When Yale began offering a new course this semester, over 1,000 students jumped at the opportunity. It wasn't about business, technology or innovation. It's about how to be happy.
Nearly a fourth of the undergraduate student body enrolled in Psyc 157: Psychology and the Good Life. It quickly became the university's most popular class in Yale's 316-year history.
Psychology and cognitive science professor Laurie Santos teaches the course. In it, she covers the science behind positive psychology and behavioral change. Students are required to embark on a self-improvement project throughout the course.
"Students want to change, to be happier themselves," Santos told the The New York Times.
Don't we all?
According to Santos, antidepressants are prescribed at 400 times the rate they were 20 years ago. That's why Santos and Yale started offering an adapted version of the course for free via online learning platform Coursera. It's called The Science of Well-Being. (h/t to Quartz for the news.)
Learning -- and practicing -- how to be happy
The Coursera lectures are filmed in Santos' own living room. With a casual and personal approach, Santos hopes to reach people on a deeper, habit-changing level.
"The hope is that this isn't gonna be an ordinary class or lecture series," Santos explains in an introductory video about the course. "This is the kind of thing that we hope will change your life in a real way."
Santos believes understanding the science of happiness isn't enough. People need to put that knowledge into practice. So The Science of Well-Being has two areas of focus: Teach you about the science of happiness, and help you learn how to "practice" happiness in your daily life.
Ultimately, the hope is that you'll finish happier than when you started. That is, if you commit to doing so. "You're signing on to do that hard part," Santos says.
The six-week course covers the following topics:
Misconceptions about happiness
Why our expectations are so bad
What stuff really increases happiness
Strategies to reset our expectations
Putting strategies into practice
Registration opened in March, and people have already started taking it. One reviewer raved that the course was "much better than verbal therapy." Currently the course has 31 reviews, which average four-and-a-half stars.
So will taking The Science of Well-Being make you happier? Guess there's only one way to find out. ?