During Spring 2018, the Yale psychology professor Laurie Santos disclosed a new course, Psychology and the Good Life. The topic was “happiness”. The class was the manifestation of the reaction to what she saw on campus. At the time, she lived within the midst of the students in residential housing. She saw something which shocked her to her very core. The current crop of students was more stressed, depressed, lonely, and anxious than any other before it. She wanted to help them in some way because of this. She thought teaching students some of the latest insights in positive psychology and behavioral economics would do the trick.
Santos’ course is a blend of the hypothetical and theory. It combines positive psychology with real-life utilization of behavioral science. While disparaging popular notions of what makes people happy, it helped the students. Understanding the habits they should build to lead happier, more fulfilling lives surprisingly enhanced their “happiness” level.
This course was launched in the US at Yale University, a prestigious Ivy-league college. Having gone viral due to its popularity, it garnered national and international media attention.
To provide access to the course to more people, Santos designed a version of it for the online learning platform Coursera. It is called The Science of Well-Being and available for FREE to non-Yale students. After hearing so much about it, I decided to take it to during lockdown to see how it could benefit me.
Topics covered in the weekly “Happiness” sessions:
- Misconceptions about happiness
- Why our expectations are so bad
- How we can overcome our biases
- Stuff that really makes us happy
- Putting strategies into practice
Within each section are video lectures, optional readings, and “rewirement” activities to perform daily to build happier habits. Research proposes that if the rewirements are completed as recommended, a lift in mood and overall well-being would result.
The “Happiness” Course:
To make the class feel warm and inviting, it is shot in Santos’ own home. A few Yale students were in attendance. It exuded intimacy with Santos’ tone friendly and conversational to put everyone at ease.
Thankfully there was no required readings involved. All the information needed to complete the course was summarized within the lecture itself. If you wish to delve deeper into the subject matter at hand, Santos provides links to complementary readings. Further, this is a self-paced course with no grade penalty for a missed assignment deadline. An additional benefit for the busy professional.
Sign up to take the course for free or continue reading to find out more through my own personal experience.
Personal Experience with the “Happiness” Course:
I fully acknowledge that I normally find classes online or otherwise rather mind numbing. However, this course was one of the exceptions to this unconscious bias of mine.
To my surprise, I really enjoyed taking this course. It was useful information to have on hand especially since I took it during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown! Most of the class legwork is performing daily “rewiring” activities. They are designed to build better habits into your life to make you happier after having taken the course.
- At the conclusion of the course I was happier. At the beginning, I filled out two questionnaires to measure my baseline happiness. At the end of the course, I was told to take them again for comparison purposes. My numbers increased significantly. Hopefully, yours will rise as well.
- There was an unexpected benefit. As one of the “rewirement” activities, I wrote to someone to thank them for something they had done for me. If I wasn’t told to do this, I most likely would have put off reaching out to the person in question indefinitely. Being too busy and lacking time are the reasons I normally use to excuse myself from these activities.
- It was very helpful that the course was online. This especially holds true due to being on lockdown. We could not attend classes outside of our own homes! Further, I re-watched some of the lectures which is impossible to do for in-person courses. I did not feel I had to ask or answer any questions either.
While this course is self-paced, you should implement the rewiring techniques on a weekly schedule to optimal benefit. Research shows that improving your well-being takes daily, intentional effort on your part over the long haul. As this is a ten-week class, it will be a great opportunity for you to try doing this.
The professor followed up this free course with a free podcast, The Happiness Lab. Each episode focuses in on one theme and it is discussed in-depth.
Within your region, are there other FREE courses which have been helpful for you during the pandemic lockdown? If so, please tell us within the “Comments” section of this article.