If you’ve ever watched Will Smith’s 2006 drama, in which he starred alongside a then eight-year-old Jaden Smith, you’ll know by now that genuine happiness doesn’t just fall on your lap. Hence, the title of the aforementioned movie: The Pursuit of Happyness.
Pursuing happiness may seem like a daunting life-long feat (not to mention, maintaining it is a whole other monster on its own). If only we had a manual, or a crash course maybe, to guide us to consciously working towards a better demeanor and a purpose-driven life.
Thankfully, Dr. Laurie Santos, a professor and American psychologist, has thought ahead. Two years ago, she devised an entire class on happiness titled Psychology and the Good Life, before opening it up to the students of Yale University, a prestigious Ivy League university in the Unites States.
The turnout was mind-blowing, to say the least. Around 1200 students ended up enrolling for Dr. Laurie’s class, making history as the most popular course in Yale's 316-year history. “Students want to change, to be happier themselves, and to change the culture here on campus,” Dr. Laurie said in an interview with The New York 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.”
With the unprecedented success that her course had garnered, Dr. Laurie recently designed an online version of her lectures, now accessible to everyone else in the world. The best part? It’s completely free!
Available on the online platform Coursera, The Science of Well-Being covers five topics divided into weekly installments, namely Misconceptions About Happiness, Why Our Expectations Are So Bad, How We Can Overcome Our Biases, Stuff That Really Make Us Happy, and Putting Strategies Into Practice. At the end of it all, the class essentially seeks to put science into practice by having its students apply their learnings to their daily lives.
The online course is made up of optional readings, supplementary activities, and easy to follow video lectures set in the Dr. Laurie’s own cozy abode with a few of her students. The setup creates a warm and intimate atmosphere for anyone who may feel disassociated from the activity at hand as they’re only viewing the lesson from their laptops. Think of it as a long-winded, educational Ted Talk, but with a way smaller crowd.
Subsequently, if you simply want to try it out of curiosity, there’s zero pressure that comes with the course unlike an actual college class. Even the readings aren’t required! However, if you’re looking for accreditation once you've gone through all five topics, you may choose to earn a certificate when you enroll, for a fee. This grants you with all the course materials, and assignments that may be graded and commented on by your lecturer. Either way, the class allows you to track your progress, through a quick test that should help determine your happiness level at the start and at the end of the course.
Enroll now on Coursera for free. After all, learning how to be happy certainly isn't a bad way to spend your free time.