Yale’s Popular Course on Happiness is Available Free Online

You can discover the secret to feeling good by taking online course The Science of Well-Being.

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What’s the secret to happiness? Professor of psychology and head of Silliman College at Yale University, Dr. Laurie Santos PhD, explores that age old question in her course, The Science of Well-being. The mega-popular course has just become available to all to audit for free online through Coursera. 

Santos has dedicated her career to understanding the scientific basis for happiness. In 2018, she began teaching a class on the topic of well-being called Psychology and the Good Life according to CNN. It became Yale’s largest class, ever. Just under 1,200 students enrolled – one in four – of the university student body.

Since then, according to the university, the class has gone online through the learning platform, Coursera. Renamed The Science of Well-being, it has grown into one of the site’s most popular classes, with over 1 million new learners having enrolled in early 2020 alone. Check for when the next new course will begin.

The course goes on a 10-week journey to uncover the secret to happiness. Students improve their understanding of well-being through video lectures, quizzes, and readings—all for free. There is a fee if you want to earn a certificate. Eventually, learners put the strategies into practice and track progress throughout by completing journaling activities. 

The course also discusses the importance of healthy habits such as getting enough sleep, regular exercise, and eating a nutritious diet, all of which have a big impact on mental health. Finally, developing certain outlooks, like gratitude and compassion, also play a major part in happiness. 

So, what makes people happy? Santos told CNN that some might say a better job, more money, or lots of fabulous, Insta-worthy vacations makes the perfect recipe for feeling great. But that’s a common misconception.

Santos said she looks at happiness in two different ways. One side of happiness means having those feel-good emotions like joy and laughter and not so many negative emotions, like sadness and anger. "I take the science of happiness as giving us a lot of good news," Santos said.

Social scientists also consider another side of the coin: happiness with your life according to the Greater Good Magazine. This looks at how satisfied someone feels with their life overall. 

At times, someone may experience more of one side versus the other. For example, a mother may not get enough sleep in caring for her baby, but her overall satisfaction grows in her new role raising her child. At the same time, someone may experience a lot of hedonistic pleasure, like partying or shopping, but then feel dissatisfied with their life at their core.

“In my view, if you’re able to maximize both of those things... if you’re happy in your life and with your life, you’re doing pretty well,” Santos said in an interview on a Making Sense podcast. 

A lot of people who feel unhappy assume that they are damaged or genetically predisposed to be that way. That might be the case to a certain extent. However, research shows something different, that happiness can be learned! 

The Science of Well-being teaches some of those happiness skills. Learners discover the importance of strong social relationships and prioritizing time with loved ones, over things like work or studies. Another ingredient for happiness is paying attention to other people and prioritizing their needs over yourself. That means participating in service-oriented activities that help others, like giving to charity and volunteering.

Learn how to develop these happiness skills for yourself. You can discover the secret to feeling good by taking Yale’s most popular course, The Science of Well-being, online.

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