Eager to embark on a self-improvement project and boost your happiness?
Consider enrolling in Yale's free happiness course, The Science of Well Being. It's adapted from the university's most popular class ever, which walks students through happiness research and how to apply that science in their everyday lives.
Rethinking the concept of buying happiness.
Dave Schools recently took the free 10-week course through Coursera. He claims it did completely change his life -- particularly on the topic of money and happiness. Even months later, the freelance editor says New Dave is much happier than Old Dave.
"Overall, the class changed how I think about money, particularly how I spend it and how much I prioritize it," he wrote for CNBC Make It. "I'm also working on changing my lifestyle and mindset."
How you should spend money for peak happiness.
There are tons of studies on happiness--some of them with conflicting results. An often-cited study claims your happiness increases only minimally after you make $75,000. Other research states you should buy experiences instead of things, then happiness will follow.
Schools says the most important thing he learned during the coursework is this: If you intentionally buy stuff that will make you happy, over and over again, money can make you happy. And, spending money on yourself isn't always the way to go. Buying for others can also boost your happiness.
Schools says he's working on shifting how he spends money in the following ways:
Invest in learning new skills for pure enjoyment, not just on learning skills that will make him more money.
Spend money on other people instead of just himself.
Work less on the weekends--and thus likely making less money--to spend time with friends and family.
Buy things that will make him happier in the long-term (like really nice sheets) instead of shiny new gadgets.
He also notes that shifting your mindset about money won't make you happy overnight. Yet small, incremental changes in how he spends money have led to positive happiness outcomes.
Happiness homework is part of the coursework.
The free online course is taught by the same instructor who taught it at Yale, psychology and cognitive science professor Laurie Santos. "This isn't gonna be an ordinary class or lecture series," Santos said when registration first opened. "This is the kind of thing that we hope will change your life in a real way."
Students are required to put some of this happiness research in to practice. Another person who recently took the class, Business Insider contributor Justin Maiman, praised the practical happiness-boosting homework assignments. He says keeping a gratitude journal and buying his co-workers surprise coffees boosted his happiness.