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The Contentment Foundation loves asking questions about human health, wellbeing, and self-awareness. We thrive on new scientific innovations, uncovering philosophies that give us new insights, and synthesizing ancient modern wisdom to find the best practices for cultivating unconditional wellbeing in life.


We value evidence-based approaches to cultivating and understanding contentment, because it makes us confident that what we’re putting out into the world actually works. That’s why we partner with the world-renowned UC Berkeley Social Interaction Lab, which focuses on understanding human emotions across cultures and individuals. The BSI lab is the research arm of the Contentment Foundation, and we support brilliant minds who work to advance our knowledge and understanding of contentment in the self and others.


As we continue to develop new wellbeing interventions for schools around the world and refine our Four Pillars of Wellbeing curriculum, we’re partnering with one of the top child study labs on the planet – the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. We want to make sure that all of our wellbeing lessons continue to be world-class and maximally effective across diverse classrooms.

With our Wellbeing Lab team, we’ve been working out the beautiful and exciting mystery of contentment and have made some exciting breakthroughs along the way. There’s still so much to explore, so here’s a snapshot of what we’ve discovered so far, and where we’re headed in the future.

1. Contentment is universally recognized and understood. This is a big finding, because it likely means that this is something that all human beings can experience and cultivate with practice.

Cordaro, D. T., Keltner, D., Tshering, S., Wangchuk, D., & Flynn, L. M. (2016). The voice conveys emotion in ten globalized cultures and one remote village in Bhutan. Emotion, 16 (1), 117.

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Keltner, D. & Cordaro, D.T. (2016) "Understanding Multimodal Emotional Expressions: Recent Advances in Basic Emotion Theory", Emotion Researcher, ISRE's Sourcebook ofr Research on Emotion and Affect, Andrea Scarantino (ed.)

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Keltner, D., Tracy, J., Sauter, D., Cordaro, D., McNeil, G. Expression of Emotion. In Barrett, L.F., Lewis, M., Haviland-Jones, J.M. (Eds.). Handbook of Emotions. pp. 467-482. Guilford Press.

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Cordaro, D. T., Sun, R., Keltner, D., Kamble, S., Huddar, N., McNeil, G., Emotion (2017, in press). Universals and Cultural Variations in 22 Emotional Expressions Across Cultures. Emotion

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2. Most of the major philosophies and spiritual traditions spanning the 5000 years that we’ve studied so far talk about contentment as an important state to cultivate for self-awareness, the environment, and for developing healthy communities. Fascinatingly, they rarely talk about happiness. This is important, because we’re finding that happiness and contentment are very different from one another – something that the wise philosophers from the past already seemed to understand.

Cordaro, D. T., Brackett, M., Glass, L., & Anderson, C. L. (2016). Contentment: Perceived completeness across cultures and traditions. Review of General Psychology, 20(3), 221.

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3.More recently, we’re finding that contentment is a really special state that fundamentally differs from what we know of as happiness. Our current research is focusing on the following questions:

● How is contentment different from other pleasant emotions?

● What is a contented person really like?

● How does contentment express in the brain?

● How does contentment impact concepts like materialism, self-awareness, unconditional self-acceptance?

● Can contentment help reduce narcissism and increase compassion?

● What are the best strategies to cultivate contentment in schools?