Last year, Yale University started offering a course called “Psychology and the Good Life.” As it sounds, the class is essentially a seminar on how to be happy. While it’s scary to think that thousands of university students feel they need to be taught techniques for acquiring happiness in a classroom — no doubt a reflection of mental health trends on college campuses — the course will now be offered to anyone online for free. It’s part of a seminar series on “The Science of Well-Being.”
The online version of the course is available through Coursera and will last about six weeks, or roughly half the length of a regular college semester. And while the class will be abridged, it will still teach students how they can use psychological science to figure out “how to be happier, how to feel less stressed, and how to flourish more.”
And if the success of the on-campus version of the course is any indication ⏤ it’s become the most popular in Yale’s more than 300-year history ⏤ it should be well received and in high demand. Laurie Santos, the professor who came up with and developed the curriculum, speculated that college students were very interested in the course because many were taught during high school to deprioritize their emotional needs in favor of burying their noses in books; as one would no doubt need to do if they planned to get into Yale. But still, Santos wanted to make sure that people who don’t have $69,000 a year to spend on an Ivy League education can still benefit from her insights.
“To make the lectures feel more intimate, we filmed at my home in one of Yale’s residential colleges with a small group of Yale students in the audience,” Santos said in the text attached to the course introduction.
Signing up for the online version is pretty easy too. Simply visit the course page here, scroll to the bottom, and hit enroll. You’ll then be given two options, one for $49, and another that’s totally free. Both selections will offer access to the all the readings, videos, and course materials, but the $49 option also provides a certificate of completion once the course is done —if you’re not trying to Goodwill Hunting this whole thing. And even though the course is online and free of charge, it’s still college-level and you can still technically fail — there are weekly readings as well as weekly quizzes.
After the introduction in week one, the schedule is as follows:
Week 2: Misconceptions About Happiness
What do we think will make us happy?
Week 3: Why Our Expectations are so Bad
Why do we mispredict what makes us happy?
Week 4: How Can We Overcome Our Biases
How we counteract our annoying features of the mind?
Week 5: Stuff that Really Makes Us Happy
What can we do to improve our happiness?
Week 6: Putting Strategies into Practice
How can we intentionally put these strategies into practice and build healthier habits?