The Science of Well Being – the happiness course

At Yale there has been a huge increase for a FREE online course in well-being. Especially relevant with the current uncertainty being experienced by many around the world 

The Yale class, Psyc 157, ‘Psychology and the Good Life,’ is taught by Psychology Professor Laurie Santos. Nearly a quarter of all Yale undergraduates had enrolled in the class in its inaugural year — a fact that attracted media attention around the globe.

The Free online version of the course, titled “The Science of Well Being,” features lectures by Santos on things people think will make them happy but don’t — and, more importantly, things that bring lasting life satisfaction.

“The course is offered on”, said Professor Santos, “it’s a version of a class that I taught back in 2018 at Yale and it’s been the most popular course in Yale history course.”

“Over the last three weeks we have 1.6 mill learners enrolled. I think right now, in the midst of COVID 19, we are all worried about our mental health. We are feeling more anxious and uncertain than we have ever been.” she says

“I think people really want to do something about it and we know right now people know what they need to do about their physical health- washing their hands and keeping their distance from each other.

“I think we don’t know what we need to do about our mental health. I think we’re feeling more stressed than usual and this class gives us more strength through evidence based answers.

What things are being taught?

“The class really begins with some misconceptions you might have about happiness. That is, that happiness concerns how rich you are, your material possessions, even your circumstances.

“This last one is important with COVID 19. This idea that you have to have perfect circumstances to be happy. The research suggests that you can take on challenges and increase your happiness that way.

“We then focus on the kinds of things that make for a happy life. Things like taking time for social connections; taking the time to be other oriented and worry about others. To ensure you’re focusing on healthy habits like mindfulness and exercise and sleep. All of these things are critically important in the world of COVID 19.

“The science is now validating a lot of the ancient traditions like meditation and mindfulness. The class will touch on this ancient wisdom.

“We measure peoples’ self-reported well-being before and after the class. What we are finding so far, is that people on a 10 point happiness scale seem to go up a single point after the course—which doesn’t sound like a lot but is a statistical fact. So, if you say you are a 6/10 before the class and at the end you say ‘no I’m a 7/10’ which in this day of COVID 19 can make an incredible difference

The course commences March 31st US time

Professor Santos spoke to the BBC World service ‘Newshour’