Everyone Can Now Take Yale's Most Popular Class on Happiness

After an overwhelming response to its course, Yale University made 'The Science of Well-Being' available for free online.


Yale university buildings in spring blue sky in New Haven, CT USA

Yale University buildings in spring blue sky in New Haven, CT USA (f11photo / Shutterstock.com)

Earlier this year, Yale University broke its record for the most popular course in the University’s history. The topic: happiness. Launched by Professor Laurie Santos, the course teaches students both what scientific research has to say about increasing happiness as well as how to integrate those strategies into our daily lives.

Santos originally named the course “Psychology and the Good Life”. A few days after registration opened, an unexpected 1,200 students signed up for the class- that’s about one-fourth of the undergraduate student body! Thus making it the most popular class in the University’s 316-year history.

“The first half of the course” the course outline reads “reveals misconceptions we have about happiness and the annoying features of the mind that lead us to think the way we do. The second half of the course focuses on activities that have been proven to increase happiness along with strategies to build better habits.”

Positive psychology has become a popular field of study over the past decade. Whereas conventional psychology tends to focus on mental and emotional shortcomings, positive psychology focuses on ways to enhance our happiness. Santos believes this course is so relevant and popular at Yale because so many students spent their high school years sacrificing their happiness and wellbeing for good grades.

The course gained so much popularity that Santos suggested the University film it so that it could be broadcasted on the internet as a free online class.  At this stage, it was renamed “The Science of Wellbeing” and developed into an app as well, which tracks wellness behavior. The final project that students of the course are assigned is called the “Hack Yo’Self Project” and is an assignment in personal self-improvement.

Santos explains that “Scientists didn’t realize this in the same way 10 or so years ago, that our intuitions about what will make us happy, like winning the lottery and getting a good grade — are totally wrong.”

Santos’ class exposes the truth about what truly makes us thrive and flourish. She hopes the course will reduce stress and anxiety in the prestigious campus where wellbeing is often neglected. 

“Students want to change, to be happier themselves, and to change the culture here on campus,” Dr. Santos explains. “With one in four students at Yale taking it, if we see good habits, things like students showing more gratitude, procrastinating less, increasing social connections, we’re actually seeding change in the school’s culture.”

The Science of Wellbeing is one of 20 free online courses that Yale offers. Check them out Here.

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