What’s the secret to happiness? You could soon find out for free. One of Yale’s most popular classes — not just this school year, but in the university’s history — is all about the psychology of happiness. For those of us who don’t have the plans or the test scores to attend the Ivy League school, we can still learn the secret to happy living, as Yale’s “Happiness 101” class is available online for free. I guess money can’t buy happiness so long as a free version is accessible on the internet.
While it certainly is worth your money — again, that amount of money is zero dollars and no cents — is it worth your time? Perhaps the enrollment numbers will speak for themselves. This semester, about a fourth of Yale’s undergraduates are signed up for the class, which is called “Psychology and the Good Life.” According to Yale’s student body estimates, that’s nearly 1,200 students enrolled in the course just for the 2018 spring semester. It’s the largest reported enrollment for a single class in Yale University’s 317-year history.
I guess the secret to getting college students to show up somewhere is happiness. That and promising free pizza. College students will face death for free pizza.
How do you sign up for the class? You can enroll for an online version of the course, “The Science of Well Being”, on Coursera. “The purpose of the course is to not only learn what psychological research says about what makes us happy but also to put those strategies into practice,” a description of the course reads, continuing:
“The first half of the course 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.”
Just in case you missed it the first two times, you can sign up for a completely free version of the class on Coursera. It’s worth noting that the no-charge option of the course don’t include all of the assignments and class materials — there’s a $49 tuition fee if you’d like all the available materials. However, the free version gives you complete access to all the lectures.
It’s also worth noting that a year’s tuition at Yale currently $51,400. So, even if you opt for the paid version, you’re still saving a lot of money. (Maybe that’s part of the secret to happiness? Knowing you’re saving money?)
The iconic Psyc 157 course is taught by Dr. Laurie Santos, a psychology professor at Yale. Santos told the New York Times she believes the course is so popular because it’s a welcome change from the way happiness is so often de-emphasized (compared to performance) in educational settings. “Students want to change, to be happier themselves, and to change the culture here on campus,” Dr. Santos told the Times. “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 prioritization of happiness is significant beyond a broader course offering. As Upworthy points out, college students’ mental health is often incredibly vulnerable. At Yale specifically, at 2013 report found that half of undergraduate students sought help for mental health. While it is reassuring that people are reaching out, chances are good that not everyone is getting the help that need, at the Ivy League university and, especially, outside of it.
A course on happiness alone cannot treat serious mental health issues like anxiety or depression. However, Dr. Santos’ class does provide space to have much need conversations about mental health and happiness. And who couldn’t use a free lesson on how to live a happier life?