Now Anyone Can Take Yale's Most Popular 'Life-Changing' Class For Free

"This is the kind of thing that we hope will change your life in a real way."

Happiness often seems elusive. No matter how many self-help books we read or meditation apps we download, contentment remains out of reach. But, with the help of Yale University's Laurie Santos, anyone with an internet connection can now embark upon their own personal journey toward self-improvement with the psychology and cognitive science professor's free online Yale class: The Science of Well-Being.

Earlier this year, Santos introduced an on-campus course entitled Psyc 157: Psychology and the Good Life, which attracted nearly one-quarter of the entire student body. The course "teaches scientifically validated strategies for leading a more satisfying life." Santos told Inc. that antidepressants are prescribed at 400 times the rate they were 20 years ago. Thus, teaching students how to "practice" happiness throughout their daily lives could prove life-changing at this point in history.

According to The Yale Daily News, Santos, who also serves as the head of Silliman College, offered students a shorter version of the class, consisting of just five lectures, at her house as a series of private, informal fireside chats during the spring of 2017. Those five lectures were filmed and ultimately transformed into the Coursera class content now available to the pubic for free.

"Laurie is a rock-star professor," Belinda Platt, assistant director of digital education at Yale's Center for Teaching and Learning told Town & Country. "She came to us with this idea and said, 'I'm proposing this course that I want to teach on campus, and I'm doing a pilot run with a small group of 20 to 30 students in my residential college. Why don't you come film it and then we can use that material for an online course?'"

"The hope is that this isn't gonna be an ordinary class or lecture series," Santos explains in the introductory video below. "This is the kind of thing that we hope will change your life in a real way."

As The Yale Daily News' Jingyi Cui reports, on-campus students enrolled in the class have been asked to record five things they are grateful for, to perform one random act of kindness, and to make a social connection, among other assignments, on a daily basis.

Jorge Lema '19, one of Santos' students, told Cui he has been practicing "tricks" taught in the class to improve his happiness levels, such as 10-minute-long daily meditations, and believes these are having a positive impact on his life. "Some of them feel like common sense," Lema said. "But the fact that they are given to me all at once in an academic setting pushes me to do it."

For those enrolled via Coursera, Santos' six-week syllabus promises to cover 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

While Santos tells Inc. that she hopes all her students will finish the course feeling happier than when they started, the secret to success lies in students' willingness to commit. "You're signing on to do that hard part."

Cover image via Creative Commons / Pixabay

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