ARI: My guest today is Stella Grizont, who is the founder of Woopaah! Hi, Stella.
STELLA: Hi. Well said. That is exactly how you should say it every time.
ARI: Before I even ask any questions, there was a psychology article I read the other day with psychology
hacks, and one of the things it said you should do to be happier is that when you wake up in the
morning, the second you wake up, you should hop out of bed, put your hands up in the air, and go,
“Yeah!” Anyway, the “Woopaah” reference I’m guessing is Chandler?
STELLA: No. It’s so interesting, I’ve learned about all these woopaah references after I’ve launched my
businesses. It was just like an epiphany. I loved how it made me feel when I just said it, so I was like “I
want people to feel happy every time they say my company name,” and so there it was, yeah.
But the standing up is really good, because this posture signals to your nervous system that you’re
confident and you’re victorious, and it does all kinds of things. So good posture is very important for
your happiness, yeah.
ARI: So in case everybody doesn’t realize, we’re going to be talking about happiness. So what is
STELLA: I launched Woopaah to help organized and employees essentially get unstuck and thrive being
their most creative and productive and happy self, because we know that when employees are well,
they’re more productive, they are more creative, and they’re performing better.
So by teaching people about wellbeing and positive psychology and the science of happiness, which is
what we do, and coaching individuals on how to really find meaning in their life, we help organizations
and people run better.
ARI: Makes sense. I like happiness. I think most people like happiness. But how do you hack happiness?
STELLA: Yeah, that’s a great question. Well… okay, one of the things that is very tricky about our minds
and our brains is that we have something called a negativity bias. What that means is that we have a
natural instinct to focus on what is bad, wrong, or threatening. Our mind automatically goes there.
Regardless of how optimistic we are or whatever, our mind tends to pay attention to the bad stuff first,
and that’s a survival instinct that worked really well for us back in the day of cavemen, etc.
But if we really want to be happy and thrive, what we have to do is hack that wiring and rewire our
thinking, rewire our instincts, in order to be able to step positively and see all the goodness around us
first. Or at least be able to curtail the time and the space that we spend in the negative zone and be able
to either step back into the positivity or at least hold the positive events in another hand while we’re
holding the negative events in one hand.
That wasn’t very articulate, but basically, hacking happiness is about training and rewiring your brain to
really focus on what is good and how to handle the bad so that you can quickly bounce back from it.
Because we can’t eliminate the bad stuff from our lives and the negative events that happen, but what
we can do is train ourselves to deal with them more fluidly.
ARI: How is this – not how is this; it’s got a lot of basis, obviously, in cognitive behavioral therapy and
stoicism, even, right?
STELLA: I’m not familiar with stoicism.
ARI: Okay, but cognitive behavioral therapy actually has a big basis on stoicism, stoicism being the
ancient philosophy, basically, saying that we can’t change events, but we can change our perception of
STELLA: Oh, absolutely, yes, yes, yes.
ARI: Actually, let’s back up a little bit. How did you get to this place? Did you have something that was in
your life that made you turn to look for this? How did you become more or less an expert in happiness?
STELLA: That’s a great question. Just like everybody else, we all have our stories. I mean, you have an
amazing story of overcoming a disease, and that’s so inspiring. Everyone has their thing. I’ve
experienced loss from a very early age. I lost my father when I was 6, I lost grandfathers early on,
grandparents in the Holocaust, that family stuff. I don’t think any one of those events – I worked really
hard and burned myself out multiple times. I had a bunch of bad relationships that broke my heart. So I
think we’ve all had our stuff.
But I’ve always been interested in how does the human spirit triumph, and how do we make ourselves
better, and how do we make ourselves stronger? So I was always in the self-help aisle since I understood
there was a self-help aisle. And I finally discovered that there’s a field of science dedicated to helping
people live the life worth living and understanding what that actually means from a science-based
perspective, and I signed up.
There’s a Master’s in Applied Positive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and I got in, and
that’s been amazing. I’ve been sharing that information with people since.
ARI: Actually, that was my alma mater also, and I had a psychology minor, sort of accidentally, at the
University of Pennsylvania. Martin Seligman obviously was – did you work with Martin?
STELLA: Yeah, he was my professor.
ARI: Okay, right. So Martin Seligman basically being the father of positive psychology, essentially.
Actually, let’s talk about that for a minute, because I know you said we have a negativity bias; I know
about it, but it still always seems funny to me that we have to have positive psychology, like that should
be a distinction.
STELLA: I agree with you. However, because – even if you think about the way our science, our fields are
formed and so much of how we frame life – psychology to date is still a new science, and it didn’t start
off this way, but it became a deficit model. So it was focused on “What’s wrong with people and how do
we fix it? How do we get people from -10 to 0?” It was really successful, and continues to be, in helping
us diagnose issues and help people return to some level of normalcy.
But instead of asking the question of what’s wrong with people, it wasn’t asking the questions of what’s
right with people and how do we amplify it? So we had to create a new field to ask those series of
questions and reframe how we look at the human being and wellbeing and what it means to be happy.
So we were just taking the same empirical approach to asking a different set of questions.
But if you even think about our medicine – I mean, if you think about so many fields, it always starts
with the problem rather than, “What’s good about this and how do we make it better?” And that, again,
probably comes from that negativity bias, because we want to fix what’s wrong right now, instead of
thinking about “What’s awesome, and how do we make this even more awesome?”
ARI: It also seems like there’s this constant thing that if something bad happens, it applies to everything.
Like “I lost the job because I’m terrible at work and I can’t do good work and that’s the end of it” or
“This person broke up with me because I’m not good enough, period.” Obviously, not everybody
experiences that, but it does seem to be a general thing, right? The bad thing happens and then
everything is bad.
STELLA: Yeah. Martin Seligman, actually, one of the things that he became famous for is his theory
around learned optimism. He discovered that people tend to globalize negative events into their entire
reality. But some people don’t, and what he teaches, and what we continue to teach, is that we can
teach ourselves to isolate that event into just that event, and it doesn’t have to be your whole life. If you
didn’t get the sale, you’re not a loser and you’re not going to be not successful for the rest of your
So again, it’s about narrowing that gap between the event that sucked and keeping it contained rather
than letting it spill over into your identity, into what it means for your entire future or what it says about
ARI: Sure. One thing that most people have had at least some experience with is death. Once you get to
a certain age, pretty much everybody has had some experience, either a friend or a loved one. Hopefully
not, but it happens. That obviously is a legitimate hardship and something that’s very difficult, but how
are you supposed to reframe that?
STELLA: That’s an awesome question. Awesome question.
ARI: Thank you.
STELLA: I think that what people who are very resilient are able to do is hold in one hand the sadness of
the loss that they’re experiencing, and all the other emotions that come with that, and experience them
– so we don’t want to deny the loss – but at the same time, or pretty soon after you go through the
initial phases of mourning, you want to be able to also hold in your hand the celebration of life that was
had. Like the celebration of this person who was in your life, of all the memories, being able to
appreciate all the goodness that they brought into your life and that they had on others.
So it’s being able to hold the positive and the negative and being able to make some meaning out of the
experience. What is it that one can learn from this experience of death? How can we grow by going
through this experience? People who are very resilient and emotionally well off are able to hold the
positive and the negative at once and also make some kind of meaning out of the event.
Now, what that meaning is, it depends on the person and the experience, but it’s amazing that studies
show – there was this one study – I’m not super familiar with it, so I’m going to paraphrase and hope I
get it right, but people should look it up – they asked people who became quadriplegics about their
happiness and people who won the lottery about their happiness at the onset of becoming
handicapped, winning the lottery, and then I believe 1 year later.
What they found is that the quadriplegics, they all leveled off, and the quadriplegics were pretty much
almost at a level of happiness that they experienced when they weren’t handicapped. Again, please
double check my references for this one study, because this is one that I – but essentially, the human
spirit is amazingly resilient, and we’re able to make meaning out of what happens. And by meaning, I
mean seeing the big picture of how we belong to something bigger.
ARI: Okay, you mentioned resilience a couple times, which is something that I talk about actually a lot
with clients and things, and resilience seems to be at the core of a lot of really how people respond and
even thrive in certain events. So, how do you train? And I have my thoughts, but how do you train
resilience, as far as you’re concerned?
STELLA: There’s a number of ways to train resilience. The first thing that I talk about is that we talk about
learned optimism, which is the ability to isolate events into being their own contained events and
teaching people how to not identify with what it is that just happened. So being able to create some
space in between that.
We talk about strategies to identify what it is that you’re feeling. For example, a lot of people aren’t able
to actually hone into what it is they’re feeling. So if you don’t know what it is you’re feeling, then how is
it that you can move past it or process it? What most people do is tend to go numb or tend to distract
themselves away from what it is that they’re feeling, so that they don’t have a chance to really look at it.
So that’s another strategy that we use.
And coming up, I’m actually working on an online class on this very topic. I’m developing the material
right now, and I’d be happy to share it with your audience, probably in a few months.
ARI: Is that different from the Udemy course that we’re going to talk about next?
STELLA: Yeah, it’s going to be focused purely on helping people bounce back. What about you? What are
some of the strategies that you like to use?
ARI: I’m a big fan of heart rate variability training, honestly. I think that for very Type A people – and this
is coming from someone who is a trained yoga instructor, and I’ve done a lot of meditation, but honestly
I struggle with meditation, whereas the heart rate variability is a really good feedback loop for me.
STELLA: Exactly, you get the feedback, yeah.
ARI: So I get a lot of out of it personally, and I find that it has really lasting effects.
STELLA: Yeah, that’s great. I think there’s infinite ways for us to approach whatever our challenges are,
and what I always encourage people to do is to listen for what works for them. Like for you, that
feedback loop is really critical. After exploring yoga and meditating, you found what works for you, and
that’s the #1 thing I encourage people to do, is to constantly listen for what is it that works for you.
ARI: Right, exactly. Let’s talk about the Udemy course, because I did get to experience it, and it’s very
well done. The title is – well, tell me what the title is, exactly. It’s about the hacking of happiness,
STELLA: It’s “The Science of Happiness: Hacks and Skills to Flourish.”
ARI: Right. What are people going to see in that course?
STELLA: The purpose of that course is to give people, one, a foundation in understanding what positive
psychology is all about, and helping them understand what it means to truly flourish and live the good
life based on science.
In positive psychology, Martin Seligman – we talked about him – he developed something called the
theory of wellbeing, which tracks five drivers as the elements of what it takes to flourish. So those five
One, experiencing a level of positive emotion. So that’s feeling happy, that’s feeling a sense of gratitude,
that’s feeling a sense of love. We want to experience positive emotion. So I take people through the
science of what is emotion? How do we control those bad moods? How do we bounce back quickly?
The second element of wellbeing is engagement and flow, and that’s the state we experience when
we’re just so lost in the moment, like time passes by, we don’t even realize that things are going on
around us. Unfortunately, most people don’t experience that state very often, but there are ways to get
into that state more often, and it’s available to us in every moment. So we talk about engagement and
We talk about relationships, which are the core driver of our happiness. Relationships are the #1
predictor of our happiness. We talk about how relationships affect our brain, how they affect our
bodies. We address the loneliness epidemic that’s happening in our country right now; 40% of people
report they’re lonely. I could talk about this for hours. So we go into relationships and how to create
more connection with those around you, and also how to communicate with those so that you can
receive love in the way that you are able to receive love. Because all of us receive and give love very
differently, and sometimes we’re just speaking different languages when we’re in relationship.
The fourth driver that we talk about of wellbeing is meaning. That’s about belonging to something
bigger than yourself, and it’s about connecting the dots. Kind of how we referenced before, we were
talking about what happens when someone dies, and it’s just so horrible, the loss, or something bad
happens in your life? How do you transform struggle into transformation and something you can grow
And then we talk about achievement, which is the final pillar of the theory of wellbeing. And that’s
about performance, and that’s about having a sense of mastery over something in your life. We give
some hacks around that.
So that theory of wellbeing is – an acronym to remember all of those pillars is PERMA, and that’s how
the class is organized. We include some great research and studies, and then we include what I call
Happiness Hacks, which are practices to help you amplify each of those pillars.
ARI: What is one thing that you think somebody can do right now, like right after they finish listening to
this podcast and they’re all amped up? What is one thing that they can do to try to be more happy – or
try to be more positive, I guess?
STELLA: I would start with gratitude. Gratitude is the gateway emotion.
ARI: It comes up all the time.
STELLA: All the time, because it’s so freaking easy. But here’s the thing, and here’s the trick: it’s easy for
us to automatically almost go to “Oh, here’s what I’m grateful for. I’m grateful that I have a home or that
I have clothes on my back or I have my family.”
What I encourage people to do is definitely start with whatever comes up for you and write it down – or
I used to do walking gratitude meditations when I lived in New York City. When I’d get off the subway
until I got to my destination, I would say “I’m grateful for, I’m grateful for” without pause, and just keep
thinking of things I was grateful for.
In the beginning, for a lot of people, they don’t feel much. They’re like, “Yeah, I know this. I know I have
a lot to be grateful for, but I still feel like shit.” That is normal. What I encourage people to do, and that’s
why I would do my walking gratitude meditations, is I would have to keep going for like 5 minutes of
what I’m grateful for to finally let the gratitude seep from my brain, which is like “Yeah, I know I have a
lot to be grateful for,” to have it seep down into here.
Meaning I had to feel the gratitude. It’s not just enough to know what you’re grateful for, but you have
to feel the gratitude, to the point where you’re like “Oh my God,” getting the chills, maybe you’re
getting a little teary. That’s how gratitude can unlock things for you. And it may take a little bit of time to
So if it doesn’t work for you right away, just give yourself a little bit of time. Do a free write, “I’m grateful
for…” Give yourself at least 3 minutes and nonstop writing or thinking, or talk about it with someone
else. My husband and I, before we go to bed – a lot of nights; I wouldn’t say every single night, but a lot
of nights, we’ll just reflect on our day and on each other, and be like “I’m really grateful that you did this
today. I’m really grateful for this.”
And even if you’re not in the mood, when someone else triggers it for you, especially if they’re saying
what they’re grateful for about you, it definitely helps send you into that space of feeling and gratitude.
So I would start there. That’s just an easy one.
ARI: Yeah. Okay, I like that a lot. The last question that I love to ask people is what are your – and I sort
of tricked you know, because you already had to give one, in a way, but what are your top 3 tips for
personal effectiveness? What are those things that make you more effective every day? You can’t say
STELLA: Okay, I’m not going to say gratitude. The first one is listening, and I referenced this before. It’s
learning to listen to myself. I think this is the #1 thing that we can all learn, and I talk about this in the
course, is that we all have different listening styles and abilities to read what is happening inside of us. I
help people identify their listening style.
But being able to listen to myself and know what it is that I really, really, really want is kind of my North
Star. That is connected to values, that is connected to ethics, that is connected to my goals. So it’s being
able to listen to myself and stay true, because there’s all sorts of things that are motivating us; some of
them are internal, some of them are external. So if you can read the difference and continue to stay true
to yourself, I think that’s key.
So learn how to listen to yourself, and that listening can happen in different ways. It can happen through
your body; sometimes you just have a sense in your body. For some people, they hear it. For some
people, they notice events in their lives and they begin to connect the dots and they’re like, “This is
beginning to tell me something.”
Begin to identify how you’re getting your signals and fine-tune your antenna. So that’s the first thing I
The second thing I would do is honor your negative emotions. Feeling bad is not bad. We go through so
much stuff trying to avoid feeling bad that we make things worse. So if you can just let yourself be
honest with where you’re at and you actually label it, like “Oh my God, I’m feeling angry right now” or
“I’m feeling bad” or “I’m feeling disappointed,” that actually helps diminish the power of that emotion.
There’s a great study that shows MRI patients as they’re going through the machine, if the attendant
asks them “How do you feel?” and they say “I’m feeling kind of nervous,” it’s been shown that they feel
less nervous throughout the process, because they had a chance to label how they were feeling.
STELLA: Third one is I would really take time to revel, savor, develop relationships. It’s so easy to take
those in our lives for granted. They are the #1 driver, again, of our happiness, and we derive so much
from our relationships. Even the bad ones are great for growing. So really take time to listen and love
one another. Those are my three things.
ARI: I love those. I think those are wonderful. Stella, this has been honestly very uplifting for me, so
thank you. Can you please tell everybody where the best place to find out more about you, about
Woopaah, about the course, everything?
STELLA: Yeah. If you go to Woopaah.com – and it’s W-o-o-p-a-a-h.
ARI: We’re going to link to all this in the show notes, so don’t worry.
STELLA: Okay, good. When I thought of the name, I did not think of the very tricky spelling. So if you go
to the website, you’ll find info about the course and about me, and yeah, that’s where you can go.
ARI: Great. Stella, thank you so much. Everybody, keep being positive, and I’m sure we’ll talk to you
STELLA: That would be great. Thanks so much for having me.