just a universal desire. It’s a biological need. Why does it evade so many? More than half of the 300 million United States citizens experience some type of mental health issue in their lifetimes—issues that stands between them and happiness. The critically acclaimed and award-winning This Emotional Life, doesn’t just explore our human desire and struggle for happiness. It offers solutions on how to attain it. The series unfolds across three two-hour episodes. "Family, Friends & Lovers" probes the nature of the social relationships that are the key to human happiness; "Facing Our Fears" looks at obstacles to happiness—negative emotions such as fear, anger, anxiety and depression—and what we can do to cope with them; and "Rethinking Happiness," uncovers new scientific research that is transforming our understanding of this most elusive of emotions. A co-production of Vulcan Productions and the NOVA/WGBH Science Unit, This Emotional Life is hosted by Harvard psychologist and best-selling author of Stumbling on Happiness, Professor Daniel Gilbert, who talks with experts about the latest science on what makes us “tick” and how we can find support for the emotional issues we all face. Each episode weaves together the compelling personal stories of ordinary people and the latest scientific research along with revealing comments from celebrities like Chevy Chase, Larry David, Alanis Morissette, Robert Kennedy, Jr., and Richard Gere.

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  • Daniel Gilbert: Host
  • Jesse Sweet: Producer
  • Sabin Streeter : Producer
  • Alexis Bloom: Producer
  • Chana Gazit: Producer
  • Mary Robertson: Producer
  • Jack Youngelson : Producer
  • Tina Nguyen: Producer
  • Graham Judd: Senior Producer
  • Lisa Mirowitz: Senior Producer
  • Bonnie Benjamin-Phariss: Supervising Producer, Vulcan Productions
  • Paul G. Allen : Executive-in–Charge, Vulcan Productions
  • Jody Allen : Executive-in–Charge, Vulcan Productions
  • Richard Hutton: Senior Executive Producer, Vulcan Productions
  • Dyllan McGee: Executive Producer, Kunhardt McGee Productions
  • Peter W. Kunhardt: Executive Producer, Kunhardt McGee Productions

Learning Happiness

In keeping with Vulcan’s objective to create positive and lasting change in the world, the This Emotional Life team developed an outreach strategy to help audiences understand the science and skills surrounding happiness, mental health and emotional wellness. It explores the impact of early nurturing on neural and social development, the growing evidence that cutting-edge treatments for anxiety and depression may transform the structure of the brain, and new research about qualities such as resiliency and adaptation as critical to emotional wellbeing. Presented through the lens of both ordinary and famous people who share insights into their personal struggles, This Emotional Life explores a diverse range of topics, from early childhood attachment, and bullying to marital struggles and clinical depression, to self-help and resiliency.



Approximately one in five adults has a diagnosable mental disorder.


“I went through six or seven years of real depression. I just couldn’t quite figure out what it was.”

Chevy Chase


With proper care and treatment, between 70 and 90 percent of people with mental illness experience a significant reduction of symptoms and an improved quality of life.

We’re in it as One

We knew we couldn’t do it alone. So we began outreach efforts months before the series premiere. Our media outreach connected with major health, science, feature, and lifestyle reporters; web and viral campaigns on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook; Targeted print and online campaigns; and partnerships with Mayo Clinic, Mental Health America, Blue Star Families, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and the University of Phoenix. We also forged bonds with well-known media personalities, to humanize and de-stigmatize mental illness. It worked. The public responded emphatically across myriad media.


Print, broadcast and radio media relations garnered over 83 million media impressions on an under-reported issue, with coverage in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, Zap2it, New York Daily



156,000 viewers made the video one of the 10 most popular on iTunes.



Our awareness marketing campaign reached more than 613 million people.

Finding Ways to Serve

In January 2010 the This Emotional Life website received over a million visits. The campaign continues to provide practical tools, resources and support to Americans on their journey to happiness and greater emotional wellness. A robust, bi-directional website serves as the online home for the campaign, and provides in-depth content and connections for the viewers of the series and beyond. In addition to the outreach campaign, The This Emotional Life team identified two specific areas with potential for direct impact—childhood attachment and the emotional wellness of military families. Then we developed innovative multimedia toolkits for each: "Early Moments Matter" features print and video tools to teach the skills needed for healthy attachments with children. "Everyone Serves" was developed in partnership with leaders from the U.S. military, to help the family, friends and support network of our country’s service members through the emotional stressors of the deployment cycle.


Vulcan Productions developed the Everyone Serves toolkit to assist military family members and friends cope with the emotional toll of deployments and reintegration.


“Itʼs the best product Iʼve seen so far and I would like to put it in the hands of family readiness groups and each family”

Jason Wieman, LTC MIL USA


We created the Early Moments Matter toolkit to provide parents and caregivers information and activities that encourage healthy, two-way relationships with infants and young children.



2.8 million visitors have used the site’s resources since 2009.

Action & Impact


220K "Everyone Serves" handbooks have been distributed to friends and families of U.S. military service members


86K+ "Early Moments Matter" toolkits have been distributed through our innovative Pay-It-Forward retail store



The viral campaign produced over 494 million media impressions with hundreds of mentions in blogs.

Get Involved:

Over 22,000 people are actively engaged in the project’s community on Facebook.