LIFE

300,000 People Have Signed Up For Yale’s Free ‘Happiness’ Course In The Past Two Weeks

by Karen Belz
Karen Belz has written for sites such as Bustle, HelloGiggles, Romper, and So Yummy. She's the mom of a sassy toddler and drinks an alarming amount of Sugar-Free Red Bull in order to keep up with her.

Happiness is somewhat hard to come by these days. We’re all making do with the situation at hand, but as people, we’ve evolved.

Suddenly, we’re thinking about whether or not we’ll run out of shampoo by the end of the week. Or trying to figure out an alternate plan if we actually run out of toilet paper. But the good news is, there are people out there who are keeping positive. Those are the people who are getting their community through this period of time.

While it’s been offered for some time, Yale has seen a spike of interest in one of its free online classes. It’s called Psychology and the Good Life, and it’s been offered to students since 2018.

On campus, it’s one of the most popular classes to take. The reason being, it offers information that absolutely everyone can use. For those who aren’t enrolled at Yale, a free happiness class sounds pretty good right about now.

According to Today, about one in every four students signs up for the in-person version of the class during their time at Yale. Here are some of the reasons why the class is so popular.

Dr. Laurie Santos, who offers the class, thinks it’s something that every student needs. “It’s sort of interesting that a quarter of Yale students want to take a class on happiness rather than economics, machine learning or computer science,” she said, per Today. “The press attention we got for the class back in 2018 made me realize that it’s not just Yale students who need this.”

And that’s why it became available online for everyone. “This would be great content to share with everyone who wants to be happier and flourish a little more,” she continued. The class offered online is very similar to but not exactly the same as the course offered in person.

The shortened version is called The Science of Well-Being, and it’s available through the platform Coursera. The class doesn’t cost a thing, unless you’re looking for a certificate of completion. Typically, the class saw an enrollment of 10,000 to 20,000 students every month.

But since countries have started to shut down operations, that amount became much higher. Today reports that 300,000 people have enrolled in the past two weeks. That’s actually somewhat of a great sign. People really want to learn how to find happiness naturally.

“This is a physical health crisis but also a mental health crisis,” Dr. Santos commented. “People’s routines have completely changed. People are social distancing, they are not allowed to do the one main thing they do when things are stressful, which is often go hang out with their friends often in public spaces.”

The rules are so strict out there that some people are still uncertain about what’s safe and what’s not safe. Social distancing seems to be an easy-enough concept, but since most of us are social creatures, it seems unnatural. That’s one of the reasons why these past two weeks have been so pressing.

However, the sooner that everyone commits to staying inside, the sooner we can look forward to resuming our normal lives again. Taking a course like this is a great way to both pass the time, stay inside, and learn something about ourselves. Plus, it never hurts to tell people you’ve taken a course at Yale.

“A lot of people have been looking for things to do to feel better in this current crisis,” Dr. Santos added. “Especially people who are home and have a little more free time on their hands are looking for things to do that are productive.” Improving yourself is one of the best things you can do.

Curious about what the class actually focuses on? Dr. Santos made sure to explain. “One of the first things we teach in the class is that we have really bad theories on the kinds of things that would make us happy. We think it’s about money and material possessions but it’s really about a whole host of different things,” she said.

And that makes a lot of sense. Sometimes even when you financially buy what you want, the happiness doesn’t stick around for long. Her class focuses on topics that aren’t quite so tangible. “It’s taking time to be other-oriented, taking time for social connection, taking time to be mindful,” she said.

As people, we’re all very complex. If anything, switching us out of our normal routines has proven how many layers we have, and how difficult it can be to adapt to major changes. The more we can learn about ourselves, the more we’ll improve in every aspect of our lives. By finding out how to be naturally happy, you’ll grow as a person.

So that’s why you should consider joining the class. Again, it’s free if you just want to take the course. The official start date of the class was on March 23, but you can join and catch up at any time. Altogether, the course lasts for 10 weeks.

“Our expectation of it is to give away this content for free for anyone who wanted it,” said Dr. Santos. “We know it can help people. We’re just starting to collect data on a standard 10-point happiness scale: Taking the class and following the exercises seems to bump you up a whole point.”

To sign up, look for the class on Coursera. From there, you’ll be able to enroll. It’s never too late to improve yourself. And it’s also a great and productive way to keep busy if you’ve already gone through your entire streaming Netflix queue.